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Pre-existing medical conditions and life insurance

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A guide to pre-existing medical conditions and life insurance

Taking out a life insurance policy can offer peace of mind that your family will be financially secure – whatever may happen in the future. But can you get life insurance if you’ve suffered an illness or serious medical condition? And will it pay out if you die because of that condition? Find how life insurance with pre-existing conditions works.

Compare quotes from 22 trusted providers[1] including:

[1] Correct as of March 2024.

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

A pre-existing medical condition is an illness, injury or disease that you’ve had in the past or are currently experiencing before you take out life insurance. An insurance provider will have a list of ailments that they consider to be pre-existing conditions. This could include:

  • Asthma and breathing problems
  • Heart disease, including heart attacks and angina
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Strokes, including mini-strokes and brain haemorrhage
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions
  • Kidney diseases

When you apply for life insurance, you’ll need to let your provider know if you have a pre-existing medical condition so they can weigh up your risk and chances of claiming. This will help them decide how much to charge you for insurance, or whether they’ll even offer you a policy at all.

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

Yes, you can, but it might cost you more. That’s because an insurance provider may view you as a higher risk for making a claim. The number of providers willing to cover you could also be limited.

That said, everyone who applies for life insurance is assessed on a case-by-case basis, so getting a policy really depends on your specific circumstances. Some pre-existing conditions might not make that much difference to how much you’ll pay for life insurance, whereas more serious conditions like heart disease or cancer could make it a lot harder to get a competitive price.

If you’re thinking of taking out life insurance, it’s vital to do your research. Not all insurance providers take the same view of pre-existing medical conditions, so it’s worth shopping around.

What questions will insurance providers ask?

When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked a series of questions about your general health and lifestyle. If you tell the provider you have a pre-existing medical condition, you’ll usually be asked more detailed questions, like:

  • How long have you had the condition?
  • Are you taking any medication?
  • Have you been admitted to hospital recently?
  • Is there a family history of the condition?

The provider may also want to see your medical records, speak to your GP or ask you to undergo a medical assessment and/or a medical examination. You might feel uneasy about insurance providers accessing your medical records, but they can’t do this without your consent. If you refuse, you might not be able to get cover, though.

What happens if I don’t answer medical questions correctly?

Always answer the questions honestly and accurately, to the best of your knowledge, as the last thing you want is to leave your family unprotected if your policy is invalid. A provider could refuse or reduce a pay out for a claim if you withheld information about any previous illnesses or conditions when making your application.

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

Any life insurance policy you’re offered will depend on your individual circumstances and health condition, and some policies may have exclusions.

Policies with exclusions

This type of policy will exclude your pre-existing medical condition from the cover, and only pay out if your death isn’t related to it.

For example, if you’ve recently suffered a heart attack, you could set up life insurance that wouldn’t pay out if you died from heart disease, but would if you passed away from another condition.

This can be useful if you’re struggling to get cover, but it’s important to be clear on what’s covered and what’s not.

Policies without exclusions

You may be able to get life insurance without exclusions, meaning your family will still get a pay-out even if you die from a pre-existing condition you’ve told your provider about. But the cost of cover may be higher to reflect this increased risk.

Say you have high blood pressure. The cost of your premium (how much you pay for insurance) will depend on how well it’s controlled and how the provider categorises it.

Can I still get cover if I’ve had a heart attack?

If you’ve had a heart attack or you have a heart condition, you could still get cover. But you might find it’s harder to secure a policy and it may be more expensive. That’s because, in the eyes of an insurance provider, you’re a higher risk compared to someone who’s never had a heart attack.

A provider may ask you for more details, such as:

  • How severe the heart attack was
  • When the heart attack happened  
  • Whether or not you had surgery, and if there are any long-term implications or recurrent problems
  • What  type of medication you’re on, if any.

You’ll also be asked questions about your health and lifestyle, such as whether you smoke, your drinking habits and how much you weigh. 

Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?

