How to Get Life Insurance With Pre-Existing Conditions

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Contributor, Benzinga
February 7, 2022

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Need life insurance but worried you won’t qualify because you have a pre-existing condition like cancer or diabetes? It used to be that you couldn’t get health insurance with pre-existing conditions, but that changed in 2010 with the Affordable Care Act. As of Jan. 1, 2014, insurance carriers can no longer deny you health insurance for pre-existing conditions. Although no regulations on pre-existing conditions for life insurance exist, most insurance companies won’t deny you life insurance for a pre-existing condition.

While people with pre-existing conditions like cancer or diabetes typically find it difficult to get a standard life insurance policy, you can find policies. Most life insurance carriers do provide specific types of coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

What Are Pre-Existing Conditions?

A pre-existing condition is any medical illness or condition, chronic or by injury, that a person possesses. The term pre-existing can apply to both health and life insurance. 

How Are Pre-Existing Conditions Determined?

A pre-existing condition exists if you’ve been diagnosed or have received treatment for it before applying for a life insurance policy. For example, you may have symptoms and a sneaking suspicion that you have cancer. Maybe there’s blood in your urine, or you’re coughing uncontrollably after smoking cigarettes most of your life. Suspicion alone doesn’t qualify as a pre-existing condition. An official diagnosis by a licensed physician is required. If you’ve received treatment, you qualify as having a pre-existing condition.

Note that if you know you have a pre-existing condition and conceal it from the insurance company, your policy can still be canceled later on if the insurance company discovers the fraud. Your beneficiaries may not receive the death benefit, as well.

What Illnesses Qualify as Pre-Existing?

Not every symptom or illness necessarily qualifies as pre-existing. A common cold or the flu would not disqualify you from purchasing a life insurance policy. Pre-existing conditions have to be something major that might take your life and cause your insurance carrier to pay the death benefit sooner than later. Types of pre-existing conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Lupus
  • Depression
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health disorders
  • Dementia

Are Some Pre-existing Conditions Worse Than Others?

All pre-existing conditions are not created equal. For example, if you’re overweight or have high cholesterol, while you may pay higher rates than a more healthy individual, it doesn’t mean coverage will necessarily be denied. Standard insurance policies, especially those like no-exam term life, seldom deny the applicant coverage over something like high blood pressure.

Other types of pre-existing conditions, on the other hand, can mean denial of standard coverage. If you have cancer, especially if the cancer is stage 4 or terminal, it is highly unlikely you will qualify for a standard life insurance policy. 

Factors That Help Improve Insurability for Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

Just because you have a pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you cannot get life insurance. Several factors improve your chances of approval:

  1. Following your prescribed treatment plan: Following your treatment plan means you have a physician and are looking to improve your health. Insurance companies may offer lower premiums to people who are doing everything they can to improve their health. 
  2. Regular exercise: Exercising regularly helps your approval for a life insurance policy. Regular exercise helps with losing weight, controlling blood pressure and maintaining a healthy heart. 
  3. Lose weight: The closer you get to your optimum body weight, the better chance you’ve got of approval for a life insurance policy.

What Effect Can a Pre-Existing Condition Have on Your Life Insurance Rates?

Not only do pre-existing conditions have a negative impact on your life insurance rates, they can diminish your coverage options as well. Life insurance companies employ a tiered system with four classifications:

  • Super Preferred (Preferred Plus)
  • Preferred
  • Standard
  • Substandard

People with pre-existing conditions are most always placed in the lowest tier. Bottom-tier classification typically leads to higher premiums, and, in many cases, denial of coverage. All pre-existing conditions are not the same, however, and someone with high blood pressure would not have as high a premium payment as someone with cancer. Differences in premium rates can depend upon:

  • The severity of the pre-existing condition: Someone with high cholesterol would not pay as much in premiums as someone with diabetes.
  • Whether the pre-existing condition is current or not: The applicant may have had cancer in the past but may not have it anymore. It makes a difference when determining qualification and premium rates.
  • When the diagnosis first occurred: If you’re diagnosed with obesity in your teens but have stayed fit for the past 20 years, chances are there’s not going to be any penalty. In this case, there’s even a chance your classification gets changed to cured.
  • Lifestyle considerations: Continued lifestyle choices such as smoking can add to your risk of death. Behaviors that negatively impact health make a difference to insurance companies in determining rates.

