Your options when your medical history, lifestyle or hobbies make getting coverage difficult.
Life insurance can keep your family and loved ones on their feet when you’re no longer able to care for them. But what if your medical conditions, hobbies or habits make it difficult for you to purchase life insurance in the first place?
Even if you’re considered “high risk,” finding a life insurance policy that meets your needs and budget is still possible. We go over what providers mean by high risk, the factors they consider and how you might be able to minimize your risk so that you can continue looking after your family with affordable coverage.
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What qualifies as high risk?
What one insurance provider considers a high enough risk to deny you coverage might merely result in a higher rate with another. When an insurance provider builds your risk profile, it considers various lifestyle and health factors.
You may be surprised that not every medical condition or risky behavior results in the highest rates. Sometimes a combination of several conditions can categorize you as high risk.
If you enjoy the adrenaline rush that come with extreme sports and hobbies, it just might increase your risk profile. Providers typically consider the activities and how much you participate in hobbies that include:
- Skydiving or hang gliding
- Scuba diving
- Bare-knuckle boxing or fisticuffs
- Whitewater rafting
- Bungee jumping
- Car, boat or bike racing
Whether you’re paid for a high-risk activity can affect how a provider weighs it when determining your risk. A few occupations that could bolster that risk are:
- Commercial fishing
- Underground mining
- Iron or steel work
- Power-line installation or repair
Your history of substance use
Your current and past high-risk habits can also affect your approval and increase your rates. While a few providers like Liberty Financial Group claim to help those in recovery, you’re likely required to disclose your history with:
- Marijuana and controlled substances
- Doctor-recommended drug rehabilitation
Your family’s history
Providers also evaluate factors you’re less in control of, like the medical history of your extended family. In most cases, medical conditions that are more typical for those ages 60 or older aren’t weighted as heavily as those occurring earlier in life.
Medical and hereditary conditions that can bump up your riskiness include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- Cardiovascular disease
Your personal health
A pre-existing health issue doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shut out from affordable life insurance rates. Providers consider the medical condition specifically. This includes how you treat it, how long you’ve lived with it and even how long it’s been since you’ve overcome it.
Medical conditions that can raise a red flag include:
- Kidney or liver disease
- A history of heart attack or stroke
- Sleep apnea
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Specific prescriptions
Your arrest history and driving record
Depending on how recent the charges or infraction — typically three to five years — you may be considered high risk if your record includes:
- A DUI or DWI charge
- Controlled substance charges
- Multiple accidents
- Other driving violations that resulted in fines or suspensions
Are there factors that affect my rates more than others?
Yes. But insurance providers enforce different underwriting criteria, weighing some conditions, events or lifestyles as more dangerous than others. No matter which companies you’re comparing, newer health and lifestyle risks, driving infractions and arrests will likely result in higher rates than, say, a lifelong battle with your weight.
To know what to expect, ask potential providers directly about their specific underwriting practices and key factors they consider when determining your premiums. Answer any questions honestly and openly discuss your needs before settling on any one provider or policy.
What are some ways to minimize my risk?
To start, let’s recognize that a lot of these options come from a place of privilege. Not everyone is financially or physically able to make these changes or take steps to minimize their risk.
When attempting to lower your risk, look to reasonably manage your health and behaviors that providers tend to focus on:
- Leave tobacco behind. A 35-year-old smoker’s best rate can be more than $140 more monthly than the worst rate for a nonsmoker. If you’re thinking about quitting, ask your provider how long you must wait until you’re counted as a non-smoker. Also, note that those who use cannabis may not be considered a smoker depending on how often they use it.
- Manage your chronic conditions. Getting help with medical maladies often takes patience, time and money. But the better you can manage your health, the higher the likelihood of avoiding a high-risk classification.
- Get certified for dangerous hobbies. As thrilling as unlicensed deep dives for treasure might be, they could affect your rates. Certification or a license for your high-risk hobby tells your insurance provider that you’re safely trained to avoid the riskiest aspects of living on the edge.
- Safety first. Next time you’re out drinking, hail a cab, take a bus or call a friend for a ride. Doing so can keep your driving and arrest record clean — not only for the lower premiums but also for your own safety and that of others.
How do I get life insurance when I’m high risk?
Outside of dramatically changing your lifestyle or improving your overall health, you can take steps to find affordable high-risk coverage:
- Find an agent or provider specializing in high-risk life insurance. Some insurance agents or providers specialize in helping people who have specific conditions or are more generally on the high end of the risk scale. These agents typically are experts in your risk, helping to steer you toward providers that are more likely to accept your case at lower rates than you’ll find in the general market.
- Wait out a more favorable situation. For temporary dings on your risk or health profile, it might be worth patiently waiting for your condition or situation to improve. For example, compliance with your doctor’s orders can show that you’re maintaining your health, which generally means fewer future complications.
- Look for no-exam insurance. Guaranteed insurance comes at a steep price when compared to policies requiring medical questions or an exam. You may want to review other options before jumping on this type of policy.
What life insurance factors should I consider when I’m high risk?
A high priority when seeking out life insurance is finding a provider that accepts you and offers premiums within your price range. Look for insurers that specialize in coverage for high-risk people to help narrow your search.
What you might also consider is the amount of coverage offered and any additional benefits that the provider has. Do you need just enough to cover the burial and other end-of-life costs, or are you looking to supplement your family’s income after your passing? This and similar questions may help you further narrow your options.
You may not be able to completely change your lifestyle or health, but you could find providers who may be able to accept you at a decent rate. No matter which route you take, remember to evaluate more than just if the insurer will accept you. Take your time and compare providers with our comprehensive guide to life insurance to find the best rates for your particular needs.