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Life insurance with a pre-existing condition

Can I get an affordable life insurance policy with a pre-existing medical condition?

  • Yes. However, it’s crucial that you disclose any relevant medical history during your application process. The failure to do so could result in a canceled policy, or even worse, a denied claim because you were untruthful when your family needs it most.

What’s considered a pre-existing medical condition?

When it comes to life insurance, a pre-existing medical condition is usually a detrimental health situation that’s present before the beginning of your policy. Insurers will also want to know about the time period of an illness, whether short-term or long-term and if it was hereditary.

Definitions vary from company to company, so if you have a pre-existing medical condition and are trying to purchase a new insurance policy, it’s important to be aware of exactly what qualifies according to the company you’re interested in.

For example, the Co-operators life insurance defines a manageable medical condition, for which you may still receive coverage, as one that doesn’t debilitate your every day life. It may be worth calling the insurance company you’re interested in to speak with an agent and ask about their coverage options for your specific condition.

Why do some life insurers exclude pre-existing conditions?

When applying for life insurance, an insurer will calculate the premium you’ll pay based on a number of risk factors including your medical history — this is known as underwriting. Insurers generally take into account your personal medical history, family medical history and lifestyle habits when calculating your overall health and life expectancy.

This is simply done to minimize the risk of a company insuring someone who has a high percentage of filing a payable claim.

Tips for buying life insurance with a pre-existing condition

A pre-existing condition like diabetes or heart disease can complicate the application process – but it doesn’t mean you’ll be denied coverage. To boost your chances of approval and get the best possible rates, follow these steps:

Life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam

Types of no-medical exam policies

If you don’t want to take a medical exam for whatever reason, there are generally 3 types of policies to choose from:

  • Simplified issue policies don’t require you to undergo a doctor’s exam, but you’ll need to answer some questions about your medical history. Approval isn’t guaranteed.
  • Guaranteed issue policies skip the health questionnaire and medical exam, so there are no questions asked. These policies are typically more expensive because coverage is guaranteed.
  • Instant-approval term policies are offered online by some insurance companies by using accelerated underwriting processes. Often, only people who are relatively healthy and under a maximum age are eligible for instant approval. Depending on the provider, you’ll need to answer a few questions about your health and family medical history.

What details about my medical history will insurers want to know?

When purchasing an insurance plan with a pre-existing medical condition or illness, you’ll need to disclose personal information. However, the details can vary depending on your condition and the insurance company you’re applying with.

1. Information about specific conditions

The conditions listed below are examples of ones you would typically need to make known as the applicant:

  • Asthma, sleeping disorders
  • High cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes or high blood sugar
  • Skin problems such as cancers or tumors
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Serious disorders like cancer, epilepsy, heart conditions, anemia, kidney or bladder disease or thyroid conditions
  • Breast cancer and prostate cancer

2. General medical information

When applying, you’ll likely need to let the insurer know if you’ve been in the hospital, seen a doctor for a condition, have been prescribed medication or if any of the following apply:

  1. You’ve made a previous claim because of an illness.
  2. Have had symptoms which made you seek medical advice or a professional health practitioner.
  3. You’re awaiting tests or medical treatment.
  4. Missed work because of a condition.
  5. The contact information of the doctor or specialist who’s treated you.
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What questions should I be prepared to answer about my condition?

Some types of questions you could be asked for specific conditions include:

Will I need to inform my insurer if my condition changes?

You’ll need to disclose any changes in circumstances before your insurer provides you with coverage.

Can I get life insurance if I’m HIV-positive?

Yes, but it might be challenging — and your options will be limited. Though HIV is now a manageable condition, many insurance companies still view HIV-positive people as too risky to insure. And since the medical exam tests for HIV, that means most insurers will automatically decline people with HIV. There are a few ways you can go about getting coverage:

  • Buy a guaranteed issue policy. This policy skips the health questionnaire and medical exam, and all applicants are approved. However, since the insurer doesn’t have a complete picture of the person they’re covering, it’s one of the most expensive policies on the market.
  • Join group life insurance. If your employer participates and you want to enroll, you usually won’t have to fill out a health questionnaire or take a medical exam. The employer typically pays all or most of the premium – making this a cheap and easy way to get life insurance, although the coverage is not very substantial.

What types of medical exams will I need to take?

When applying for life insurance, you may undergo one of the following types of medical tests:

  • A checkup. This checkup will record your weight and height, and may include a blood pressure and urine test.
  • A checkup and a blood test. In addition to a checkup, your doctor or nurse will also take some blood to see whether you’re HIV positive – or if you have illnesses such as hepatitis. The insurer may also request a cholesterol reading.
  • Medical records. This is a detailed medical history report that may be completed by a physician and sent off to your insurer.

Are these medical exams necessary?

