The fortunate answer for many people is: Yes. It may be possible to get life insurance with these and other pre-existing conditions, including HIV infection. But details matter, and each answer will depend on your specific health situation.

How medical conditions affect the cost of life insurance

Unsurprisingly, age and health are the two most important factors life insurance companies use to determine whether a person is insurable, and at what cost. A younger, more physically fit person is less likely to die in a given time frame – be it months, years or decades – compared to an older, less healthy person. That’s not just common sense: It’s a fact proven by actuarial science, the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in insurance and other industries.

Of course, other factors such as lifestyle and gender also affect your rates. Risky habits and dangerous hobbies (e.g., smoking, scuba diving) can make life insurance more costly. Conversely, women tend to live longer, so they enjoy generally lower rates.

These classifications vary somewhat by insurer, but it’s important to remember that no life insurance company expects every prospective customer be in peak health. Various types of policies are issued every day for people with health conditions. Some of the more common examples include:

  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Heart disease
  • HIV

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the medical conditions that can affect your ability to get life insurance, so talk with a financial representative if you have questions about your health. You may even be surprised to learn that your specific condition isn’t much of a barrier at all. Don’t delay: On average, life insurance rates (premiums) for people with pre-existing conditions increase by 8-10 percent per year (but like all rules, there is one exception to this – read on).

What to expect during the application process

When you apply for term or permanent insurance with a substantial death benefit (as opposed to a modest “final expenses” policy) there will be an application and underwriting process:  The insurer gathers your information, evaluates your age, health (with a medical exam) and other risk factors, weighs them against the length and amount of coverage you want, then decides if you are insurable – and at what cost. These are the basic steps:

1. Get a quote

There are a number of online quoting tools that can give you a quick cost assessment, and these can be especially helpful for people with simple coverage needs who are looking for term coverage. However, if you have a medical condition the initial quotes may not reflect your actual cost. It may be a good idea to speak with a broker or agent about your situation. Guardian can put you in touch with a financial representative who can help you get a quote and guide you to the solutions best suited to your needs.

2. Collect documents

Like any other process, you’ll need to provide certain basic facts about yourself, so make sure to have the following items handy:

  • Driver’s license, passport, birth certificate or other proof of identity
  • Pay stubs, employment letter, tax return or other proof of income
  • Signed lease, property tax statement, utility bill or other proof of residency

3. Complete the application form

There will be a paper or online form that asks for more detailed information than provided when you first got your quote, and there may be questions about hobbies or other activities that could present a risk to your health. You’ll also be asked to give the insurance company permission to access medical and financial records to verify your information, such as an Attending Physician Statement from your doctor. After the form is completed there may be a follow-up phone call from the insurance company to check that your details are correct and get answers to any subsequent questions.

4. Get a medical exam

An appointment will be set up with a nurse or paramedical examiner, who can usually meet you at your home or office. The exam takes about 30 minutes, and the examiner will check your height, weight, and blood pressure, draw blood, and possibly ask for a urine sample. Depending on your preexisting condition, you may also be asked to undergo added testing during this visit.

At this point, all the information gathered will be given to an underwriter at the insurance company, who will evaluate all your risk factors, assign a rate classification, and calculate your final premiums.

5. Sign your policy and start paying premiums

The insurance company will send the finalized policy to you. It’s a paper contract that outlines all the terms and conditions of your policy including coverage amount, premiums, method of payment, riders, exclusions, and so on. Read it carefully. When you are satisfied that you understand your policy and agree to the terms, sign two copies and mail one back to the insurer. Keep your copy in a safe place – and let your beneficiaries know where it is.

Factors that improve insurability for people with pre-existing conditions

Remember: just because you have a pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you can’t get life insurance. In fact, there are also a few things you can do to potentially increase your chances of qualifying with a pre-existing medical condition – and even lower your rate.

1. Follow your treatment plan

The better controlled your medical condition, the less risk to a potential insurer. So whatever your issue, go to the right doctor or specialist, get a treatment plan – and follow it as best you can. That will maximize your chances of maintaining and improving your health, insurability – and even quality of life.

2. Exercise regularly

The benefits of exercise to your health and overall wellbeing are well documented. Exercise also tends to help mitigate most of the factors that make a person risky to insure. One caveat: check with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, especially after a serious health event. But even if you can’t do strenuous exercise, simple activities like walking can provide significant benefits.

3. Lose weight

Losing weight seems hard, but it is possible to do. And it’s vitally important, because excess weight can affect your health, wellbeing, and life expectancy in so many ways. Take steps to modify your eating and increase your activity until you find a way to lose a little bit every week without feeling completely deprived – even if it’s just half a pound. Over time you may be able to achieve your weight loss goal.

How to buy life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition

The first place to start is at work. Check with your employer to see if they offer a group life insurance benefit. The coverage may be limited to one or two times your salary, but acceptance could be automatic. If available, this will likely be your most affordable option. If you aren’t already taking advantage of workplace life insurance, you should do so at the earliest possible opportunity – likely your next open enrollment period.

If you’re buying as an individual, use an agent or broker, since they will be familiar with the underwriting standards for each condition and can check in advance with the insurer to find out the company’s approach to covering a given condition. If you don’t know an agent, Guardian can put you in touch with a financial representative who can help you.

Make sure to speak frankly with your agent and give them insight into your medical condition, so that they can advocate on your behalf. And be sure to talk about the steps you are taking to effectively manage your condition, so that the insurance company can take this into account.

One last note of caution: don’t try to hide a current medical condition from your agent or the insurance company. If discovered, it could result in cancellation of the policy, as well as any death benefit that might have gone to your family. It might even be prosecuted as insurance fraud.

Frequently asked questions about buying life insurance with a medical condition

Can you get life insurance with health issues?

It is easier to do if you are eligible for group insurance through work (or sometimes, a professional association). However, it is also possible to qualify for an individual policy. A term life policy, if available, will be more affordable than permanent life insurance. If you can’t find a suitable term or permanent policy, you may want to consider a guaranteed-issue policy. Acceptance is automatic, but know that the death benefit is limited. These policies are most commonly used to pay for final expenses.

What medical conditions prevent you from getting life insurance?

It’s difficult to say that any specific medical condition automatically disqualifies a person from getting life insurance, because there are always exceptions. However, there are a number of conditions that make it more difficult and/or expensive to get life insurance. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • HIV
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking

How do insurance companies know if you have a pre-existing condition?

Life insurance applications ask questions about your health, and the process typically requires you to give the insurer permission to access any medical records needed to validate your information. In addition, you will be required to have a medical exam as part of the underwriting process, and they will look for specific markers in your blood work and other tests that indicate an underlying medical condition – whether you are aware of that condition or not.

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Guardian Life Insurance for Individuals Living with HIV  Pub8704 (10/18)

2022-141352 20240731