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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 specific 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.

Your hobbies

If you enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes 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 mixed marital arts
  • Mountaineering
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Bungee jumping
  • Car, boat or bike racing

Your occupation

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
  • Logging
  • Firefighting
  • Ironwork or steelwork
  • 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:

  • Tobacco
  • Cannabis and controlled substances
  • Alcohol
  • Doctor-recommended drug rehabilitation


With cannabis legalization sweeping the nation, life insurance companies are looking more closely at why you’re using cannabis to determine coverage and premiums. Insurance companies are cautious about coverage and may consider any chronic medical conditions associated with cannabis use when they determine coverage.

Getting life insurance as a cannabis user

Many top life insurance companies insure cannabis users, but they tend to be cautious about coverage. Insurers care about how frequently you use it, how you consume it — i.e. smoking vs. tinctures or other methods. Companies also consider if you use medical marijuana for an underlying health problem, which may indicate a more serious risk than casual cannabis use.

As the legal framework for the drug evolves, so will cannabis life insurance underwriting.

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 risk factor include:

  • Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • 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:

  • Cancer
  • 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
Protect your loved ones
Compare 12+ top insurers side-by-side to get the best possible deal, and shop return of premium policies online.

Need help? Talk to a customer specialist


Anxiety and mental health

Most insurers will cover you for life insurance even if you have anxiety. However, some companies may deny coverage. Insurers will determine your acceptance, rates or denial based on your medical history and the risk associated with developing drug or alcohol abuse.

If you’re currently on medication or attending therapy or counseling sessions, these are positive signs to address with your insurer to help you get approved, although you may pay higher rates. But be sure to let your insurer know which medications you’re taking and who prescribed them.

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 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 for 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. Also known as guaranteed insurance, it’s more costly 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 specific time — 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, explore a no-exam policy. They’re typically limited to low amounts but could help you get coverage.

      Can I get life insurance after a major organ transplant?

      You can buy life insurance even with a past transplant for a major organ. But you may find options limited if you’ve undergone one of the riskiest transplants, like a heart transplant.

      Also, your chance of getting approved for standard life insurance depends on the organ, the transplant’s complication risks and the survival rate.

      If you qualify, insurance companies will likely rate you below the standard or preferred rate classes, leading to a higher insurance premium than average.

      Which transplants qualify for standard life insurance?

      If you’ve undergone these types of major organ transplants, you have the best chance of getting approved for a standard policy.

      • Bone marrow
      • Kidney
      • Pancreas — Your health is considered on a case-by-case basis from companies willing to accept higher risk than the standard.
      • Transplants occurring over 10 years ago with little to no complications

      Which transplants may get denied?

      Most insurers won’t approve you for a standard policy after these transplants because they can lead to higher health risks.

      • Heart
      • Liver
      • Lung

      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 nonsmoker. Also, note that those who smoke 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 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.

      Bottom line

      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

      Why shouldn’t I lie on my insurance application?
      Lying on your insurance application and getting caught can lead to you being denied and blacklisted among other insurers. Honesty is the best policy — and will likely get you better coverage.

      How do I disclose information to an insurance provider if it’s not directly requested?
      A cover letter is often the best option for providing additional information about your lifestyle or health.

      What is a rated life insurance policy?
      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.

      Written by

      Rhys Subitch

      Rhys Subitch is a personal finance editor at Bankrate and former loans editor at Finder, specializing in consumer and business lending. Rhys has nearly a decade of experience researching, editing, and writing for startups, Fortune 500 companies, universities and websites. They hold a BA in sociology and a certificate of editing from the University of Washington. See full profile

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