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How to get life insurance with a pre-existing condition

There are a few policies available to you — but you can expect to pay more for coverage.

Life insurance is a game of risk, which is why insurers look closely at factors like your age and health. But if you have a pre-existing health condition, you can typically still qualify for coverage— you may just have more limited options or be charged higher rates. It’s important to be completely transparent with your insurer, as lying or omitting information on your application can lead to them denying your beneficiaries’ claim later down the track.

Can I get life insurance with a pre-existing condition?

Yes — though you may face higher rates or have to choose from a limited lineup of policies. Since underwriting guidelines vary between insurers, it’s important to compare quotes from a range of insurance companies or consider working with an agent or broker who’s familiar with “high-risk” applicants.

What’s a pre-existing medical condition in the life insurance industry?

When it comes to life insurance, a pre-existing medical condition is a major health situation that’s present before the beginning of your policy. The definitions vary from company to company, but typically fall into these groups:

  • An illness that was diagnosed, treated or showed symptoms before the policy was purchased or insured.
  • A health condition that a policyholder contacts a medical professional or specialist doctor about.
  • Symptoms that led a person to seek a diagnosis or made a doctor recommend further testing.

Examples of common medical conditions include heart, liver or kidney disease, diabetes and cancer.

What types of medical exams will I need to take?

As part of the underwriting process for traditional policies, 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 completed by a physician and sent off to your insurer.

What happens after I submit my results?

The results of your examination are sent to your insurer to help them further review the life insurance application. If accepted, you’ll be sent a policy schedule to start your coverage. If rejected based on your medical results, the insurer may offer you an alternative policy. Just because one insurer won’t offer coverage, it doesn’t mean you won’t have better luck getting approved with a different provider.

Are these medical exams necessary?

Medical tests aren’t required for all types of life insurance, however, submitting to a test could get you lower premiums. Insurers prefer applicants take these tests because it can give them the most accurate information about your health.

How to buy 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:

  1. Gather information about your condition. Include the name of the disease or illness, as well as details about any treatments or surgeries you’ve had, and the doses and frequency of medications you take. List the doctors and medical professionals who have seen you over the last seven to 10 years, too – this will prove your health conditions are being managed.
  2. Check in with your doctor. Speak to your doctor and confirm that your medical records are accurate and up to date. If you have a pre-existing condition, your life insurance company will request an attending physician’s statement (APS) from your doctor. They may also request documents from other medical professionals you’ve seen.
  3. Work with an independent insurance broker. To cut down on your research time, talk to a broker. Unlike agents, brokers aren’t tied to one company, so they can offer you quotes from multiple companies. If possible, find a broker who has experience with high-risk applicants. They’ll know which insurers to approach, and how to present your case in a favorable light.
  4. Choose an insurer who specializes in pre-existing conditions. A standard insurer might automatically charge extra for coverage or deny you because your case is too complex. On the other hand, an insurer who specializes in pre-existing conditions will be better able to assess your risk factors and offer affordable and adequate coverage.
  5. Pull together a health summary. You already have all the documents about your condition. Now, highlight all the positive aspects of your health. If you’re diligent about attending check-ups and following your treatment plan, write that down. And if you’re a nonsmoker or go to the gym regularly, point that out, too.
  6. Apply with multiple insurers. To increase your odds, aim to apply for coverage with three to four insurers. Every insurer has its own underwriting standards, requirements and rate classes, and some are more lenient than others. When you’re comparing policies, read the fine print. Check the exclusions and limits so you know the extent of your coverage.
  7. Agree to the medical exam. If your insurer asks you to take a medical exam, oblige. To get the best results, schedule the exam for early in the day when you’re awake and alert, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar and fatty foods for 12 hours before. If the results of your medical exam disqualify you for coverage, you can look into a no-medical exam policy, but you’ll pay more for coverage.

How to get life insurance if you’re sick

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Types of no-medical exam policies

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

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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

Be upfront with your insurer if you have any of the following conditions:

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

2. General medical information

When applying, let the insurer know if you’ve been in the hospital, been prescribed medication or any of the following:

  1. Made a previous claim because of an illness.
  2. Have had symptoms that 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.

