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Compare life insurance for mental illness
You could qualify for a standard policy with mild cases or guaranteed policy for severe illnesses.
It’s possible to find life insurance if you have a mental illness. However, you might have to consider specialty policies if your condition puts you at high risk for health conditions or self-inflicted injuries. You have a good chance of getting a standard policy if you suffered from a previous mental illness, but haven’t experienced symptoms in a long time.
What's in this guide?
- Can I get life insurance with a mental illness?
- What types of life insurance should I consider for mental illness?
- Compare life insurance for mental illness
- How do life insurance companies treat past mental illness?
- Does life insurance cover mental illness?
- How do I get life or disability insurance with a mental illness?
- How does mental illness affect life insurance premiums?
- Should I wait to apply for life insurance with a mental illness?
- Life insurance exclusions to watch out for
- What can I do if I'm denied life insurance coverage due to mental illness?
- Bottom line
- Frequently asked questions about life insurance for mental illness
Can I get life insurance with a mental illness?
Yes, you can find a life insurance policy if you have a mental illness. You may need to provide documents that show your diagnosis and health history and answer in-depth questions about your illness when applying. In severe cases, you might get denied coverage with standard policies if your illness puts you at risk for health complications or death.
Know your rights
Anti-discrimination laws prevent companies from discriminating on the basis of mental illness. However, insurance companies can deny severe cases if the risk of death or disability claims prove too high to insure. Because companies rate disabilities in different ways, disputes and complaints can arise when people feel they’re wrongfully denied coverage.
Can I get disability insurance with a mental illness?
Yes, but you probably can’t file a claim for related mental illness disabilities in the future. If you buy a disability policy while having a mental illness, the insurance company will consider it a pre-existing condition.
In some cases, the insurance company may cover you for future mental illness claims if you can prove your illness is improved or cured. This may require extra documentation.
What types of life insurance should I consider for mental illness?
The best type of policy for you depends on the scope of your mental illness or whether you’re buying coverage as a precaution. Policies to consider that either cover mental illness or allow some coverage if you have a mental illness:
- Standard life insurance provides a lump sum benefit if you die during the insured period. If you qualify, you could still face exclusions or an increased premium. That may happen if your mental illness is linked to an increased risk of death. In severe cases, you may need a special type of policy like:
- Simplified issue. This policy offers moderate coverage with only a medical questionnaire instead of a medical exam. It costs more than standard policies but less than guaranteed policies relative to the amount you’re covered for.
- Graded death benefit. Some companies will accept you as long as you agree to a lower benefit if you die within a few years of buying the policy. After a specific time, your beneficiaries can receive the full death benefit.
- Guaranteed issue. This policy typically acts as a last resort for high-risk cases that can’t get coverage elsewhere. You won’t be refused but must settle for high rates and low coverage, such as $5,000 to $20,000.
- Disability insurance. If you don’t have a condition but your family history includes one, consider buying disability insurance to cover mental illness. You might want short-term disability if your family history consists of short, curable mental problems like depression or anxiety. Consider long-term policies if your family history consists of severe, chronic mental illness. These policies will pay a portion of your usual income if you can’t work.
Compare life insurance for mental illness
How do life insurance companies treat past mental illness?
If you’ve experienced or sought treatment for a mental health issue in the past, the illness might get labeled a pre-existing condition. Your insurer may charge a higher premium to offset any risks or exclude deaths caused by the condition. In some cases, the company may decide the condition poses little risk and will cover you as normal.
A mental health issue may be considered a pre-existing condition if it meets one or more of the following criteria:
- A doctor or medical specialist diagnosed it at a prior date.
- You experienced prior symptoms that would cause a reasonable person to seek treatment.
- A doctor identifies your symptoms as a genetic condition present from birth.
- You are taking medication for the purposes of managing the condition.
Insurers and policies may interpret these criteria differently. Check the exclusions and pre-existing conditions sections of your policy for more details.
Does life insurance cover mental illness?
No, standard life insurance policies don’t pay out if you experience a sudden change in your mental health. However, you can buy a life insurance disability rider with some policies that might. This rider might offer limited coverage for a mental disability, such as 1% of the amount insured on your life insurance policy.
Does disability insurance cover mental illness?
If you develop a mental illness after you take out a disability policy, you can make a claim against your disability coverage. However, getting the claim approved will depend on the type of policy and mental illness you have.
A short-term disability policy can cover you for a set time if you stop working temporarily due to mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. A long-term disability policy can cover you for more severe mental illnesses like PTSD or manic depression. What’s more: the long-term benefits can extend for several years or your entire lifetime, depending on the benefit period your insurance offers.
However, you’ll need medical proof that mental illness leaves you unable to work. And proving disability gets harder when you’re claiming long-term benefits lasting several years. Also, you won’t be able to file a claim if your policy excludes mental illnesses altogether.
How do I get life or disability insurance with a mental illness?
You can get life insurance with a mental illness if you follow these general steps:
- Speak to an insurer or adviser. Some insurers can tell you upfront if you’re covered. Otherwise, you can ask specifically how they define mental illness and whether it gets labeled a pre-existing condition.
- Gather medical documents before applying. Gather as much medical information as possible to explain the nature of your condition and how you’re treating it. Documents may include your diagnosis, treatment schedule, medication prescribed and any recent hospitalizations.
