What Are Pre-Existing Conditions?

A pre-existing condition is simply a diagnosis, recorded injury, or recognized medical illness that you have prior to purchasing life insurance coverage. It may be something congenital (that you’ve had since birth) or that has been diagnosed fairly recently.

Some pre-existing conditions that may be of concern to insurance carriers include:

  • Cancer (even if in remission)
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Some carriers may also consider obesity to be a pre-existing condition, when it comes to applying for and buying a new policy. Other notable diagnoses and conditions include a history of drug or alcohol abuse, rheumatoid arthritis, and even anxiety and/or depression.

Why Pre-Existing Conditions Are a Concern

Life insurance carriers will underwrite (or assess) new applicants to determine the risk they pose to the company. Essentially, this calculates how likely the company is to pay out on the policy’s death benefit, and how soon that could happen. Underwriters take into account factors such as your age, gender, tobacco use, high-risk occupations or hobbies, and yes, even your health, evaluating your overall risk level through questionnaires and (sometimes) paramedical exams.

Of course, no one can truly predict if, when, or how someone will pass away. However, underwriting helps insurance companies gauge their likelihood of paying out on a policy to some extent, allowing them to more accurately set rates and determine application approval.

Having pre-existing conditions when you apply for a new life insurance policy can add to that interpreted risk. For instance, the earlier in life you have a medical condition such as hypertension, the greater the chance of that condition affecting you down the line (like causing a stroke). And if you have a history of cancer — even if it’s in remission — there is a greater likelihood of recurrence.

The more concerning factors you present when applying for life insurance coverage, the more risk you pose to a carrier. And the more risk you pose, the more difficult (and expensive) it may be to buy a policy.

Can I Buy Life Insurance with Pre-Existing Conditions?

The simple answer is that yes, you absolutely can buy life insurance with pre-existing conditions. The caveat is that you may be more limited in the types of policies you can buy and in your coverage limits... but you are almost always able to purchase some type of life insurance coverage no matter your situation, condition, or even your age.

Whether you are able purchase life insurance coverage (or at least, find an affordable term policy) with a pre-existing concern depends on a few factors:

  • how severe your situation is
  • whether it’s being treated or controlled
  • how long you’ve had it
  • what your general health is outside of the pre-existing condition

For example, you can buy life insurance coverage as a cancer survivor, but just expect to provide many medical records and answer a slew of questions. You can buy life insurance as a diabetic, too, especially if your condition is well-managed. And you can even buy life insurance after age 90, if you’re willing to pay a bit more or settle for final expense coverage.

Do I Have to Tell My Insurance Company About Pre-Existing Conditions?

It may be tempting to leave off certain health or medical concerns when applying for life insurance coverage, especially if they are personal conditions or have been well-managed. However, it’s important to be entirely forthright with your potential carrier, even if that means extra steps in the application process or higher premiums.

If an insurance company finds out that you failed to disclose past conditions, you could be immediately denied coverage altogether. If they don’t find out right away, this can set your family up for failure in the event of your death; if you were to pass away from a related cause or in the first two years of your policy, the carrier could deny your family’s death benefits claim due to the false information.

While certain pre-existing conditions can result in a higher price tag for life insurance coverage, or added steps in the underwriting process, it’s incredibly important to disclose any and all pertinent information when applying for a new policy.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re buying life insurance at age 20 or age 70, there may be illnesses, conditions, or medical concerns in your personal history that could affect the insurance-buying process. These concerns, called pre-existing conditions, could potentially result in a more in-depth paramedical exam, more health screening questions, or even higher premiums. In some cases, it could mean the denial of certain types of coverage.

Luckily, though, having a pre-existing condition doesn't mean you can’t buy life insurance to protect your loved ones. As long as you fully disclose any and all past conditions to your carrier, there are many policies and coverage options that can be available to you.

Interested in buying life insurance coverage, even with pre-existing conditions? LeapLife can help you find the right coverage through one of our trusted, A (or higher) rated life insurance partners, with the limits and riders that best suit you. Life insurance coverage is available in all 50 states - it only takes minutes to apply online.