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There are many reasons for purchasing life insurance. When you apply for a policy, however, you're not guaranteed to receive one. The insurance company will first review your application to decide whether you qualify, and at what price — and your medical history is usually a key factor in this decision.
Here are some health conditions that may affect life insurance eligibility, as well as some of your options for seeking alternative coverage if you have some medical issues.
What Health Conditions Can Affect Life Insurance?
After you apply, the insurance company will typically ask you to complete a medical examination covering your medical history, noting vital signs like height, weight and blood-pressure readings, and collecting urine and blood samples. Depending on your medical history, they may request information from your primary care physician as well.
If your tests reveal any health problems, the insurance provider could charge a higher premium. If the issues are serious enough, they may decline to give you a policy altogether. Health conditions that affect life insurance and can lead to higher premiums or denial include (but are not limited to):
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Mental health issues
Typically, the more serious the health issue, the higher the premium and chance of denial can be. Someone who only has high cholesterol might only pay slightly more than average, whereas someone who has recently suffered a stroke could be denied a policy altogether. (This is due to how the life insurance company manages its risk.)
The insurance company could also ask you to list the medical history of your immediate family members — typically your parents and siblings. Family members have similar genes, so if a close family member has a serious health issue, the odds are higher that you could develop the same issue.
The insurance company might focus on whether an immediate family member died young from a medical complication like a heart attack or cancer. This may be one more factor that could influence whether you qualify and at what price.
Life Insurance for Pre-existing Conditions
Just because you're denied one life insurance policy doesn't necessarily mean it's impossible for you to buy coverage. You have a few alternatives to try to obtain life insurance with medical conditions. First, you could try signing up with a different insurance company. Each company has different standards concerning health issues, and another may accept your application. You might consider working with an insurance broker who represents multiple companies. They can examine your background and try to match you with the companies that will be most accepting.
If your employer offers group life insurance, you could apply for coverage at work. Group plans generally do not deny employees based on their health records, so you might be eligible to sign up even with medical issues. Just keep in mind that any employee-sponsored coverage typically will not stay in force after your employment ends (regardless of the reason).
Finally, if you cannot qualify for regular life insurance policies, there are no-medical-exam policies with less difficult health standards. For these policies, the insurance company may not go over your records and instead just ask you a few medical questions on the application.
However, these policies often only offer a reduced (or "graded") death benefit during their earlier years of coverage, usually come with comparatively higher premiums, and may limit the amount of coverage you can buy. They may not be ideal for those who can qualify for regular life insurance, but could be worth considering if you've exhausted all other options.
Health Problems After Buying Coverage
If you develop health problems after buying a life insurance policy, it will not affect your existing coverage. That's why it can be helpful to buy life insurance while you're young and healthy, as you'll likely have your best chances of qualifying then.
Even if you don't need life insurance coverage today, but think you might in the future, it could be worth signing up now. That way, your coverage is set up and you won't have to worry about whether you'll qualify when you're older.
No one plans on getting seriously ill, but it happens, and by that point it can be too late to buy life insurance. When you understand how your health can affect your life insurance, you can plan when, where and how to apply to give yourself the best chances of qualifying.