If you do have a pre-existing condition that makes it impossible to get a standard life insurance policy, all is not lost. You can still qualify for other types of life insurance.

What Type of Life Insurance Can You Qualify for With a Pre-Existing Condition?

People with a pre-existing condition can qualify for some types of life insurance. 

Guaranteed issue life insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance is exactly as it sounds: it’s guaranteed. Anyone who applies gets accepted, and no one can be denied. Just like with a whole life policy, coverage for a guaranteed issue lasts a whole life. Rates are locked in permanently and do not change with the policyholder’s age or health. The only thing that can cancel the policy is if the policyholder stops making their premium payments.

Group life insurance

Because group life insurance plans price their premiums based on a large group, the fact that one person has a pre-existing condition does not make a big impact. Group life insurance is typically offered as part of a larger benefits package and often includes the employee's spouse and children. Because of this, life insurance companies often do not deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Group policies are term life coverage and usually not more than $100,000 to $150,000. 

Term life insurance

Because term life insurance is only offered for a predetermined period of time, and because rates often tend to fluctuate, insurance carriers sometimes will insure those with pre-existing conditions. These pre-existing conditions must be under control, and typically to show this you have to be under a doctor’s care. Even if you're accepted, your rates will still be higher. Term life policies have an expiration date and once your policy expires, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved again.

Simplified issue life insurance

A simplified issue life insurance policy is a type of life insurance, either term or permanent, with fewer underwriting requirements. There’s no medical exam and even more important for someone with a pre-existing condition, fewer health questions. If your pre-existing condition does not sound any alarms while filling out the questionnaire, you’re most likely approved. Still, your rates will most likely be higher. Simplified issue policies are usually shorter in term and lower in value, although they can be permanent and go as high as $250,000. As a rule, simplified issue policies are higher priced and not recommended for someone who is healthy.

Compare Life Insurance

If you’re looking for life insurance, whether you have a pre-existing condition or you’re in perfect health, Benzinga has a great list of options for you. Who better than Benzinga, the life insurance experts, to help find the best life insurance policy for you?

  • securely through Wysh Life Insurance's website
    securely through Wysh Life Insurance's website
    Best For:
    Those Under 50 Years Old
    Rating:
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  • 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.

  • Best For:
    Under Age 64
    Rating:
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    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

If you’re looking for life insurance, whether you have a pre-existing condition or not, there’s no better place to learn about it than Benzinga. Benzinga has hundreds of great articles on life insurance, everything from how it works, how much it costs and where to get it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

How do pre-existing conditions for life insurance differ from those for health insurance?

A

It used to be that policyholders were excluded from health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act, passed into law on March 23, 2010, prohibits health insurers from denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Life insurance, however, does not have such limitations. Life insurance companies can still deny an applicant coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Q

What happens if you don’t declare pre-existing conditions?

A

If you do have a pre-existing condition you are aware of and have had a diagnosis or treatment for but you don’t tell the insurance company, the insurance company can cancel your coverage or upon your death, not pay the death benefit. The insurance company would have to show that you had a prior diagnosis or treatment in order for them to deny the agreed-upon coverage.

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 Philip Loyd, Licensed Insurance Agent

Loyd has written for Forbes.com, Red News Real Estate, Therapist.com, IRA.com, McGraw Hill, TheStreet.com, WikiHow, GOBankingRates.com, S.R. Education, Society of Petroleum Engineers and BioTech Fortunes. He is a licensed insurance agent and financial advisor with both his series 6 and 7 certifications.