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How to Get Cheap Life Insurance with Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

COVID-19 Update: If you're thinking about life insurance in the context of coronavirus, see below for information on whether it counts as a pre-existing condition.

When it comes to life insurance, there's a wide range of health problems that may count as pre-existing medical conditions which can either increase your rates or prevent you from applying for coverage. However, depending on what type of medical problems you have, you can typically find an insurance company that will provide cheap quotes for the coverage you need.

Find Affordable Life Insurance for Pre-existing Conditions

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Term life insurance is typically the cheapest form of coverage, even if you have a pre-existing medical condition, but not everyone can pass the underwriting stage. In such cases, policies such as no medical exam or guaranteed issue policies come at higher rates but accept a wider range of medical problems. With any of these policies, a pre-existing condition may limit the amount of your death benefit.

Term life insurance with pre-existing conditions

Term life insurance offers coverage for a set period of time — typically between 5 to 35 years — during which your beneficiary will receive a payout if you pass. If you qualify for term life insurance coverage, a pre-existing condition will raise your quotes significantly. However, term life insurance lets you choose a much higher death benefit than products with limited underwriting.

Term life insurance quotes are determined in large part by your health, and insurers have four standard tiers of health ratings. Premiums vary a small amount within a given health tier but, if you have a significant enough medical condition to change tiers, the quotes you are offered will be much higher.

Health tiers for term lifeDescription
Preferred PlusPerfect health. You won’t qualify if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
PreferredPerfect health besides one minor issue, such as slightly elevated blood pressure.
Regular PlusYou have a pre-existing condition that is low-risk or has a small impact on your general health (such as asthma).
RegularAverage health. Requirements vary by insurer, but they often accept pre-existing conditions that are moderate-risk, such as diabetes.

Each insurer has its own health requirements and set of conditions they're willing to insure. So if you have a pre-existing condition, you'll probably want to consult with an independent insurance agent. Agents represent multiple companies and have the expertise to determine which insurer will get you the most affordable rates.

No medical exam & simplified issue life insurance with pre-existing conditions

Simplified issue and no medical exam policies are either term or permanent life insurance policies with fewer underwriting requirements. There's no medical exam, and depending on the insurer, there may also be fewer health questions in the application. Simplified issue policies have lower maximum death benefits than fully underwritten policies, but you can find coverage up to $250,000 with some insurers.

When applying for simplified issue life insurance, you’ll be asked several health questions to determine whether you qualify for coverage and, if so, what premiums you qualify for. It’s important to be honest as insurers regularly check your answers against multiple databases and can cancel your coverage if they find any discrepancies.

Depending on the insurer, you might be disqualified from simplified issue life insurance if:

  • You’re in a nursing home or treatment facility
  • You’re mobility is impaired and you require a wheelchair
  • You’ve been diagnosed with a high-risk illness such as cancer, HIV, or kidney disease
  • You’re on dialysis
  • In the past 2 years you’ve been diagnosed with a disease, such as diabetes, or haven’t gotten it moderated consistently with medication
  • You have cognitive impairments

We don't recommend simplified issue policies for healthy people, since you'll pay more for the same coverage. Some agents will feature the convenience of no medical exam policies, but the time saved from undergoing a medical exam (which typically takes less than an hour and can be scheduled wherever is most convenient) doesn’t make up for the additional cost of higher premiums over several years. However, these policies are a good alternative if you don’t qualify for fully underwritten term life insurance or your pre-existing medical condition is significant enough that most insurers will not accept it.

Guaranteed acceptance life lnsurance with pre-existing conditions

Guaranteed acceptance policies are typically whole life insurance policies, meaning they offer coverage for your lifetime so long as you continue to pay premiums. During the application process there are no health questions and you don't have to take a medical exam, so these policies are a great alternative if you have quite severe pre-existing conditions.

Death benefits for guaranteed acceptance policies are generally limited to less than $25,000. If you want enough coverage for end-of-life costs such as a funeral, guaranteed acceptance coverage should be sufficient. Unfortunately, if you have a severe enough pre-existing condition that you wouldn't qualify for non-guaranteed coverage, you're unlikely to find any insurer that offers over $50,000 in death benefits.

Additionally, guaranteed acceptance policies usually have a 2 to 3 year period after purchase during which your beneficiary will receive little to no payout if you die. For example, if you die within the first 2 years of purchasing Colonial Penn's guaranteed acceptance policy, your beneficiary just receives the sum of your premium payments plus 7% interest compounded annually.

For a particular amount of coverage, a guaranteed acceptance policy will almost always be the most expensive option since the insurer accepts all applicants. Given the high quotes, we don't recommend guaranteed acceptance life insurance if you're healthy enough to qualify for term life insurance. In some cases, depending on your medical conditions and insurer, quotes can be so high that you pay more in premiums over the life of the policy than your beneficiary receives as a payout.

Which pre-existing conditions matter when getting life insurance?

In the context of life insurance, pre-existing medical conditions include a wide range of health issues from heart disease to obesity. Below, we've listed some of the most common health problems that could impact your ability to get life insurance or cause you to pay higher premiums.

With the current spread of COVID-19 across the globe, life insurance companies are seeing a spike in interest from people who are motivated to get coverage due to worries about infection. If you currently have coronavirus, some life insurance providers may count it as a pre-existing condition and ask you to reapply after recovery. You can find out more about the effects of coronavirus on life insurance on our FAQ page.

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Maxime Croll

Maxime is a Director at ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry. Previously she was the Director of Product Marketing at CoverWallet, a commercial insurance startup, and helped launch NerdWallet's personal insurance business. Maxime has contributed insurance insights and analysis to Forbes, USA Today, The Hill, and many other publications.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.