Can You Get Life Insurance if You Have a Medical Condition?

Yes, you can get life insurance if you have a medical condition, but life insurance companies will check your medical records and modify your life insurance rates accordingly. Finding cheap life insurance with pre-existing medical conditions is not impossible, but your best bet is to shop around with multiple companies until you find the best rate. Use your comparison tool below to get free quotes for life insurance with a medical condition.

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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 Benji Carr

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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If you’ve been diagnosed with a heart problem, diabetes, cancer, stroke, or some other major medical condition, you might be wondering, “How does this affect my chances of getting life insurance?”

Just because you have a known medical condition doesn’t necessarily mean you have to deprive your family of the long-term financial security a life insurance policy can provide. Here are a few things you should know before you apply for coverage.

What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance if You Have a Major Medical Condition

  • Longer wait times – Insurance companies will request medical records—often from multiple doctors—to determine your insurability. Depending on how timely—or not so timely—your physicians’ offices respond, you might experience long delays in the approval process.
  • Higher premiums – People with major medical conditions don’t typically qualify for “preferred” (lower) rates. You can anticipate what the industry refers to as “standard” or “sub-standard” (sometimes called “rated”) rates. In other words, you’ll pay more for your policy than healthier people do.
  • Possibility of getting declined – If insurance companies deem your condition too high a risk, they might decline you coverage. Unlike medical insurance, life insurance policies don’t provide the option to exclude certain conditions. You’ll either get a “yes” or a “no.” As I mentioned above, if you get a “yes,” prepare to pay a higher premium.

If you’re concerned about costs, know that you’re not alone. About half of people without life insurance view it as an expense they can’t afford.* When exploring life insurance options, keep in mind that permanent life policies will be more expensive than term life policies. For more budget-friendly premiums, check out term life insurance quotes that offer flexibility with their varying policy lengths.

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What do Term Life Insurance Companies Consider When Evaluating Your Application?

They’ll want to know some details about you, your condition, and what you’re doing to improve it or prevent it from getting worse.

You will likely need to answer questions related to:

  • Your diagnosis
  • When you were diagnosed
  • Your age when diagnosed
  • What steps you have taken since your diagnosis
  • How well you have your condition under control (as demonstrated by medical records, your current height/weight, and lab test results)
  • What types of treatment you’re undergoing
  • Whether or not you have other medical conditions
  • Whether or not you use tobacco products

Tips for Applying for Life Insurance When You Have a Medical Condition

To improve your chances of getting approved at the best rating class possible, you should pay attention to:

  • Visiting your doctor(s) as frequently as they recommend.
  • Take your medication and undergo treatments as your physician prescribes.
  • Keep any other complications under control (for example: high blood pressure, asthma, etc.).
  • Keep yourself as healthy as possible otherwise through diet, managing your weight, and exercise (as recommended by your doctor).

Most of all, keep your medical records up to date. If you can’t provide documentation of how well your condition is under control, life insurance companies will rate your application poorly—and that will cost you!

Don’t Let Fear of Denial Deny Your Family of Peace of Mind

While the risk of insurance companies denying you coverage exists, don’t let that prevent you from looking into giving your family the financial security they need and deserve. You’ll lose nothing by talking with a trusted life insurance professional.

Depending on the medical condition you have, you might gain valuable insight about how to increase your chances of getting approved in the future—even if you’re deemed uninsurable now.

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Control These 5 Health Conditions to Save Money on Life Insurance

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?

Are you worried you won’t qualify for life insurance because you’re not in 100-percent-perfect health?

If you have a medical or health condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a life insurance policy—or that you’ll pay top dollar for one. If you’ve taken the initiative to successfully control your condition, you might be able to not only get approved for a policy, but you could also get approved at a favorable rate.

When you apply for life insurance, you will have to take a paramedical exam and the insurance company will consider the results when deciding on how to rate you. During the exam, your height, weight, pulse and blood pressure will be measured. The person will also draw a blood sample and ask for a urine sample to check cholesterol, blood sugar, and other levels. Plus, you’ll need to answer questions about your family history, medical history, lifestyle, and smoking and alcohol usage.

