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Life Insurance with a pre-existing medical condition

LifeSearch author John Rogers
10 min read

by John Rogers, Marketing Executive

See author bio

John is a Protection expert, having worked in our customer facing teams and best practice teams, and now is immersed in Protection Content and Marketing. See author bio

Guide last reviewed 10 Oct 2023

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

It’s a health condition you have, and you know you have, at the time of applying for a life insurance policy. It’s likely a long-term condition, think diabetes, high blood pressure, Crohn’s disease, asthma, sleep apnoea or another chronic issue.

In reality, it’s common.  Recent research on multiple long-term conditions, found that nearly 15% of people in England are living with two or more health disorders[1].

Can I get life insurance with a pre-existing medical condition? 

Absolutely. Although decisions are taken case-by-case, these days it’s highly likely to get covered with a pre-existing condition.

It comes down to the severity of your condition, how well you manage it and how much impact it has on your day-to-day life.

Your condition will be risk-assessed alongside other risk factors (your age, work, lifestyle, smoker status and so on). And assuming you’re otherwise healthy, a mild condition shouldn’t hurt your chances. If you’re an asthmatic, but manage it perfectly well and keep good health, your premium costs could match a non-asthmatic.

Moderate and serious health issues may be different. Depending on your condition and its particulars, your life insurance costs may be subject to a ‘loading’ or ‘rating’ - a little higher to secure the cover you need.

Can I be denied life insurance because of a pre-existing condition?

It can happen. It’s less common nowadays but it depends on the severity of your condition.

If it’s serious and you have other risk factors then your premiums could be higher, sometimes substantially so, and yes - you may be denied cover.

But if one insurer says no it’s not a given others will too. Some insurers may not cover one serious health condition, but another could be much more accepting. In fact, there are specialist insurers out there who specifically cover people with chronic and serious health issues.

It’s also the case that insurers change their positions over time, as more is known about a condition and new treatments change the outlook. A ‘no’ now isn’t a ‘no’ always.

A prime example is HIV. Not long ago, most insurers wouldn’t cover applicants with an HIV diagnosis but nowadays many do. Today, more is known about HIV and new treatments mean someone with it can have as long a life as someone without.

This is where the value of advice and knowing the market comes into play. An experienced LifeSearch adviser will, case by case and condition by condition, know which insurers are most accommodating of specific medical issues.

What type of policy can I get with an existing condition? 

Option #1 

  • Life Insurance 
  • Critical Illness Cover 
  • Income Protection
  • Family Income Benefit
  • Over 50s Cover

Option #2 

Life Insurance 

Getting life insurance could be fairly straightforward, it all depends on the severity of your condition. You may be asked to take a medical exam, your GP may be sent additional questions, and you may have to pay more in monthly premiums but life insurance is more open and generous today than it was a decade ago. 

Read more about life insurance 

Income Protection 

Depending on your condition, income protection could absolutely work for you. You may have exclusions written into your policy so that if you’re off work sick specifically because of your pre-existing condition you may not be able to claim…  

But that’s too many ifs and buts - best talk it through with an expert. 

Read more about income protection. 

Critical Illness Cover 

Critical illness cover is entirely possible with a pre-existing medical condition. It’s bread and butter for insurers nowadays. Again, cover depends on how severe and well managed (or not) your condition is.  

Read more about critical illness cover

Over 50s cover 

If you have a pre-existing condition, most life insurance products come with a lot of ifs and buts. But a guaranteed over 50s policy is more straightforward. In most cases there isn’t a medical exam and there’s guaranteed acceptance. Over 50s cover, which can cover anyone up to 80 and sometimes 85, centres on a smaller payout when you die. It is often sold as a good way to cover funeral costs or leave a gift behind to your loved ones.  

Read more about over 50s life cover 

What do I need to get a quote? 

The short answer is you need to know yourself and your condition and you need to get advice. A LifeSearch adviser will take you through the process step by step and quickly understand which insurer or insurers are best to approach. 

Once a relevant insurer has been identified, they will probably ask deeper and more specific questions about your condition. They’ll likely ask for relevant parts of your medical records so underwriters can accurately assess the risk of you making a claim based on your condition, and they’ll set your monthly premiums accordingly.  

Click here to get our advice & quote form. 

What questions will insurance providers ask? 

An insurer will ask standard general questions about your life, lifestyle, work, habits and so on. Once you disclose your condition (and it’s very important you do, no matter how mild or manageable it is) they will most likely dig deeper into the particulars of how your condition impacts your day-to-day life.  

Your application may also include a life insurance medical check-up for further detail about you, your lifestyle and ultimately your risk.  

This is normal, usual and it’s to help you come claim time. The more insurers know up front, the more efficiently a claim can be paid later. 

How do life insurance companies check medical background?

They’ll first check things through with you and they may then, depending on your condition, make a request to your GP to see relevant portions of your medical records. It’s possible the insurer will send a questionnaire to your GP to understand more about your:

  • Respiratory system 
  • Gastrointestinal tract 
  • Nervous system 
  • Urinary system 
  • Immune system (and relevant disorders) 
  • Cholesterol 
  • Kidney and liver functions 
  • Likelihood of developing diabetes 

It’s also fairly standard for insurers to ask that applicants with pre-existing conditions undergo a life insurance medical screening, which may involve some or all of the following: 

  • General health questions  
  • Blood sample
  • Urine sample
  • Measurement of your height, weight (BMI)
  • Waist measurement
  • Pulse and blood pressure check
  • Questions about whether you smoke and how much
  • Questions about your alcohol consumption
  • Questions about your diet
  • Questions about your exercise habits
  • Questions about your drug use 

Can I get life insurance without a medical check? 

