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You often hear you can’t get life insurance if you have a pre-existing health condition. That’s not the case, though. There are many insurance policies available for people with pre-existing conditions.

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The difference is in the premiums, amount or length of coverage, or even the type of policy. There’s a life insurance policy for everyone; you just need to know how to get it.

What Medical Conditions Affect Life Insurance?

Any medical condition affects your life insurance application; just some affect it more than others. For example, if you have cancer, that affects your life insurance much more than if you manage high blood pressure. It doesn’t mean you can’t get coverage, but you may pay higher premiums.


a man is depressed

You may not consider anxiety an issue, but life insurance companies see it as a future liability. Over 40 million adults have anxiety, which to life insurance companies, means a higher risk of addictive medications, insomnia, depression, and potential suicide.

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Insurance companies will pay close attention to your lifestyle habits and prescription records. Do you self-medicate with drugs or alcohol? Are you on a slew of prescription drugs, some of which are addictive? Do you have depression too? If you can prove isolated circumstances caused your anxiety (such as a stressful job), and you’re no longer there and take care of your health, you may still get decent rates.

If you can’t prove your anxiety is under control, you’ll be rated as risky and pay much higher rates.

High blood pressure

More than 103 million Americans have high blood pressure. This leads to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, both of which can be fatal. Managed high blood pressure with a long history of stabilization may not result in much higher premiums, but uncontrolled high blood pressure could be an issue.

Tips to get coverage:

Make sure your high blood pressure is under control. Provide proof of regular doctor visits and the steps you’ve taken to keep it under control with diet, exercise, and medication. A history of declining blood pressure readings helps you get lower premiums. Your premiums could differ by hundreds of dollars a month if you don’t have your blood pressure under control.

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High cholesterol

According to the CDC, more than 102 million Americans have high cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol levels put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, all of which are leading risk factors for life insurance companies. Like high blood pressure, if you can prove you have it under control, it may not affect your premiums as much.

Tips to get coverage:

High cholesterol is one of the top reasons applicants get denied life insurance coverage. The key is to show you have it under control by having a healthy diet and exercise routine. Regular doctor visits and medication are also important factors. Life insurance companies will examine your family history, medical history, and lifestyle to determine your coverage options.


Obese man

While technically not a health condition, if you’re obese, it leads to any of the above conditions and puts your life at risk. While it may not cause insurance companies to decline coverage, you’ll likely pay higher premiums until you get your weight under control.

Tips to get coverage:

If you’re obese and over 60, your work is cut out for you. It all comes down to your lifestyle. Companies like Prudential specialize in policies for obesity, but other companies offer it too. Clean your lifestyle, don’t smoke or drink, and show how you’ve improved your diet and exercise routine. If you don’t have other serious health issues mentioned here, you may find more coverage options than you thought.

Acid reflux

You may not think acid reflux affects your life insurance premiums, but acid reflux isn’t just uncomfortable. It may cause other severe issues, including respiratory problems, ulcers, and even your mental health, because of the discomfort and inability to live a ‘normal life.’

Tips to get coverage:

If your acid reflux is under control, you may still get preferred rates. But if your acid reflux affects other areas of your health, including ulcers or hernias, it worsens your rating and makes it harder to get affordable coverage. Applicants in the ‘worst’ life insurance category with acid reflux pay $50 – $100 more monthly for coverage than those in the preferred category. Work with your doctor to get your acid reflux under control before applying for life insurance.

Sleep apnea

Over 80 percent of the 22 million Americans with sleep apnea have moderate to severe cases. Sleep apnea leads to heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and accidents.

a patient is treating from sleep apnea by CPAP

Tips to get coverage:

Talk to your life insurance agent honestly about your condition. If you’re older (over 60), you’ll need to prove you don’t have other health conditions coinciding with sleep apnea, such as heart disease or diabetes, as the combination would leave you without insurance. If you prove you’re under treatment and your sleep apnea is controlled, you may still get good ratings/premiums.

What if It’s Serious?

Each of the health conditions described above affects your life insurance. Insurance companies may sometimes turn you down completely – that doesn’t mean other companies won’t approve your application. But, you may pay higher premiums and/or have certain exclusions on your coverage.

In some cases, you may have to undergo further medical evaluations to prove the depth of the problem and/or provide medical and prescription records to prove the condition is under control. In most cases, expect higher premiums.

How are Costs Affected?

Most insurance policies require a medical exam and a review of your medical and prescription records. From this information, insurance companies determine your ‘classification‘:

  1. Preferred Plus – You are in excellent health and have a stable family health history
  2. Preferred – You are in excellent health, and if you have any health issues, they are minor
  3. Standard Plus – You are in good health and have a good family medical history, but you’re a bit overweight
  4. Standard – You have a blemished family health history and are overweight
  5. Substandard – You have had recent health issues and a blemished family health history

As you get away from ‘preferred plus’, your rates increase, but once you get into the substandard category, your rates increase tremendously, as this is the highest risk category.

Your actual rates depend on other factors besides your health condition. The most common factors include the following:

  • The type of coverage (term or permanent)
  • The amount of coverage (the higher the coverage amount, the harder it is to get approved for health conditions)
  • Your overall health, besides the health condition
  • Your family history
  • Your lifestyle (do you smoke, drink, do drugs, etc.)
  • Your age
  • Your gender

Options if you Can’t Get Traditional Life Insurance

If you can’t get traditional life insurance with medical underwriting, you have other options, especially if you’re over 60. The premiums are naturally higher on these policies. Still, they don’t require a medical exam, and some don’t even have a medical questionnaire, so the insurance company knows little to nothing about your health history:

Guaranteed issue insurance – As the name suggests, you’re guaranteed coverage. It’s best for those over age 50 with health issues. Most policies have limited coverage options and much higher premiums, but you leave your loved ones with money to protect themselves financially.

No medical exam insurance – Some insurance companies have no medical exam policies. This differs slightly from guaranteed issue coverage. While you don’t undergo a medical exam, you may have to answer some standard medical questions and/or provide medical and prescription records.

Final expense insurance – This insurance is for seniors who need coverage to help their family cover their final expenses, including funeral, burial, medical and final liabilities. Coverage averages around $50,000 maximum and doesn’t require a medical exam; most don’t even require a medical questionnaire.

Bottom Line

You can get life insurance with pre-existing medical conditions, which may cost you more. Anyone applying for life insurance should do what they can to improve their lifestyle and overall health. The better conditions you can prove to the insurance company, the better your chances of securing low rates.

If you have other conditions, especially those mentioned above, talk with your insurance provider honestly. Provide medical records and proof of how you have the situation under control, including diet and lifestyle habits and medical treatment. The more proof you have of overall good health despite the conditions, the better your insurance approval chances with affordable rates.


Meet Aaron H., a senior life insurance agent from California with 15+ years of experience. With a major in finance, excellent analytical and communication skills, and a passion for helping clients find personalized solutions, Aaron is a trusted advisor in the industry. He stays up-to-date on the latest trends and developments by attending webinars and workshops, reading industry blogs, and writing informative blog posts on this website. Aaron also has a keen understanding of SEO and online marketing, which he uses to help his clients reach a wider audience and get the coverage they need. He cherishes spending quality time with his wife, two children, and elder parents.

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