Disqualifying Conditions for Life Insurance

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Contributor, Benzinga
January 28, 2022

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Life insurance can be an important protection for you and your family — especially if you have a spouse who depends on your income or children you want to leave a legacy for. Unfortunately, if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, you may not be able to get the life insurance you want. Many pre-existing conditions may cause a life insurance provider to deny coverage.

What are Pre-Existing or Disqualifying Conditions?

Pre-existing conditions are medical conditions you have been diagnosed with or developed before you apply for an insurance policy. If you have a health insurance policy, you might already know that the Affordable Care Act made it illegal for health insurance providers to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition. However, this rule does not apply to life insurance providers. If you have a pre-existing condition, it might be more difficult to get approved for a life insurance policy.

While there are many conditions that may cause a life insurance provider to deny you coverage, not all pre-existing conditions will prevent you from getting coverage. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition that is easily curable, your insurance provider is unlikely to deny coverage in most circumstances. If you have an incurable illness, seek medical care and prove that your treatment is under control and not getting worse, you may also be able to get around pre-existing condition denials. 

Common Pre-Existing Conditions 

Every insurance company maintains its own list of conditions it considers to be disqualifying for a life insurance policy. Some of the most common pre-existing conditions that might cause an insurance provider to deny you coverage include: 

Anxiety or Depression

Contrary to what some people believe, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression absolutely are not all in your head. These conditions can take a serious physical toll on the body by raising cortisol levels (the hormone released when you’re under stress), leading to increased heart rate, a weakened immune system, digestive problems and issues in nearly every other major part of the body.  

If you believe that you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, you may want to consider speaking with a psychiatrist about your options for medication. When combined with talk therapy, medication can be very effective at mitigating the effects that anxiety and depression have on the body as well as your everyday life. 

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs. When triggered, asthma causes inflammation in the airways that bring oxygen to your lungs, which narrows the passageway air has travels to the bloodstream.

For most people, asthma is a minor nuisance that can be easily controlled by managing triggers, which may include excessive physical exertion or dust. For others, asthma can seriously interfere with daily living — and even lead to a life-threatening asthma attack that requires hospitalization. If you suffer from moderate to severe asthma, you may have trouble getting a life insurance policy.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a long-lasting condition that leads to excess sugar in the bloodstream. Having diabetes hinders your production of insulin, which is a hormone released to control the level of sugar in the blood. If left untreated, excess sugar in your bloodstream can lead to a number of serious conditions, ranging from kidney damage to eye diseases. Severe unregulated diabetes can also increase your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke. 

Heart Disease

Heart disease takes many forms. The most common type of heart disease — atherosclerosis — results from the buildup of fatty acids in your arteries (the blood vessels that bring blood away from the heart). When an artery becomes too congested, blood flow to a specific part of the body may be hindered to the point where a stroke, heart attack or aneurysm develops.

While heart disease can be a debilitating disease, the good news is you can limit your risk with basic lifestyle changes. Steps you can take to prevent heart disease include exercising for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, eating a diet low in salt and saturated fat, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking. 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most common health conditions. If you have high blood pressure, the pressure your blood is exerting on the walls of your arteries is so great it may lead to future health conditions. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may increase your chances of heart attack or stroke.

Steps you can take to lower your blood pressure, especially if your doctor tells you that your blood pressure is only slightly elevated, include drinking alcohol and caffeine responsibly, reducing the amount of sodium in your diet and exercising regularly. 

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your bloodstream that’s used to build cells. While everyone needs to have some cholesterol in their body, a buildup of cholesterol can result in fatty developments forming on the interior lumen of your arteries. This may lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Lifestyle factors that influence your cholesterol levels include diet and activity level. Exercising regularly increases the amount of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in your body, which is commonly referred to by medical professionals as “good cholesterol” because it absorbs more dangerous forms of cholesterol and carries it out of the bloodstream. You can also control cholesterol levels by maintaining a diet that incorporates good fats such as olive oil and fatty fish and limits your salt intake. 

HIV/AIDS

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that causes the body to attack its own immune system. If HIV is left untreated, it can develop into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People living with AIDS have severely damaged immune systems. Illnesses and infections such as pneumonia that would be considered minor in healthy men and women (like pneumonia or a parasitic infection) can be life threatening to a person with HIV or AIDS. 

