Life insurance for people with health problems can be within reach

How Do Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Affect Life Insurance?

Wondering if a pre-existing medical condition could keep you from getting life insurance? We answer some of the most common questions here. Many Americans believe that simply the presence of a health condition can keep them from getting life insurance, but the truth is that you don't necessarily have to be the picture of health in order to qualify for a life insurance policy. Health conditions are taken into consideration, but they are generally not automatic disqualifiers.

For those wondering how their health might affect their chances at securing affordable life insurance, we'll answer some of the most common questions we hear.

What role does health play in the amount I pay for life insurance?

In order to get term life insurance, you must fill out an application, often take a medical exam and go through something called underwriting. Underwriting is simply a process in which the insurance company reviews many factors including your medical history, hobbies, driving record, age in order to determine how risky it would be to insure you.

Your health is a key factor in this process. The more health problems you have, or the more serious those health conditions are, the greater your mortality risk. Based on your health profile as well as a number of other factors, you'll be put into a risk category, which will determine the rate you pay. These can vary in name and number by insurance company. For example at AIG Life Insurers, our rate classes look like this:

  • Preferred Plus (the least costly rates)
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard

So in which of these four will you end up? It's difficult to say without taking each individual case into consideration. The reason for this is that your classification depends not just on lifestyle and health factors, several additional elements such as age, family history, or travel plans.

Can you be approved for life insurance with a serious health condition?

In short, yes you could be. It is certainly possible to secure life insurance with an existing health condition. For some health conditions, a simple disclosure may be all that is required of you. However, for many illnesses or physical conditions, you may need to go through additional medical screenings. This might include an EKG test for heart conditions, cancer testing or a review of your prescription drug records.

In addition to increased medical scrutiny, you should also be prepared for the possibility that you may have to pay a higher premium for your life insurance policy. Your rate class is dependent on health and lifestyle factors, so if you have one or medical conditions deemed serious, it could affect your risk category.

What are common health conditions that can affect life insurance premiums?

While the list of health conditions that could affect the rate you'll pay for life insurance is quite long, there are a few health conditions that are more common than others. Here is a look at five common health conditions we see and how they may be handled.

  1. High blood pressureis quite common in the United States, so it's no surprise that it's also common in life insurance applicants. High blood pressure has been linked to a number serious health conditions including heart attack, stroke and metabolic syndrome, and your readings may play a role in the premiums you'll pay. If you do have high blood pressure, an important factor in underwriting is whether or not it is currently being managed. In other words, if you are under the care of a doctor and taking medication, it is a positive to an underwriter.
  2. High cholesterol is also a common condition in the United States with 1 out of every 3 adults afflicted. High cholesterol* can cause coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a litany of other conditions. The good news is that it, too, is looked upon more favorably by an underwriter if it is currently being managed or medicated by your physician. Thus, if you haven't yet sought out help for your cholesterol, it may be a good idea to do so before applying for life insurance.
  3. Obesity is a condition that many believe will automatically disqualify you from life insurance. While obesity puts you at a greater risk for a number of conditions including heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers, it is still very possible to secure a policy if you're overweight. Having a BMI outside of the normal range could affect your rate, but many will still qualify for an affordable policy. It's important to speak with a licensed agent about your options.
  4. Anxiety is considered a risk by underwriters because it is a form of mental illness that can lead to other health problems such as depression and substance abuse. Similar to the above conditions, if you are an anxiety sufferer, but are managing your symptoms with the help of a primary care physician, your situation may be looked upon more favorably by an underwriter.
  5. Heart diseaseis the leading cause of death among adults with about 610,000 each year. Because heart disease** is so prevalent, if you or someone in your family has been affected by the condition, an insurer may require that you take an EKG test to further examine your heart health. The underwriters will use this test to help identify your risk category.***
  6. Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disorder, is surprisingly a condition that can affect the premiums you pay. Quite common - affecting 20% of Americans***, acid reflux has been linked to both ulcers and potentially even cancer. Because of this, it can affect your life insurance rates. Luckily, for those with this affliction, treating acid reflux with over the counter medication is enough to improve your standing in underwriting.

If I'm not able to get a traditional life insurance policy, are there any alternatives for which I would qualify?

There are! It's important to remember that even if you're unfortunately denied for a life insurance policy, there are other options available to you. At AIG Life Insurers, we offer Guaranteed Issue Whole Life Insurance as well as Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance. Neither of these types of insurance requires a medical exam, and both can help provide your family with much need financial assistance if you were to pass away unexpectedly.

One of the most important things you can do as you search for life insurance if you have a health condition is to be upfront and honest with your agent. And do your research. There are a lot of options, and we can probably help you find one that best fits your circumstances and needs.



* https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_cholesterol.htm

** https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm

*** https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/definition-facts

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