For those with a history of health problems or pre-existing conditions, it can be more difficult to get life insurance. In some cases you may have to shop around more for coverage, or pay more in premiums for a given level of coverage. But in most cases it’s quite possible even for those with some health challenges to find quality life insurance at a surprisingly affordable price. Don’t count yourself out without speaking to an agent first.
Common Medical Conditions
Different life insurance companies underwrite specific medical conditions in different ways. For example, consider the following common medical conditions:
- Diabetes – Much depends on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are insulin-dependent, you may have more trouble getting coverage. However, people with type 2 diabetes that’s well under control can still qualify for very affordable rates, particularly if they are not overweight and have normal blood pressure and no other health problems.
- Cancer – If you have a current cancer diagnosis, and/or you are currently under treatment for cancer, you will likely have trouble getting anything more than a small guaranteed issue policy in place. However, if your cancer has been in remission for longer than about five years (depending on the type of cancer), you may be eligible for coverage. The longer you are in remission, the less expensive your coverage is likely to be.
- HIV/AIDS – Thanks to recent advances in managing HIV-positive status, an increasing number of life insurance companies are now willing to issue life insurance policies to individuals who have tested positive for HIV. You can expect some extensive testing and underwriting to ensure that your risk status is as stated on your application.
- Obesity – Most carriers will determine your height and weight, and use those to determine your body mass index, or BMI. The more overweight you are, the higher the premiums you are likely to pay. Most carriers have a cap on the level of obesity they are willing to write. However, if you lose the weight, and keep it off for a reasonable period of time, you will generally qualify for better rates.
- Smoking – Nearly all life insurance carriers will charge a higher premium to smokers than to nonsmokers. But smokers can still generally get covered if there are no other medical pre-existing conditions, or if they are minor. If you can quit smoking for at least a year, you may be able to qualify for non-smoker rates.
- Hypertension – Many carriers regularly issue policies to people suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure, provided they can show that they are able to keep their condition under control. Expect to pay a higher premium than ‘preferred’ individuals, depending on severity. If you can control blood pressure through weight loss and exercise, over time, you may even be able to qualify for better rates in the future by reapplying.
- Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance – Some carriers promise no medical exam, or that you cannot be turned down for coverage. These carriers usually issue very small, limited final expense plans or supplementary coverage. There may be substantial exclusions on the policy itself. As such, these policies should be considered last resorts. But in some circumstances they can still make sense.
What You Can Do Now
If you have a pre-existing medical condition of any kind, it helps to work with an experienced life insurance agent who understands the underwriting practices at different companies, and who can route your application to the carrier most likely to give you a fair price. In some cases, a well-written letter to the underwriter from an experienced agent can make a great deal of difference.
Meanwhile, do the best you can to get your condition under control. Watch your weight and blood pressure, and remain physically active. Underwriters often take account of recent trends, and if your medical records are showing steady improvement over a period of time, you may get a better rating.