UPDATED: Mar 31, 2020
We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We partner with top insurance providers. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash
If you’re familiar with life insurance at all, you know that certain factors — like your age and health — are an important part of the application process. While you don’t need to be in perfect health to get a policy, the truth is that if you’re older or have a pre-existing health condition, you’ll be paying a lot more than a younger, healthier person.
But why? Insurance is about risk. The riskier something is, the more likely a claim will be filed. Since life insurance is covering your life… well, insurance companies hope you’ll stick around for a while. It’s a morbid thought, but it’s part of the business.
While you can’t change your age, you do have a lot of control over other factors, like your health, to not only qualify for term life insurance but at a competitive rate, too.
Can You Get Term Life Insurance if You Have Health Problems?
When you fill out an application for life insurance, the company is basically figuring out the following:
- Will the insurance company be able to offer you life insurance coverage in exchange for premium (i.e., your payments)?
- If so, how much will you pay?
You may be able to get a no-exam term life policy, but these are often harder to qualify for if you do have a medical condition and may charge higher premiums. Even if you don’t have to undergo a medical exam, insurance companies can use third-party data to get your medical or prescription history to determine your current state of health. So don’t lie on your application!
Because every insurance company has its own underwriting guidelines, it’s hard to say whether a specific medical condition can keep you from qualifying for coverage altogether (other than a terminal illness). However, if you can control certain pre-existing health conditions before applying for coverage, you may be able to get a term life policy that also doesn’t break the bank.
Here are five health conditions that, if controlled, can still get you affordable term life coverage.
1. High Cholesterol
Our bodies naturally produce cholesterol, but we also consume it every time we enjoy our hamburger patties and full-fat dairy products.
There’s “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL). Too much of the bad cholesterol clogs your arteries, which then increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Nearly one-third of American adults have high cholesterol, but that doesn’t immediately disqualify one-third of adults from getting term life coverage. In fact, if you’ve been able to show that you can keep it under control, you might find that your rates aren’t as high as expected.
The Mayo Clinic recommends lifestyle changes like a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise to help reduce bad cholesterol. Your doctor may also help you manage your cholesterol by prescribing medication.
2. Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels. It is known as the silent killer because it doesn’t have any symptoms. Untreated or unmanaged, it can lead to stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, and more.
Today, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. There’s no cure, but the American Heart Association recommends working with your doctor to manage your hypertension. With a heart-healthy lifestyle and the support of your doctor, you may even be able to manage it without the use of medication.
With type 2 diabetes, your body either stops producing insulin or resists the effects of it, making your blood sugar levels higher than normal. If untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems with your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, vision, and more.
Fortunately, type 2 diabetes can be both prevented and treated (though there’s still no cure). You can lower your risk of developing diabetes by eating healthy and exercising. After a diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medication or injectable insulin and work with you to create a treatment plan to get your blood sugar levels back to a healthy range.
4. Tobacco and Nicotine Use
Though not technically a medical condition, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. It harms nearly every organ in your body and causes a number of cancers and diseases. Smokeless tobacco can cause just as many health problems.
The CDC reports that there are now more former smokers than current smokers. That’s great because quitting tobacco and nicotine reduces your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and other lung diseases. Today only about 14% of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes.
Tobacco and nicotine users do pay a lot more for life insurance coverage than non-tobacco users — or you may find that you can’t get a policy at all with certain companies. However, former tobacco and nicotine users might have better rates, depending on how long ago they quit.
Whether you want to look at the numbers on the scale or not, life insurance companies will.
Your BMI, body mass index, is an indicator of your body fat and taken into account during the underwriting process. It’s not a perfect system, and it definitely has its limitations. For example, athletes might appear to be overweight on a BMI scale. But insurance companies know these things, which is why they ask for more than just your height and weight on your application.
The risks of obesity include heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancers. About 40% of U.S. adults are obese.
With healthy weight management, the risks associated with obesity can be reduced or prevented. And a clean bill of health for you can mean you pay less for a term life policy.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle does more than just benefit your life insurance premiums. But if you need more motivation to eat more greens, add “saving money on life insurance” to your list of reasons.
If you’re looking for life insurance but not quite ready to apply, take some time to take care of your health. As long as you don’t put off the task for years, taking time now to make sure your health is in great shape may get you a term life policy for less.