You can. If you’re otherwise healthy and your condition is mild, managed and doesn’t require additional treatments and/ or medication you may not need a medical exam.  

Back in the day, pretty much all applicants with pre-existing medical conditions had to undergo medicals, but knowledge and new tech have eliminated much of this.  

Even if you do have to give more info, it’s normal and it’s a good thing: a medical exam ensures your life insurance policy is hyper-relevant to your condition. Those who have milder conditions can prove how mild it is. Those who have serious conditions can know the insurer has all relevant info and that their insurance cover is correct, even if it’s more expensive. 

One product type that typically bypasses medical checks is over 50s cover. Over 50s cover mostly offers guaranteed acceptance with no medical checks. You can read more about that here. 

How to pass a life insurance medical exam

Unlike other exams, there’s no pass or fail. It’s about truth. Insurers want to get to the truth of your condition and your health. They want to understand the severity of your illness, how (well) you manage it, and how far it impacts your health and day-to-day life. 

This is normal and it’s done so insurers can risk-assess you accurately, and pay claims more quickly and efficiently if and when that time comes. 

How are premiums for life insurance calculated?

They’re calculated by underwriters, mathematicians and actuaries. It involves more maths, formulae, probabilities and statistics than most of us see in our daily lives. 

To keep it simple: for every age there’s a baseline cost for life insurance. When someone is in good health, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t use drugs and drinks responsibly then they stay close to that baseline cost because they don’t present a massive risk over and above the average.

Conversely, if someone smokes you add to that baseline cost. If they drink a lot or use drugs you add. If they’re overweight you add. It they work a risky job – or have risky hobbies – you add.  

Health is a big one. Some pre-existing conditions can be mild and managed. They therefore don’t add much risk to the baseline. Other conditions are more serious and severe and they do add more risk to that baseline; hence the elevated cost. 

Frequently asked questions on life insurance with pre-existing conditions 

Can I still get life insurance if I've had a heart attack?

Potentially, yes. It depends how many heart attacks you’ve had, the severity of it / them, how long it has been, how damaged (or not) the heart is and how well controlled your blood pressure and cholesterol are now. It’s more likely than not you’ll be offered “non-standard rates” which is insurer-speak for higher premiums. But the bottom line is that a heart attack is not an immediate denial or refusal in life insurance.  

Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?

Usually, yes. As with all pre-existing medical conditions it depends on the nature and severity of, in this case, your diabetes. As well as asking you about your diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking, the insurer will need to know what kind of diabetes you have (type 1 or type 2), how long you’ve had it and what medication you take.  

They’ll probably go to your GP to ask for recent readings on your Hba1c (blood sugar) levels and perhaps request a full medical screening to understand your general health. The results of the medical will determine your risk to the insurer and therefore the price of your premiums. 

If your diabetes is under control and your general health is otherwise solid then several insurers would be very keen to offer you cover at reasonable rates. 

Read more about life insurance for diabetics.

Can you get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis?

The short answer is sometimes. It depends on what type of cancer, the stage it is at, and where in your journey you are.  

An insurer may not refuse you outright, but they’ll certainly want to make an informed decision based on GP reports and your medical records. If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer and want to explore life insurance it’s best to speak to an expert who can navigate the options for you. 

Can I get life insurance if I've had a stroke? 

Yes, you can. But as with all other conditions and illnesses an insurer will want to learn, from you and your GP, about the specifics of your stroke: when it was, how many strokes you’ve had and how your general health is now.  

Those who suffered strokes caused by head trauma or injury, or a reaction to medication, probably won’t have issues getting life insurance. Conversely, those who had a stroke recently, or at a relatively young age, may find it tougher to get cover.

Can my life-insurance policy be cancelled if I get sick? 

If you’re asking if you are allowed to cancel your life insurance to cut costs, then yes you are. Life insurance isn’t compulsory - you can cancel any time.  

If you’re asking whether your insurer would cancel your policy because you got sick then the answer is absolutely not. Products in the life insurance family exist to support you in situations exactly like this. If you sign up for a critical illness policy when you’re in good health and have a heart attack after five years then your critical illness policy can/ will pay out. That’s what it’s here for. 

Can I get critical illness cover if I have an existing medical condition?

In many cases you can, it all depends on what the condition is, how serious it is, how well managed it is, and what your general health looks like. An insurer will ask questions of you and/ or your GP to understand the nature of your condition and how much risk you pose. It’s possible your premiums may be higher than average, or exclusions will be applied, but it’s still very possible to get critical illness cover with a pre-existing medical condition.

How has COVID-19 affected life insurance for people with medical conditions?

It’s a great question without a fully-formed answer. At the time of writing, we’re living in the tailwinds of the Covid-19 pandemic so it’s still quite a fluid situation.  

The short answer is that insurers are looking at new life insurance applications more conservatively. What that means is that some applicants with pre-existing conditions who were marginal ‘accepts’ in 2019 may, in the wake of Covid, be marginal declines today, or have to pay more in premiums.  

It differs from one insurer to the next so the best advice is to get on the phone to an expert, tell them your situation and they’ll be able to answer specific questions or offer specific guidance. 
Life insurance exists to protect you. And no two people are the same. The best policy for you depends on where you are, what’s going on at home, your health, your plans, your needs and your budget.


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LifeSearch author John Rogers
John Rogers Marketing Executive
A ‘Searcher since 2015, John is a Protection expert having worked in our customer facing teams and best practice teams, and now is immersed in Protection Content and Marketing.
See all articles by John Rogers
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