Life Insurance for Pre-Existing Conditions: How to Find a Policy

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A pre-existing condition can make it tricky to find a life insurance provider who will accept the risk of issuing a policy. Unfortunately, many people who go to apply for a life insurance policy find out that they have something that’s considered a pre-existing condition.

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If you’re one of the people we’re describing here, take heart! We’re going to talk about your options for finding the right policy with a highly rated insurance company at an affordable price.

Can People With Pre-Existing Conditions Get Life Insurance? 

In one word: yes. There are life insurance companies that offer coverage for certain conditions, and there are life insurance companies that will approve coverage no matter what your pre-existing condition is.

For example, X Life Insurance Company might offer coverage to someone with diabetes, while Y Life Insurance Company won’t issue a policy to that same person. However, Y Life will provide coverage to someone with high cholesterol, while X Life won’t.

So if you want life insurance protection and can afford to pay higher rates because of a pre-existing condition, there are companies out there that will insure you. Later on, we’ll look at how you can go about finding them and what types of policies might best suit you.


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What’s Considered a Pre-Existing Condition?

A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that you were diagnosed with or received treatment for in the past. 

Each life insurance company looks at pre-existing conditions differently, but generally, it’s a red flag to them if you have one or more of these medical diagnoses:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Depression or other mental disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep apnea 

If your medical records indicate that you have been diagnosed with one of these conditions, be prepared to be declined by some insurers or offered a policy, but at a higher rate than someone who doesn’t have the same pre-existing condition.

What Types of Life Insurance Can Someone With a Pre-Existing Condition Consider?

There are many different types of life insurance and life insurance companies to choose from. However, the three primary types of life insurance you should consider are term life insurance, whole life insurance (permanent insurance), and guaranteed issue life insurance.

Term life insurance 

Term life insurance is the least expensive type for pre-existing conditions. The reason: you’re only going to be insured by the company for a set term or period of years, and the chances of them paying out a death claim on a policy is statistically very small (it’s estimated that less than 2% of all term policies ever pay out a death benefit to a beneficiary). 

Term insurance underwriting can be pretty liberal. But again, it depends on the life insurance company. For example, you may have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and a life insurance company that sells term life insurance may issue you a policy for a higher premium than their standard rates.

In contrast, another life insurer won’t consider you for coverage at all. The more death claims an insurer has paid out due to a particular medical condition, the less likely they are to accept applicants with that pre-existing condition.


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Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance is more expensive than term life insurance. However, part of the premium you pay each month goes into a “cash value” portion of the policy, where it earns interest and grows over time. As the policy matures, you can withdraw or borrow money from the cash value.

It’s more challenging to be approved for whole life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition because, unlike term insurance, you can keep the policy your entire life, which is why it’s called “whole life.” If you have a pre-existing condition and are approved for a whole life policy, you’ll be paying a higher premium for it.

Guaranteed issue life insurance 

This type of insurance is exactly what the name implies: life insurance that is guaranteed to be issued if you apply for it, regardless of any pre-existing conditions you might have. The insurance company asks you no medical history questions, and no physical examination is required.

As you have probably guessed, guaranteed issue life insurance is the most expensive type of insurance you can buy because the life insurance company is taking on your risk without knowing anything about you. And they know if you’re willing to pay higher rates, standard life insurers have likely declined you for coverage.

Another major factor to know about when you’re looking at guaranteed issue life insurance as an option is the fact that it has a “graded death benefit.” This means that the death benefit will be lower the first few years you have the policy, then it will pay its full face amount.

Life insurers do this to avoid paying a claim on someone in the first few years they had the policy because it reduces the probability of this being a profitable business arrangement for them.

In addition to the graded death benefit feature, life insurance companies that sell guaranteed issue policies limit the policy's face amount. Most of these companies only sell policies with a $25,000 death benefit or lower, limiting their financial risk.

How Much Does Life Insurance Typically Cost for People With Pre-Existing Conditions?

It’s very rare that a life insurance company won’t charge you extra when you have a pre-existing condition, but how much they charge will depend on numerous factors, including:

  • The nature of the condition 
  • How long it’s been since the onset of the condition
  • The treatment received
  • Date of last treatment
  • The long-term prognosis from a physician 

All of these factors are taken into account as the insurer evaluates your application, and it’s pretty likely with term and whole life insurance policies that you’ll be required to have a medical examination when you apply. The insurance company will request your medical records from your doctors to get all the information they can about your condition.

If you’re offered a policy at a higher rate than standard rates, it can range anywhere from 25% more to as high as 300% or more.  

Insurance companies may consider lowering your premium rate after a reasonable amount of time has passed (typically one year) and your medical records and exam show an improvement in your condition that is expected to be permanent. 

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How to Find a Life Insurance Policy With a Pre-Existing Condition

Depending on the condition, it can be either relatively easy or tough to find a life insurance policy. Some life insurance companies are known to be very accepting of certain types of pre-existing conditions. 

A valuable asset in your search is an independent insurance agent specializing in helping people with life insurance for pre-existing conditions. Some agents make a living helping people with pre-existing conditions find a life insurance policy that they can afford.

Doing research online can also provide you with a lot of information about the different companies and what conditions they deem insurable. Based on your research, you can sometimes apply online without the help of an agent. However, some companies want you to meet with an agent so they can assess your risk factor better.

Are There Alternatives to Life Insurance If You Can’t Get Coverage With a Pre-Existing Condition?

If you can’t find a company that will issue you a non-guaranteed issue policy, and you can’t afford a guaranteed issue policy, your options are limited only by your financial resources.

If you have accumulated savings over the years, you could use that money to pay for final expenses and any other outstanding financial obligations, like medical bills. In addition, if you have a substantial amount of money in a retirement account, that money can be left to a designated beneficiary to benefit them financially. 

And don’t forget: Social Security pays out a small death benefit when you die.

Be Persistent 

By putting the time into doing online research or talking with life insurance agents, you can find the right type of life insurance for you. Insurance companies only make money when they issue policies; have confidence that you will find one that will issue you a policy, no matter how long it takes to get approved.

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