Can High-Risk Individuals Get Life Insurance?

Life insurance companies typically categorize people who have dangerous jobs, hobbies, or overall poor health to be high-risk applicants. Though these factors can spike costs, most high-risk applicants still qualify for a policy. Learning how high-risk insurance policies are calculated can increase your chances for approval.

Lindsey Crossmier, writer for RetireGuide
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    Lindsey Crossmier

    Lindsey Crossmier

    Financial Writer

    Lindsey Crossmier is an accomplished writer with experience working for The Florida Review and Bookstar PR. As a financial writer, she covers Medicare, life insurance and dental insurance topics for RetireGuide. Research-based data drives her work.

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    Lamia Chowdhury, editor for RetireGuide.com

    Lamia Chowdhury

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    Eric Estevez

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  • Published: April 13, 2022
  • Updated: August 10, 2022
  • 5 min read time
  • This page features 6 Cited Research Articles
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APA Crossmier, L. (2022, August 10). Can High-Risk Individuals Get Life Insurance? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/life-insurance/buy/can-high-risk-individuals-get-life-insurance/

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Life insurance companies determine your life expectancy and premium costs by evaluating your overall health, including pre-existing conditions and whether you have a dangerous job or lifestyle.

If your evaluation categorizes you under a high-risk applicant, your premium price may increase since it would be a higher financial risk for the life insurance company to cover you. This doesn’t mean high-risk individuals are uninsurable. According to the American Council of Life Insurers, fewer than one in 200 life insurance applications are denied coverage.

What Are High-Risk Insurance Applicants?

If you have a higher-than-average mortality risk due to your health and lifestyle, you’re considered a high-risk insurance applicant. Most life insurance companies will require you to take a medical exam to help determine what level risk class you’re in.

Medical Exam Tests and Measurements
  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Blood and urine samples
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

The EKG is not always required. Typically, it is only necessary if you’re over the age of 60 with potential heart conditions. During your appointment, you must also disclose any pre-existing conditions or relevant family health history.

Medical Risk & Pre-Existing Conditions

Having a serious pre-existing condition makes you a medical risk for life insurance companies. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, up to 129 million Americans are affected by a pre-existing health condition.

It is important to be honest when applying for a life insurance policy and disclose any health issues or pre-existing conditions. If you lie on an application, you’d be committing insurance fraud and you will be denied without a death benefit.

Common Pre-Existing Conditions and Medical Risk Factors
  • Having family history of cancer or heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Depression
Source: Progressive

Keep documentation of your treatment plan or medications you take for a pre-existing condition. If you provide this information during the application process, it may help lower your premium price.

Job Risk

Dangerous occupations can put you at risk for serious injury or death. If you work one of the jobs listed below, you are likely considered a high-risk applicant.

High-Risk Jobs
  • Construction worker
  • Firefighter
  • Pilot
  • Police officer
  • Logging work
  • Highway maintenance worker
Source: Industrial Safety & Hygiene News

Of the high-risk jobs listed above, logging work was rated the most dangerous job. A 2020 report from the Industrial Safety & Hygiene News stated that logging workers had 111 fatal injuries out of 100,000 workers compared to police officers with 14 fatal injuries out of 100,000 workers.

Some high-risk jobs offer group life insurance to their employees for little to no cost. If you’re in a dangerous line of work and worry about getting denied life insurance coverage, ask your employer if this option is available to you.

Lifestyle Risk

If you have a history with drug and alcohol addiction, hold a bad driving record or engage with dangerous activities, then you are considered to have a high-risk lifestyle.

Life insurance companies can be more lenient on raising premiums if time has passed since your lifestyle risk challenges. For example, if you have one DUI ticket from 10 years ago, you’ll be more insurable than someone with three DUIs in the last year.

High-Risk Hobbies
  • Skydiving
  • Skiing
  • Rock climbing

Your lifestyle choices influence what insurance risk class you’re placed in, which also determines your premium costs.

Insurance Risk Classes

Insurance risk classes are categories that help insurers determine policy premiums based on health and lifestyle. Some insurance policies have different qualifications or names for each class. For example, the preferred plus category is also known as super preferred at some insurance companies.

If you qualify for the preferred plus category, that means you’re in optimal health with opportunity for low premiums. Majority of high-risk individuals fall into the standard risk class.

Insurance Risk Classes
  • Preferred Plus Risk Class
  • Preferred Risk Class
  • Standard Plus Risk Class
  • Standard Risk Class

Time constraints on coverage vary by risk class. For example, to be considered preferred plus, you must have no history of tobacco within five years of signing up for the policy. But with standard risk class, you must be tobacco free for one year instead of five.

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How Can High-Risk Applicants Get Life Insurance?

If you’re a high-risk applicant, you may still be able to buy a life insurance policy. Every life insurance company varies in coverage, making some better suited and more affordable for high-risk applicants than others.

Some life insurance companies offer limited policies tailored to high-risk applicants. For example, American International Group (AIG) and Mutual of Omaha both offer guaranteed issue life insurance.

Ways To Increase Chances of Being Approved

An independent agent can help you get quotes from multiple insurance companies, which may increase your chance for approval.

Additionally, if you provide detailed information about your health and how you are receiving treatment, this will show insurance companies you’re responsible and safer to approve.

You should also avoid going out of the country before trying to sign up for a life insurance policy, since it might postpone your application process.

How Are High-Risk Insurance Rates Calculated?

If you fall under one of the standard risk classes, then life insurance companies will use the table rating system to determine your premium rate based on health and lifestyle factors. The table rating is categorized by letters A-J or numbers 1-10. Each level adds 25% to the standard premium price.

Table Rating Example
AStandard premium + 25%
BStandard premium +50%
CStandard premium +75%

If you are rated the lowest table rating — J or 10 — then your standard premium increases by 250%.

Saving Money on High-Risk Insurance

High-risk applicants can save money on a policy a few different ways.

Start by doing your research. Many life insurance companies offer a quote tool online to help you determine how much your premium will be. Compare a few different quotes to find out which rate class you fall under and where you can get the lowest premium.

In addition, it’s best practice to get insured as soon as you can. If you wait, your costs increase each year you age.

You can also request a reconsideration from your provider if your overall health has improved. This will likely give you a higher table rating, and in turn, lower your premiums.

Last Modified: August 10, 2022
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6 Cited Research Articles

  1. Fisher, J. (2021, December 8). What Is High Risk Life Insurance? Retrieved from https://www.bestliferates.org/high-risk/
  2. Tedder, M. & Reynolds P. (2021, May 27). Insurers Sometimes Deny Life Insurance Claims. Prevent That from Happening to Your Family. Retrieved from https://money.com/life-insurance-denied/
  3. Industrial Safety & Hygiene News. (2020, November 5). Top 25 Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.ishn.com/articles/112748-top-25-most-dangerous-jobs-in-the-united-states
  4. Lerner, M. (2016, January 11). Understanding Life Insurance Tale Ratings. Retrieved from https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/understanding-life-insurance-table-ratings
  5. Minnesota Department of Commerce. (n.d.). Buying Life Insurance. Retrieved from https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/your-insurance/life-annuities/buying-life-insurance.jsp
  6. U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). At Risk: Pre-Existing Conditions Could Affect 1 in 2 Americans. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Forms-Reports-and-Other-Resources/preexisting