Below are three common conditions life insurance companies pay careful attention to when determining whether or not to insure you and how much they’ll charge you for your policy. If you’re facing any of these health issues but have them under control, you stand a better chance of avoiding excessive premiums.

Life Insurance Underwriting for Health Conditions

When you fill out an application for life insurance, the company is basically figuring out the following:

  1. Will the insurance company be able to offer you life insurance coverage in exchange for premium (i.e., your payments)?
  2. If so, how much will you pay?

In order to determine this, your application has to go through the underwriting process (see guidelines here: life insurance underwriting guidelines), which is a thorough review of all your info and potentially requires a medical exam (understand what to expect from a life insurance medical exam).

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 life insurance 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.

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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. 

As with blood pressure, cholesterol problems that are managed well won’t necessarily throw you in a poor rating class. Demonstrating control is key. You can still earn a Preferred rating class on your policy even though you have slightly elevated cholesterol. You’ll just need to show it’s under control, with or without medication, and that you are making regular visits to your doctor.

And realize that there’s more to cholesterol than your total cholesterol number. Many insurance companies put more weight on your ratio of HDLs (High-density lipoproteins) to LDLs (low-density lipoproteins). Higher HDL (the good cholesterol) levels and lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) levels could help you get a better premium.

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. 

One in three American adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I’m one of them.

With high blood pressure linked to heart attacks, strokes, and other fatal health events, it’s with good reason life insurance companies are cautious when insuring people with the problem. Controlling your high blood pressure, however, will help put you in a more favorable light during the underwriting process (see guidelines here: life insurance underwriting guidelines).

I can attest to that.

About six months before I applied for a term life policy, I was having episodes of high blood pressure. Having no lifestyle or dietary factors that seemed to contribute to it, my doctor prescribed a medication for me, which nearly immediately got it under control. With a good reading during my paramedical exam and my demonstrating that I’ve taken measures to keep my BP in check, I got the best rating and lowest premium available for someone my age.

3. Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes, though children can get it, too. Over 9% of the American population has diabetes, and nearly 24% of those with diabetes are undiagnosed. 

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. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.3% of Americans had diabetes in 2012. That’s nearly one out of ten people! Insurance companies will give you a better rating if you can demonstrate that you’ve been managing your condition effectively. Be prepared with information about the medications you’re on, records of doctors’ visits, and other pertinent information to show you’ve taken measures to control your diabetes.

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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.

5. Weight

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 your weight and life insurance costs both go down.

Save Money on Life Insurance with a Healthy Lifestyle

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.

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Put the Premium in Your Favor

It’s to your (and your bank account’s) advantage to adopt healthy lifestyle choices and get medical issues under control before applying for life insurance.

Life insurance companies have varied underwriting rules, causing leniency for medical issues to differ from company to company. Consider talking with a trusted insurance expert to help you work through the process of finding an insurance company and a policy that will meet your needs.

And regardless of whether or not you have a health issue that might affect your premium, term life insurance typically offers more affordable options than whole life insurance policies. Term life policies have a fixed length (term), usually 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years. In addition to the flexibility in choosing the term, you can also select the amount of coverage. The shorter the term and the lesser the death benefit, the lower the premium. When making those decisions, you’ll want to carefully consider your family’s potential financial situations over time.

Get Term Life Insurance with a Medical Condition

If you are young and healthy, plenty of life insurance companies will be happy to issue you an inexpensive term life insurance policy. But not all of us are so lucky. If you have a medical condition, insurance companies will look over your medical history with much scrutiny, and you may end up paying a higher rate.

The good news is insurance companies want to sell you an insurance policy. This means term life insurance is not impossible for you if you have or have had medical problems. There are even agents who specialize in obtaining policies specifically for people with medical conditions ranging from high cholesterol and hypertension to heart disease and breast cancer. Below are some tips for getting term life insurance with medical conditions.

