Purchasing a life insurance policy is one of the most important
moves you can make if someone depends on you financially. However,
many people believe that they cannot buy an affordable policy -- or
even qualify for coverage -- because they have a chronic health
condition. A recent study by Genworth Financial found that between
39% and 54% of adults with pre-existing conditions, including
anxiety, asthma, depression, high cholesterol, hypertension, weight
problems and sleep apnea, have no life insurance. The fear that the
price of a policy will be too high because of their impairment
prevents them from buying life insurance, says Ray Dinstel, senior
vice president of underwriting at Genworth.
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These conditions aren't a barrier to an affordable policy,
though. Genworth's research found that anxiety, asthma, depression,
high cholesterol, hypertension, weight problems and sleep apnea
don't carry a higher mortality rate if they are controlled by
medication or other treatment, Dinstel says. So the insurer changed
its underwriting guidelines, and now the majority of its applicants
with medically controlled chronic conditions actually get the
preferred rate (which is Genworth's second-best rate). Dinstel says
many other insurers have followed Genworth's lead and have changed
their guidelines, too.
If you have one of these chronic conditions, here's what you
need to know about searching for and buying a life insurance
The key is control.
People with impairments "shouldn't stop at disclosing their
condition," he says. "They need to get on the phone with a company
representative to provide their full information." Otherwise, they
could be quoted a rate that's much higher than what they would
qualify for if they had disclosed that their condition was under
control. For example, a 50-year-old man who received the preferred
rate on a $100,000 term-life policy from Genworth would pay $252
annually. If he received the standard rate, he would pay $348 for
that same policy.
You should prepare for the medical exam
you will have to take during the application process. There are a
few things you can do to improve the exam's outcome -- or at least
not make your medical condition appear worse than it really is.
Fast 24 hours before the exam because this might help lower your
cholesterol slightly. Avoid alcohol and fatty and salty foods
before the exam, and don't have any caffeine the morning of the
exam. Take your medications to ensure your cholesterol, blood
pressure or any other condition you might have is under control.
Don't do a heavy workout the day before. You'll end up with an
elevated protein level, which would make you seem sick. And get a
good night's sleep so you're rested and relaxed when you take the
You can't get the preferred rate with some conditions, even
if they're controlled.
If you have diabetes or a history of cancer, you cannot get the
preferred rate, Dinstel says. However, you can qualify for the
standard rate (see
Life Insurance After Cancer
). If you currently have cancer, you can't even get the standard
rate. For more, see
5 Medical Conditions That Raise Life Insurance
You'll pay a lot more for life insurance if you
Even if you have a treatable medical condition that is under
control, you won't get the preferred rate -- or even the standard
rate -- if you smoke. In general, smokers pay twice as much for
life insurance as healthy non-smokers do, Dinstel says. When
impairments are involved, the rates are even higher. However, you
can improve your chances of getting a better rate by quitting. You
many qualify for an insurer's best rate after being smoke-free for
three to five years.
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