Though there is currently no known cure for HIV, scientists have made massive progress in developing medications to control the disease’s progression. Today, men and women with HIV can live long, happy lives without transmitting the disease to their partners with the help of medication. However, a crucial part of controlling HIV is detecting the virus early, which can be challenging because HIV typically shows few or no symptoms. Getting tested for HIV regularly can decrease your chances of developing AIDS if you contract the virus. 

Obesity

Obesity is a complex disease that involves the development of excess body fat. Obesity can lead to a number of health concerns, including high cholesterol. Obesity increases the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.

The most effective way to prevent obesity-related illnesses from developing is to lose weight. Maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking and exercising most days of the week are steps you can take to combat obesity. In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend medications to control appetite or weight-loss surgery. 

Cancer 

The word cancer is a catch-all term for a myriad of diseases that affect the way that your cells replicate. Some types of cancers can be treated easily, while others are life-threatening and require intensive treatments like chemotherapy. Regularly screening for cancer and talking to your doctor about cancers you may be predisposed to can help catch signs of the disease early and begin aggressive treatment to prevent it from spreading. 

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops while you sleep. If you have sleep apnea, you might find that you feel tired and lethargic even after a full night of sleep. If you have severe sleep apnea, you may be at a higher risk of developing diabetes, liver problems and a variety of metabolic diseases, which may make it more difficult to get life insurance.  

Smoking

Smoking is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body. Smoking causes about 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer and can lead to cancer in everything from your throat to your liver. The National Health Service of the United Kingdom has determined that smoking can increase your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, including most of the other items on this list.

Because of its high risk of health complications, life insurance companies are likely to deny coverage if you’re a smoker. If you need one more reason to get serious about quitting, here it is: In as little as one month after quitting smoking, your body will begin to repair its circulation, lowering your risk of developing common health conditions like lung cancer. 

Compare Life Insurance 

Finding affordable life insurance when you have a pre-existing condition begins with research. Benzinga offers insights and reviews on the following life insurance providers. Use the links below to begin your search for the best possible insurance coverage. 

  • securely through Wysh Life Insurance's website
    securely through Wysh Life Insurance's website
    Best For:
    Those Under 50 Years Old
    Rating:
    Read Review
  • securely through Ladder Life Insurance's website
    securely through Ladder Life Insurance's website
    Best For:
    Adjustable coverage
    Rating:
    Read Review

    Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers – for further details see ladderlife.com. All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products. Coverage amounts vary by state.

  • securely through Haven Life Insurance's website
    securely through Haven Life Insurance's website
    Best For:
    Under Age 64
    Rating:
    Read Review

    Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC21 Haven Term in certain states, including NC) issued by C.M. Life Insurance Company (C.M. Life), Enfield, CT 06082. In New York (DTC-NY) and California (DTC-CA), it is issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001.

  • securely through Fabric Life Insurance's website
    securely through Fabric Life Insurance's website
    Best For:
    Young families
    Rating:
    Read Review
  • securely through Bestow Life Insurance's website
    securely through Bestow Life Insurance's website
    Best For:
    Term life insurance
    Rating:
    Read Review

    *excludes New York

  • securely through Sproutt Life's website
    securely through Sproutt Life's website
    Best For:
    People with healthy lifestyles
    Rating:
    Read Review

Getting Life Insurance With Disqualifying Conditions

Have you been denied life insurance coverage based on a pre-existing condition? Don’t lose hope — you have options to get the coverage you need. The first step is to take care of your body. Scheduling annual physicals to catch progressive conditions early, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet can improve your health outside of your condition, which can improve your chances of being approved for a policy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Can I be denied life insurance because of pre-existing conditions?

A

Yes. Unlike health insurance, life insurance companies are free to deny coverage to anyone they deem to be too high risk to issue a policy to. If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness before applying for life insurance, the life insurance company you request a policy from may deny coverage based on your pre-existing condition.

Q

Can you get life insurance after a diagnosis?

A

It is possible to get life insurance when you have a pre-existing condition. While it might be a little more difficult to get approved when you’ve already been diagnosed with a serious illness, you shouldn’t let the existence of a condition prevent you from applying for life insurance. If you’re denied a life insurance policy when you first apply, don’t give up — improving your health by losing weight if you are obese or starting an exercise regime to lower your cholesterol can improve your chances of being approved for coverage if you decide to reapply later.

Methodology

Benzinga crafted a specific methodology to rank life insurance. To see a comprehensive breakdown of our methodology, please visit our Life Insurance Methodology page.

About Sarah Horvath

Sarah is an expert in the insurance, investing for retirement and cryptocurrency space.