What questions should I be prepared to answer about my condition?

Asthma or breathing disorders

  • When were the first symptoms present?
  • When were the most recent symptoms present?
  • Have you taken off work as a result of asthma?
  • How many asthma attacks do you have per year?
  • Are you taking medication for asthma or have you been hospitalized?

Sleep disorders

  • What sleeping conditions are you diagnosed with and when was the diagnosis made?
  • What is the severity of the sleeping disorder?

Skin conditions including cysts, moles and lesions

  • What type of skin problem have you had or currently have?
  • Where was the location of the skin condition?
  • Was the cyst, mole or lesion removed and were any special tests or treatments prescribed?
  • Do you have pathology results?
  • Was the skin condition benign or malignant?
  • Did you have any further treatments?

Raised cholesterol and high blood pressure

  • Have you visited a medical specialist and received treatments or tests?
  • When were you diagnosed and what was the original and most recent result of testing?
  • Have you ever or are you currently taking medication for either condition?
  • Has your treatment changed in the last 12 months?
  • How often do you get your blood pressure or cholesterol levels checked?
  • What type of diabetes was diagnosed?
  • When was the original diagnosis?
  • How often do you visit the doctor for checkups and when was the most recent visit?
  • What treatments and medications are you currently taking?
  • Have you suffered any complications as a result of diabetes including insulin coma, eye problems, high blood pressure, kidney problems or numbness or tingling in your feet or legs?
  • Can you provide your most recent blood glucose and HbA1C results?

    Mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety

    • When did you first experience symptoms and do you currently still experience symptoms?
    • Has the cause of the problem been identified or diagnosed by a qualified health professional?
    • Are you taking medications or having treatments from a qualified counselor or therapist?
    • What is the contact information for your doctor or medical counselor?
    • Have you been hospitalized because of the mental health condition?
    • Has your ability to work or perform daily activities been limited because of the condition?
    • Have you attempted suicide?

    Back, neck, joint or musculoskeletal pain

    • What part of your body is affected?
    • When was your first experience with the specific pain?
    • What was the potential cause of the pain?
    • Have you experienced any symptoms because of back, neck, joint or Musculoskeletal pain?
    • Have you gone through treatment and has the treatment included an X-ray, CT scan or MRI?
    • Have you had to miss work as result of the pain?
    • What are the contact details for the health professionals you’ve visited?

      Will I need to disclose my results of genetic testing?

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

      How to boost your chances of policy approval

      Click any of the topics below to get a deep dive into how these particular preexisting and chronic conditions might affect your premium and application.

      What are the most 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

      Compare life insurance companies

      Name Product Issue age Minimum Coverage Maximum Coverage Term Lengths Medical Exam Required
      18 - 60 years old
      5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
      Compare 40+ insurers and apply online to get the lowest possible price — no medical exam required.
      Policygenius - Life Insurance
      18 - 85 years old
      10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years
      Depends on provider and policy
      Compare 12+ top insurers side-by-side to get the best possible deal, and shop return of premium policies online.
      Everyday Life
      20 - 75 years old
      10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years.
      Ladder multiple life insurance policies to save on the coverage you need for all your debts.
      JRC Life Insurance
      18 - 85 years old
      10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 years to lifetime/age 121
      May be required
      Compare policies up to $10 million from 45+ top insurance companies with the click of a button.
      Nationwide life insurance
      18 - 80 years old
      10, 15, 20 and 30 years
      Get term, whole, universal or no-exam life insurance with up to $1 million in coverage.

      Compare up to 4 providers

      Bottom line

      Life insurance companies hone in on your health when deciding if you qualify for coverage and setting your rates. If you have a pre-existing condition, you’ll usually qualify for a policy — though it may not be a traditionally underwritten one. You can expect to pay a higher premium, too, which is why it’s key to compare insurers to make sure you’re getting the best possible coverage at the lowest possible rate.

      Read more on this topic

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