Life Insurance for High Risk Individuals

Individuals with health issues, dangerous occupations or hobbies, or who are over 50 are considered high-risk and often have trouble finding traditional term and permanent life insurance. The good news is there are life insurance options for high-risk individuals, including guaranteed issue whole life, no medical exam term life and funeral expense life insurance. Read more and compare quotes in your area to find the best policy for you.

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Quick Facts

  • Depending on the provider and circumstances, a high-risk individual could still qualify for a traditional term or permanent life insurance policy with standard rates, or even preferred rates
  • For high-risk individuals who can’t find traditional term or permanent life insurance, other options include guaranteed issue life, no medical exam life, and funeral expense life
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance offers up to $25,000 in death benefits and does not involve health questions, age limits, or waiting periods
  • No medical exam term life insurance is a type of term insurance that does not require an in-home exam and offers benefits between $25,000 and $1 million

Life insurance gives important financial protection to families after the death of the insured by providing tax-free cash to cover funeral expenses, pay debts, or gift to beneficiaries. For the average person, life insurance is not difficult to obtain.

But what about life insurance for high-risk individuals? The good news is that there are life insurance options for people who are hard to insure. So you can take comfort in knowing that even if you classify as “high-risk,” you can still get life insurance that you and your family need including no medical exam life insurance.

Compare life insurance rates today. Enter your ZIP code to get started.

What makes someone a high risk for life insurance?

Insurance companies operate on risk. The riskier the insured, the more expensive it is to get coverage. In some cases, the risk is so high that the insurer won’t offer coverage at all.

So, what makes someone high-risk for life insurance? Well, providers use a variety of risk factors and categories to classify individuals seeking insurance.

When it comes to life insurance, lifestyle, health, and age are the primary risk factors. Depending on those factors applicants generally fall into rate classes based on their health such as standard, preferred, or super preferred.

What is a high-risk lifestyle?

For life insurance purposes, a high-risk lifestyle is primarily determined by your work, hobbies, and habits. If you engage in an occupation or activity with high incidents of death, you can expect an insurance provider will look at you as high-risk.

Different insurers have different definitions of what constitutes a high-risk job, but some common examples are law enforcement, commercial fishermen, construction workers, and farmers.

These occupations fall into a high-risk category because the chance of a work-related death is significantly greater than it is for an office worker.

Don’t be surprised if you see questions about your hobbies or physical activities, because they factor into your risk profile. For example, if your passion is glass blowing or skydiving, your life insurance rates will be higher than standard.

Of course, the amount of a rate increase will depend on how often you participate in the high-risk activity. If you bungee-jumped once on your 50th birthday, you shouldn’t be considered a high risk to insure.

Alternatively, if you go mountain climbing or deep sea fishing every month, that regular risky activity will result in higher life insurance premiums.

High-risk habits relate to health, and in a nutshell are things you do on a habitual, or regular, basis that reduce your life expectancy. The most common high-risk habits are smoking and frequent alcohol and/or drug use.

That said, if someone who formerly indulged in high-risk habits has quit for a period of time or only engaged in such behavior occasionally, that person could still qualify for preferred or standard health ratings.

What is considered high-risk health?

High-risk health means serious health issues and/or pre-existing medical conditions. A serious health issue is one with a significant chance of death. A pre-existing medical condition means it was diagnosed and/or treated before applying for life insurance.

Life insurance for pre-existing conditions can be a challenge. Having life-threatening health issues can increase the cost of life insurance because of the increased risk for the insurer of early or unexpected death of the insured.

If an individual can show that the health issue is in remission or well-managed, the provider might offer standard or preferred rates.

What is deemed a high-risk health condition for life insurance depends on the carrier and the mortality rate associated with the particular condition.

The following is a list of some common high-risk health conditions/pre-existing medical conditions:

  • ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Coronary Disease (COPD)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Dementia
  • Heart Attack
  • Kidney Failure
  • Stroke

If you have a serious or chronic medical condition, insurers will likely require an exam and medical records in order to investigate the nature and extent of the illness. Even if you have a serious or pre-existing health condition, you might still qualify for standard rates.

What is considered a high-risk age?

Is there such a thing as life insurance for high-risk seniors? Yes. Insurance companies definitely can classify people as a high risk based on age.

A standard classification is given to applicants of average age, average health, and average lifestyle.

Individuals in their 20s and early 30s are below the average age for life insurance and, assuming they’re in good health, probably would qualify for the lower preferred or super preferred rates.

On the other hand, people over 60 years of age are likely to present a higher than average risk, so their rates tend to be higher than the standard rate class.

Life insurance policies tend to cost more as people get older. Age starts to become a life insurance risk factor for people between 50 and 70. If you’re in that age group, you can expect to see the highest rates. People 80 years or older will find it difficult to obtain life insurance at all.

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What are life insurance options for high-risk individuals?

Even if you think you fall into a high-risk category because of age, health, or lifestyle, you should still look into traditional term and permanent life insurance policies.

As pointed out above, depending on your particular circumstances you could still qualify for a traditional policy with standard rates, or even preferred rates, even if you technically classify as high-risk.

Before we look at high-risk life insurance options, it may help to review the traditional types of life insurance.

What are traditional types of life insurance?