- Disclose your condition. Failure to do so could mean a denied claim if you die or become disabled because of mental illness.
- Prove signs of treatment. Your illness may get labeled low risk or no risk if you can show evidence of treatment, like medication or therapy. Be sure to keep this documentation readily available.
- Review the policy documents before you purchase. Make sure you understand how your policy treats your condition and if you must meet or agree to specific guidelines. Look for how your insurer defines mental illness and if it has any exemptions or exclusions.
- Accept the terms and sign your papers. If the insurance company agrees to cover you, you can sign the paperwork and finalize your payment details.
What should I disclose about my mental illness?
You’re legally required to disclose mental health issues the same as you would any other condition. You should inform your insurer of anything that may impact the insurance policy or level of coverage you can receive. In short, you must give accurate and honest answers to all questions on your insurance application. Details you might need to tell your insurer:
- Any treatment you previously sought for mental illness
- Former mental health episodes
- Periods of missed work due to mental health issues
- Recent hospitalizations or doctor visits
- Dates of treatment, or the start date for ongoing conditions
- Medication to manage your condition
- Whether you can control your condition or aren’t able to manage it
- Standard information about your height, gender, weight and age
What if I don’t disclose important details about my condition?
If you aren’t upfront about important details that may affect your life insurance policy, the insurer holds the right to refuse paying any benefits.
If you have an existing mental health issue, your insurer may view you as more likely to make a claim than other policyholders. Since the risk for paying out a claim is higher, you could see a higher premium than normal for a life insurance policy. However, you might not see a higher premium if you’re diagnosed with a mild mental illness or were cured.
What to expect with your life insurance premium:
- No extra cost. Your insurance company may decide your mental health doesn’t pose an added risk and cover you at no extra cost. This may happen if you show that you haven’t experienced any recent issues.
- Higher premium. If your condition represents an increased risk but not an unreasonable one, your insurer may cover you at a higher insurance rate.
- Limited benefits. The insurer may cover you with limited benefits like lower payouts or shorter benefit periods for deaths or disabilities related to mental health issues.
- Coverage with exclusions. Your insurer might cover you at no extra cost but without covering death or disability related to mental health conditions. You could see this course of action if you had the condition prior to buying insurance or if you sought treatment several years ago.
- Denied coverage. Insurers can decline to cover people they feel pose too much risk. This may happen if your condition faces a high chance of resulting in a claim.
Should I wait to apply for life insurance with a mental illness?
It depends on the severity of your diagnosis. You might want to wait a bit before you apply if you’re trying a new treatment or medication regime. Reasons to wait on applying:
- Insurers may avoid the unknown. If you can’t say whether your treatment is effective or whether you know about any side effects, insurers might hesitate to cover you. If they do, you could face a higher premium than someone with a mental illness under control.
- Waiting gives you time to gather evidence. Waiting gives your body time to adjust, check for side effects and make sure the treatment is working for you. Then, you can assure your insurance company with documented proof that you’re effectively managing your condition.
What if I haven’t been diagnosed?
If you don’t have a diagnosis for your condition, you can follow these guidelines:
- Avoid self-diagnosis. You need to show clinically significant impairment for an official mental illness diagnosis. A doctor can determine if your symptoms qualify as a mental illness with significant impact on your life.
- If you have symptoms but no diagnosis. Check whether the insurance company considers undiagnosed symptoms a pre-existing condition. To do that, think about how severe your symptoms are. If serious enough for anyone else to reasonably see a doctor, consider seeking treatment and find a way to manage the condition first.
- If you’re unsure about symptoms. If you’re not sure you have a problem, consider filling in a life insurance questionnaire without submitting it to see which potential symptoms it highlights. Note that insurers may make a distinction between few symptoms and no symptoms.
Life insurance exclusions to watch out for
Exclusions are conditions in which your insurer will not pay the benefit. Most insurance policies have these exclusions that may be important if you suffer mental health issues:
- Self-inflicted injuries or death. Your beneficiaries won’t receive benefits for suicide within the first two years of your taking out the policy. Your insurance company may also exclude self-inflicted injuries or subject these to a similar waiting period as suicide.
- Unreasonable or reckless behavior. This general exclusion can apply to some claims, such as denying claims related to drunk driving. You can expect no coverage especially if the reckless behavior is illegal.
- Failure to follow medical advice or seek treatment. Your company may have grounds for denying a claim if you don’t seek treatment for symptoms any other reasonable person would. Also, your claim might get denied if you don’t follow the treatment plan prescribed by a medical professional.
If you believe an insurer discriminated against you because of your mental illness, try these steps so you can still get life insurance:
- Explain your issue to the company’s management or chief underwriters.
- Contact your insurer’s internal dispute resolution team.
- Send your complaint to your state’s insurance commission.
- Choose another life insurance company.
- Apply for a simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance policy.
Getting life insurance with a mental illness, possible symptoms or a history of mental illness isn’t impossible. However, the process and type of policy you qualify for may depend on the risks your mental illness pose toward your life. Weigh the benefits and coverage from several life insurers before settling on the right one for you.
Frequently asked questions about life insurance for mental illness
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