High Risk Life Insurance: The Ultimate Guide

Written by Jeff Root

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Person at doctor office with high-risk life insuranceIf you have a high risk medical condition and are wondering how it will impact your eligibility for high risk life insurance protection, you’ve come to the right place.

You are also not alone. The majority of our clients first come to us, because they have questions about how their pre-existing health conditions will affect their ability to secure low cost life insurance.

Here’s the bottom line.

Qualifying for guaranteed issue life insurance with cancer or other high risk health conditions is actually quite simple. The truth is, the majority of serious health conditions are accepted by no questions policy carriers.

With very simple qualification terms that are not dependent on your health status, almost everyone is accepted for these types of policies. That said, it’s important to know if you SHOULD apply for a guaranteed acceptance policy and not a policy with underwriting.

This article was put together as a comprehensive resource of the most common high risk medical conditions. Using this and the more in-depth articles linked in each section will help you know how your health issue affects your eligibility when applying for insurance.

We’re going to tell you:

  • An explanation of how guaranteed acceptance companies determine the eligibility of an applicant
  • A complete list of health conditions along with a snapshot of how each high risk issue affects insurability
  • Easy-to-find links to even more thorough articles on each high risk health issue

How High Risk Life Insurance Companies Determine Eligibility

Applying for a no health question policy is very simple. In fact, it only takes about 15 minutes on average to complete the application with an independent agent over the phone.

The reason for this is there is zero underwriting with a guaranteed issue life insurance plan. No matter your health standing, you will be qualified for coverage. These policies are intended for people with high risk pre-existing conditions.

The only factors that are considered when applying include:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Between the ages of 40-85
  • State availability

That’s it!

If you’re new to the concept of guaranteed issue life insurance, these are the main features of a policy:

  • No medical questions or exam
  • Guaranteed acceptance
  • Fixed monthly premiums
  • Guaranteed death benefits
  • Accrual of cash value
  • No expiration date (you cannot outlive it)
  • Mandatory graded period

Before you get too excited, hold on for one minute.

A guaranteed issue policy is designed to be the last resort for those who are unable to qualify for other types of life insurance policies. This is because of the strict limitations of the mandatory graded period, lower face amounts (usually a max of $25,000), and increased monthly premiums.

Before you jump into the easy application process of a no questions policy, you should explore your eligibility for an instant coverage policy.

This could be a simplified-issue policy or an underwritten policy. The benefit of either of these is instant coverage versus a mandatory waiting period (called the graded period).

Depending on your high risk condition, you may be able to qualify for instant coverage. If this is the case, an insurance company will look at the following:

  1. Answers to health questions on the application
  2. A review of your prescription history
  3. A review of your MIB file for any relevant records

After this, they’ll know whether or not you’re eligible for an instant-issue policy or if you should apply for a guaranteed acceptance plan.

Pro Tip: Applying through an experienced independent will help clarify which application path you should take (guaranteed issue v. underwritten). They will ask a series of health-related questions over the phone and tell you what type of high risk life insurance plans are best for you as a unique individual.  

Best High Risk Life Insurance Companies

Not that you know if a bit more about your eligibility for high risk life insurance, here are the top 3 guaranteed issue life insurance companies based on our experience.

  1. AIG Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
  2. Gerber Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
  3. Great Western Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Of course, every situation is different, so we do recommend contacting on of our experienced agents to find the best plan for you. However, in most cases, those 3 companies are the best choices. For more on these companies go to our individual reviews or see our full guide on the top guaranteed issue life insurance carriers.

Guaranteed Life Insurance For High Risk Individuals – 9 Common Conditions

Below you will find a breakdown of 9 of the most common high risk medical conditions, listed in alphabetical order. Within each summary section, there is a link to a more comprehensive article that covers everything you need to know about the condition.

ALS

Drugs for ALS diseaseClick here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance with ALS

In order to qualify for the most comprehensive life insurance coverage, a medical exam is required. With ALS, since the disease tends to shorten a person’s lifespan and is currently incurable, carriers will decline coverage. This is the case with 100% of life insurance carriers that offer fully underwritten coverage.

The best option for someone with ALS is a guaranteed acceptance policy that does not ask any health questions. That said, it’s imperative that a person with ALS receive coverage as quickly as possible to begin working through the mandatory graded period.

Cancer

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance with cancer

Cancer is one of the health conditions that every single life insurance company will ask about. For some carriers and types of life insurance products, having cancer is an immediate “knock out” question, meaning instant decline. For others, a variety of factors influence what policy makes the most sense.

If you have had cancer in the last 2 years, you will only qualify for guaranteed issue life insurance. This type of policy comes with the 2-year waiting period and slightly higher rates. With cancer so recently, you are considered a high risk case and there will be penalties in order to receive coverage.

If you had cancer over 2 years ago, you may have more options. Once the 2-year mark has passed, carriers may view you equally as someone who has never had it. This, however, is completely dependent on which carrier and requires an independent agent who has experience working across all of them to recommend the right one.

Lastly, if you have had cancer more than once, you will be limited in options. The majority of carriers will want to know if you’ve had it more than once. If the answer is yes, you will be an automatic decline and will refer you to a guaranteed acceptance policy.