There are two basic types of traditional life insurance policies: term life and permanent life (whole life is the most common permanent life insurance policy).

Term life insurance lasts for a set time period, typically a 5, 10, 20, or 30-year term. This life insurance expires after the term unless the policy is renewed. If the insured dies within the term, the insurance company pays out a guaranteed death benefit to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Because term life is temporary, it’s often used to cover debts (e.g., mortgage payments, medical expenses) or provide financial support for a spouse or dependent if you die during the policy term.

Permanent whole life insurance differs from term life in two main regards. First, while term life insurance is for a specified number of years, permanent life insurance lasts for the insured’s entire life.

Second, in addition to a guaranteed death benefit, permanent life insurance has a cash value account. A cash value account is like a savings account built into a life insurance policy and can be accessed during the insured’s life.

When you compare coverage and rates from multiple insurers, you’ll feel confident that you’re getting the best possible policy to fit your specific situation, budget, and needs.

If, however, you find that your high-risk status impedes your ability to find an affordable traditional term or permanent life insurance policy, there are other options, like:

  • Guaranteed issue/guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance,
  • No medical exam term life insurance, and
  • Funeral expense life insurance.

The best thing a high-risk individual can do when considering life insurance is comparison shop.

What is guaranteed issue life insurance?

Guaranteed issue life insurance, also called GI life insurance (and sometimes called guaranteed acceptance life insurance), is a variation of a whole life insurance policy with a limited death benefit.

GI insurance is a good fit for high-risk individuals like seniors or people with serious medical conditions who can’t qualify for a traditional whole life insurance policy.

Unlike traditional whole life insurance, GI life insurance rates are based solely on your age, location, and gender. The application process does not involve health questions, and these policies typically have no age limits or waiting periods.

The good news is, just as with traditional whole life insurance policies, GI policies can have cash accounts that build a cash value over time. Also, as with other whole life policies, coverage lasts as long as you continue to pay the premiums.

The biggest downside to GI life insurance is that, generally, the maximum amount of death benefit you can buy is $25,000. Also, rates will be more expensive due to the lack of medical information and overall high-risk classification.

You may be able to find some GI policies that have cash accounts, but most of them do not build up cash value over time.

Although GI life insurance coverage lasts as long as the premiums are paid, some policies require you to hold the policy for at least two years before it will pay the death benefit.

If you die before then, the amount you’ve paid into the policy up to the time of death will be refunded to your beneficiaries.

It’s important to note that GI life insurance is not the same as guaranteed term life insurance. Guaranteed term life insurance is a type of term insurance but with fixed rates. There are two types of term life insurance rates: non-guaranteed and guaranteed.

With non-guaranteed policies, premium rates can increase after a specified number of years, usually after the first ten years.

For example, with a non-guaranteed 20-year term life insurance policy, the rates would remain the same for the first ten years but afterward premiums could increase each year for the remaining ten years of the term.

The rate for a guaranteed term policy will never change during the policy term and is the most common type of term life.

What is no medical exam term life insurance?

If you have good health but are considered high risk because of your work, hobby, or other activity, you’re a good candidate for no medical exam term life insurance. No medical exam life insurance is a kind of term insurance that does not require an in-home exam as a traditional term policy would.

People who need coverage quickly and don’t have the time (or inclination) to wait for an in-home exam are often interested in this kind of term life insurance.

Depending on your age and the amount of coverage, you may be able to obtain a no medical exam policy as quickly as two days from the date you applied.

A major difference between no medical exam term and GI whole is the death benefit amount. Whereas GI whole death benefits are typically capped at $25,000, no medical exam term death benefit amounts range from $25,000 to $1 Million.

What is funeral expense life insurance?

Funeral expense life insurance is a type of life insurance policy designed to cover funeral and burial costs. There are two types of funeral expense life insurance: burial insurance and preneed funeral insurance.

Burial insurance is just what it sounds like; a life insurance policy with a death benefit to cover the cost of funeral or cremation expenses when the insured dies. Similar to GI life insurance, the death benefits for burial insurance are typically between $5,000 and $25,000.

By contrast, preneed funeral insurance specifically earmarks the death benefit for funeral or cremation costs and is paid directly to the funeral service provider.

It covers predetermined expenses like funeral home/cremation services, funeral/cremation merchandise, and costs associated with church and burial services. Depending on the policy, it can lock in costs for services and merchandise for the price at the time the policy was issued.

A big difference between burial insurance and preneed funeral insurance is who gets the death benefit. With burial insurance, although the proceeds are designed to pay funeral costs, the death benefit is paid directly to the named beneficiary who can use the money in any manner.

For preneed funeral insurance, however, the policy proceeds go directly to the funeral or cremation service provider, as an assignee, at the time of death to immediately cover those costs.

How do I choose the best high-risk life insurance policy?

If you’re in a high-risk category, choosing the best life insurance comes down to comparing policy terms and rates from a variety of different insurance companies.

In addition to the top insurers, you should look into companies that specialize in high-risk life insurance, as well as independent insurance brokers.

Researching all of these avenues will help you find a carrier that will match your specific high-risk needs to a policy with the best coverage at a competitive and affordable price.

If you’re looking for help finding the best high-risk life insurance policy now, enter your ZIP code here to find an experienced insurance agent in your area.

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