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How to get life insurance if you’re considered high risk
Learn your options when your medical history, lifestyle or hobbies make getting coverage difficult.
Life insurance can secure your family’s financial future 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.
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What qualifies as high risk for life insurance?
It differs between insurers, as each one has its own set of underwriting standards. For example, one insurer might deny you coverage for a certain risk, while another will simply raise your rate. When insurers build your risk profile, they consider 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
If you walk into a high-risk workplace every day, you’ll likely pay more for coverage than someone with an office job. These are examples of hazardous occupations:
- Commercial fishing
- Underground mining
- Iron or steel work
- Power-line installation or repair
Your history of substance use
Your current and past drug use 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
Find out more about a specific substance
Your family medical 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 condition 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
Find out more about a specific health condition
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
How much is life insurance for high-risk applicants?
The cost of life insurance comes down to your insurer as well as the type and amount of coverage you’re buying — along with the level of risk you present to the insurer. But if you’re categorized as high-risk, you won’t be able to access the preferred or preferred plus rating classes with most insurers.
To get the best possible coverage at the lowest possible price, get high risk life insurance quotes from a range of insurers. Since underwriting varies significantly, so too can rates.
Which factors that affect my life insurance rates the most?
Again, it depends on the insurer and their underwriting standards. They weigh 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.
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 high-risk life insurance 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 policies can I buy if I’m high risk?
The policies available to you depend on your risk profile — which includes any risky conditions or behaviors, as well as your age and health. Generally, you’ll have three main options:
- Term life insurance. The simplest and cheapest policy, term life insurance offers coverage for a certain number of years — and pays out a death benefit if you die during that time.
- Permanent life insurance. If you want lifelong coverage and to treat your policy as a cash asset, permanent policies like whole life might be a good fit. However, they’re six to 10 times more expensive than whole life — and your premiums could be prohibitively high if you have a few risks to your name.
- No-medical exam life insurance. If you have a serious health condition and want to skip the medical exam, you can explore a no-exam policy. They’re typically limited to low amounts, but could help you get coverage.
Compare no-exam life insurance policies
What are some ways to minimize my risk?
While some risk factors may be out of your control, you can take some steps to lower your risk in the eyes of an insurer:
- 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.
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.
Frequently asked questions
Lying on your insurance application and being found out can lead to you being denied and blacklisted among other insurers. Honesty is the best policy — and will likely get you a better policy.
A cover letter is often the best option for providing additional information about your lifestyle or health.
Depending on the insurer, what you use it for, how often you use it and your last use, it may not impact your application. Take a look at our full guide to buying life insurance when you use cannabis.
A rated life insurance policy is a polite way of saying a substandard policy. That is to say, rates that are the highest for policyholders who are the riskiest.
Rhys Subitch is a writer and editor at Finder who tackles topics across the site. With half a decade of experience researching, editing and writing for a Fortune 500 company, university and several independent publications, Rhys brings readers the most up-to-date and curated info on all things finance.
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