Congestive Heart Failure

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance with Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure affects approximately 5.7 million adults and is a symptom of a variety of serious health conditions.

When applying for life insurance, it is common for many people to get declined. This is because they are not applying for the right type of policy given their pre-existing condition. Unfortunately, carrier agents should tell you before you even fill out an application that you will get declined due to congestive heart failure.

What you need to know, though, is that you can 100% get insurance coverage with congestive heart failure. It is just a matter of what type of policy you apply for.

If you are applying for life insurance that has medical underwriting, there is a very high likelihood that you’ll be declined. Since CFH is a very serious medical condition, upwards of 95% of carriers will decline altogether and end the conversation.

What they won’t tell you is that you can definitely qualify for a guaranteed acceptance policy that provides full protection after two years.

COPD

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance with COPD

As the third leading cause of death in the U.S., COPD is not viewed favorably by health insurers or life insurance companies. Factors like age at diagnosis, the underlying condition, types of medications, if you use tobacco or nicotine, ECG findings and any hospitalization history.

If you are considered a well-controlled client, you may classify for a rate class below standard in a fully underwritten policy. This means you’ll need to undergo a medical evaluation and have your medical and pharmacological reports pulled.

If you have moderate COPD, you will either receive a substandard rate class or be declined for a fully underwritten life insurance policy. For those that use oxygen, you will be met with an instant decline by every insurer.

If you have previously been declined, or have severe COPD, then the best option is a no questions life insurance policy.

Fortunately, this is the exact type of policy that we specialize in and you do not need to deal with any medical exams, health questions or lengthy application process.

Dementia

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance with dementia

Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behavior and ability to perform everyday activities.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are both very serious medical conditions that greatly reduce life expectancy. The average year’s someone will live with dementia after diagnosis is around ten years. Currently, there are no treatments to stop the diseases that result in dementia, while some help people with their symptoms.

Given the severity of the disease, people with dementia and Alzheimer’s will be instantly declined for traditional term and whole life policies.

The best case is a guaranteed acceptance policy with a two-year graded period. Although the two years is less than ideal, the good part is you will 100% get coverage when you would otherwise be declined for coverage.

Dialysis

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance while on dialysis

Applying for a traditional life insurance policy when on kidney dialysis will result in an immediate decline across all carriers. This is because of the underwriting process, which is when insurance companies assess your risk level to determine eligibility.

Being on dialysis means that you have hit stage 4 of kidney disease and dialysis is the only way for you to survive. To insurers, this is simply too risky.

If you are currently on dialysis, then a guaranteed issue policy is your absolute best bet. If you had dialysis over 12 months ago, then you may be able to qualify for other coverage. We recommend speaking with an independent agent about your unique circumstance to know with certainty.

Heart Attack

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance after a heart attack

In the world of life insurance, heart attacks are a very common ailment. We talk to customers every day who have had at least one heart attack, which makes it one of the more common high risk conditions we help insure.

A big factor when receiving insurance coverage after a heart attack is time.

If you’ve had multiple heart attacks, insurers are going to look most closely at your most recent one. If you had your last heart attack OVER 12 months ago, you can definitely qualify for an underwritten insurance policy. This makes you eligible for immediate coverage and full benefits at the lowest possible price.

However, if you suffered a heart attack within the past 12 months or have a history of heart disease, you will have to undergo a waiting period. With such a recent major event, there is no insurance company that will issue an immediate insurance policy with full coverage.

Stroke

Click here to read the full article about guaranteed issue insurance after a stroke

In this section and in the article linked above, we only really discuss full-blown strokes. We do not do a deep dive into mini strokes (TIA’s), which differ in severity from one another.

Like other high risk medical conditions, a stroke can cause a person to become disqualified for an underwritten insurance policy. What matters most in the eyes of companies is the date of your last stroke.

If your stroke was more than 12 months ago, you may qualify for immediate insurance coverage and low rates. Even better is if your stroke was over 24 months ago, which is typically the look-back period with most carriers.

The exception to this is if your stroke caused permanent paralysis. If this is the case, a guaranteed acceptance policy may be your only option. Additionally, if your stroke caused you to require home health care or assistance with daily activities of living, you will undergo the graded period.

If your stroke was less than 12 months ago, you will have a waiting period, but will receive coverage.

The best part is, you will NOT have to take a medical exam when you apply within a year of having a stroke. You will qualify for a guaranteed acceptance policy without any health or medical questions but does have a mandatory graded period.

Compare High Risk Life Insurance Plans

In the case of many of the high risk conditions above, the insurance outcome is not black and white. Similar to most high risk life insurance decisions, the best thing you can do is call a Guaranteed Issue Life agent and speak with our experts about your unique circumstance. They will be able to compare the top carriers so that you get the best life insurance for you, whether it is guaranteed issue life insurance or something else.

About Jeff Root & Guaranteed Issue Life
About Jeff Root & Guaranteed Issue Life

Jeff Root is the author of The Digital Life Insurance Agent and host of the Modern Life Insurance Selling Podcast.

Guaranteed Issue Life is a nationally licensed agency, that has helped over 1500 consumers purchase guaranteed issue life insurance. We represent over 30 life insurance companies & transact business in every state.

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