Medical tests aren’t required for all types of life insurance, however, submitting to a test could help lower your premiums. With life insurance, your health is your biggest asset. If you’re relatively healthy, you could pay a lot less if you allow your insurance company to take that into account by undergoing a medical exam. Insurers prefer applicants take these tests because it can give them the most accurate information about your health.

What does the full process involve to buying life insurance?

The underwriting process explained

During the underwriting process, your insurer will look at various risk factors that can affect the probability of paying out a life insurance claim. It can generally be broken down into eight risk groups:

  • Medical history. You should let your insurer know of any hereditary problems, illnesses or diseases, injuries, psychological issues or any ongoing symptoms you may have.
  • Family medical history. Family history is an important indicator for ailments that are known to have familial links such as cancer, depression or congenital heart defects.
  • Lifestyle. You should inform your insurer if you’re a smoker, drinker, or taking any prescription or non-prescription drugs.
  • Occupation. Your occupation, hours you work, your title and the size of the company you work for, are all important factors.
  • Financial situation. Your insurer will want to make sure that the amount you’re being insured for is logical and that you’ll be able to to pay the premium.
  • Hazardous hobbies. This will be assessed depending on both the type of activity and your level of competency.
  • Location. Your insurer will look at your access to medical facilities and the likelihood of natural disasters in the areas you work and live.
  • Current risk. Any risks that may pose an immediate threat such as civil disorder or natural disasters.

Life insurance and medical tests

You may be asked to get a medical screening before getting approved for life insurance. This is common with older applicants and for those who want to be insured for a large amount of money. Based on your test results, your life insurance provider looks for:

  • Heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada (next to cancer). Insurers will assess your blood pressure to determine if you have high cholesterol, which is an indicator of coronary artery disease. Also, depending on your age and medical history, you may need to have an electrocardiogram to check for an irregular heartbeat.
  • HIV. HIV has the potential to become AIDS. If you’ve contracted HIV, antibodies or antigens will have developed in response to the virus and will be present in your blood.
  • Diabetes. People with chronic diabetes are more likely to suffer a heart attack, kidney disease, stroke and many other unsavory health conditions. Your blood and urine may be tested for unusually high glucose levels, which can be an indicator that your body is not processing sugars properly.
  • Kidney disease. Kidney disease can lead to kidney failure and if you don’t receive dialysis or a transplant the disease can be fatal. Your blood will likely be checked for high levels creatinine and your urine for high levels of albumin. Both creatinine and albumin are proteins that shouldn’t be present in your blood and urine samples, respectively, if your kidney is functioning properly.
  • Liver disease. Liver disease can develop into liver cancer or cause gastrointestinal bleeding. To test for liver disease, your blood will be screened for high levels of certain enzymes or proteins, such as bilirubin.
  • Cancer. Some forms of cancer can be identified through blood and urine tests.

What are some common pre-existing conditions?

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Cancer
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Coma
  • Coronary artery angioplasty
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Diplegia (Cerebral palsy)
  • Encephalitis
  • Epilepsy
  • HIV accidental infection
  • Heart attack
  • Heart conditions
  • Hepatitis
  • Hereditary health issues
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Loss of hearing
  • Major organ transplant
  • Mental illness
  • Motor neuron disease (MND)
  • Major organ transplant
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Obesity
  • Occupationally acquired HIV
  • Out of hospital cardiac arrest
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Skin cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stroke
  • Terminal illness

What are your rights if you have a pre-existing condition?

It’s against the law for companies to discriminate against people with disabilities during the underwriting process. However, there are instances where the risks associated with an individuals disability may be far too high for the insurer to give coverage. Different providers have different criteria for assessing people with disabilities.

Will I need to disclose my results of genetic testing?

If you’ve previously undergone genetic testing for hereditary diseases, then you could be required to disclose the results of those tests to your insurer.

Compare life insurance providers

Name Product Types of Insurance Coverage Range Issue Ages Medical Exam Required Province Availability
PolicyMe Life Insurance
Term Life
$100,000 - $10,000,000
18 - 75 years old
Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan
Get fast and affordable term life insurance without the need for a medical exam with PolicyMe.
TermLite Term Life Insurance
Term Life
$10,000 - $1,000,000
18 - 80 years old
All of Canada
Get fast and easy-to-understand term life insurance with no medical exam and no paperwork required.
Sun Life Go Term Life Insurance
Term Life
$100,000 - $1,000,000
18 - 69 years old
All of Canada
Sun Life Go Term Life Insurance is a standard term life insurance option that guarantees your premiums in the first 10 or 20 years of your policy.
RBC Life Insurance
Term Life
$50,000 - $25,000,000
18 - 75 years old
Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba
Select from two unique RBC term life insurance plans to get flexible and affordable coverage that suits your lifestyle and budget. Get a free quote through PolicyAdvisor.
Whole Life, Term Life, Universal, No Medical
$25,000 - $5,000,000
18 - 75 years old
Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario
PolicyAdvisor is a digital life insurance brokerage that has partnerships with 20 insurers in Canada.

Compare up to 4 providers

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