Be Honest

If you have a health condition that you know is going to be an issue during the underwriting process, be upfront about it and disclose everything. The insurer will be receiving your medical records, and if they find that you misrepresented anything about your condition, the life insurance company will terminate your policy.

Control the Condition

If you have dependents, you need life insurance. Remember, it’s relatively rare for a person to be completely uninsurable. An insurance company just wants to see stability to know you are not a risk. Unfortunately, if you are in the midst of cancer treatment or have a terminal illness, you will not be able to get a policy. But if you have a condition such as diabetes and have it under control with medication, many insurers will want your money. Even a cancer survivor can get a decent term life rate after they can demonstrate that they’ve been cancer-free for a certain period.

Another way to improve your chances of being approved is by simply going to the doctor. Showing the insurance company that you’re following doctor’s orders is good evidence that you’re a risk worth taking.

Request a Do-Over

If you’re paying a high premium because of a medical issue and your health has improved, ask your company to reevaluate your health. Say, for instance, you had high cholesterol which is now under control with medication. You can ask the insurance company to review your case and see if you qualify for a lower premium. Your insurance company will be willing to give you a second look because they know you could always go to another company.

Shop Around

It’s important to shop around if you have a health condition that makes getting life insurance a challenge.  Insurers have all developed their own underwriting guidelines, and some can offer better rates for applicants with certain medical conditions. Usually, your best option is to go through an insurance broker. Insurance brokers can save you money because they deal with multiple insurers and can choose between companies where as if you deal directly with an agent for one life insurance company, your options for coverage are limited.

Tips for Buying Term Life Insurance Online, Even with a Medical Condition

Have you ever tried to buy term life insurance, but ran into trouble because you have a serious medical condition? If so, you know how frustrating the process can be. So what do you do? Many people have found success by shopping for life insurance online. But there are a few things you should know before you hit that ‘Get Quotes’ button.

This post will help guide you through the online maze of life insurance quote websites so you can find a policy that’s right for you — and one that’s priced fairly.

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Use a Life Insurance Broker

The best method to ensure you end up with a fair offer is to use a life insurance broker. A broker is different from an agent in that the former usually works with several life insurance companies, while the latter is often an employee of a company or contracted by just one. Although, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

We call these types of agents ‘captives’ because they are bound to sell life insurance policies from their ‘captor.’ Think New York Life or Allstate. These are great companies, but you don’t want to limit your options to just one, especially if you have a medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes.

It’s in your best interest to check with several companies to see which one will give you the best rating class and price. You’ll know where you’ve landed when you see how many quotes are displayed on their website. Just one? Best to keep looking.

Spill the Beans

Once you’ve found a good website and taken a look at some quotes, talk with a broker at that company. All good websites will have a toll-free telephone number listed prominently, so find it and call it.

Once you’re comfortable with the representative you reach, get ready to spill the beans. In other words, tell her everything about your medical history. Don’t leave out anything, and answer all of her questions honestly. Remember, she is there to help you find the best price on a term life insurance policy. And the best way to help her do that is to be open and up front.

Remember, the devil is in the details.

Keep an Open Mind

Your broker will check with several life insurance companies on your behalf. Let her do the work for you. There’s no need to visit three more websites and go through the same process with them. You’ll end up frustrated by calls from several different agents or brokers and you may even get confused by all the different companies and quotes. In the end you’re likely to give up and do nothing.

Don’t let that happen!

Allow your broker to do the shopping for you and together you can choose the best company to apply with. The quotes she comes back with will be tentative only; meaning the final rate will be determined by the life insurance company through underwriting. They will request your medical records from your doctors and make a final determination on the rating class and price of your policy.

Now that you know how to effectively shop for term life insurance online with a medical condition, you’re ready to save yourself some frustration and, hopefully, some money!

*Source: Insurance Revealed – An online survey conducted in the summer of 2012 by Praxis Research on behalf of ING U.S. and the ING family of life insurance companies.

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