It’s still possible to get life insurance cover if you have diabetes. However, the type you suffer from makes a difference:

  • Type 1 diabetes: With type 1 diabetes typically diagnosed from an early age, insurance providers may be less strict, in the knowledge that you’ve had the condition under control for a number of years.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Many providers might not offer you insurance. This is because type 2 diabetes can be harder to manage, leading to greater health complications and conditions. You could still find cover if you shop around, but your premium is likely to be considerably higher.

Frequently asked questions

Can you get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis?

Yes, you could still get life insurance after being diagnosed with cancer, but it does make it more difficult and can’t be guaranteed.

It’s likely to be more expensive and you may find that certain conditions aren’t included in your policy. Each case is unique, though, so the best way to find out is by searching for a quote.

If you’ve been successfully treated for cancer in the past, insurance providers will want to know what kind of cancer you had, what stage it reached and how it was treated. Generally speaking, the longer you’ve been in remission, the cheaper your life insurance is likely to be.

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

Yes, you can still get life insurance if you’ve had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke).

However, the type of policy you can get will depend on how severe the stroke was, when it happened and how quickly you received treatment.

If your stroke was very recent, your policy might have restrictions. For example, it might not pay out if you die in the first few years after you take out insurance. And the insurance provider could insist on adding a stroke exclusion into your policy. This means that if you died because of a stroke (or anything relating to a stroke), they wouldn’t make a pay-out.

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

Developing a medical condition after your life insurance policy is in place shouldn’t make your cover invalid.

As long as you gave honest and accurate information in your original application – and pay your premiums on time – your life insurance cover will stay in place throughout the length of your policy.

How can I get cheaper life insurance with a pre-existing condition?

Proving that you’ve taken steps towards a healthier lifestyle could reduce the cost of a life insurance policy.

If you had a heart attack or a stroke that happened several years ago and you’ve continued to take good care of yourself – exercising regularly, not smoking or drinking too much and maintaining a balanced diet – then you might be able to reduce the cost of life insurance.

As with all insurance, comparing policies will also help you find a good-value deal.

How are premiums for life insurance calculated?

Each insurance provider will respond differently to potential risks when it comes to life insurance, which is why you need to consider all your options before choosing a policy. A quote will be affected by:

  • your age
  • the amount of cover you want
  • your lifestyle
  • pre-existing health conditions
  • the policy length you choose.

Find out more about how your age might affect your life insurance policy.

Can I get life insurance without a medical check?

Yes, if you’re concerned about undergoing a medical, you can learn more about life insurance with no medical.

If you’re over 50 years old, you might want to consider over 50s life cover. This offers guaranteed acceptance without the need for a medical check, regardless of your lifestyle or any pre-existing conditions you may have.

But there are conditions attached. The qualification period is typically 12-24 months, so if you die within this timeframe, your family will only get back the premiums you’ve paid in, rather than a full payout. Make sure you consider the details of the policy carefully if you decide to go for this type of cover.

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

Possibly, but you may find it difficult to get critical illness insurance if you have a pre-existing condition.

This is because there could be a higher risk of you becoming critically ill because of your condition.

In some cases, you may be able to get critical illness cover with an added exclusion. In other words, you might only get a pay-out if you get an illness listed on your policy that has nothing to do with your pre-existing condition.

Again, it can depend very much on the type of condition you have and your medical history.

What do I need to get a quote?

To get a life insurance quote, you’ll need to tell us:

  • your name and date of birth
  • whether you’re a smoker or use nicotine substitutes
  • the type and length of cover you need
  • how much cover you want
  • any joint policyholder details

You can request a callback from an expert adviser at our partners LifeSearch if you have any questions about the cover you need.

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[1] Correct as of March 2024.

[2] As of April 2nd 2024, Compare the Market had an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 from 41,487 people who left a review on Trustpilot. The score 4.8 corresponds to the Star Label ‘Excellent’.

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Author image Anna McEntee

What our expert says...

“If you fail to declare all medical information when you apply for life insurance, you could find yourself living under a false sense of security, meaning your family will be unprotected – and out of pocket – if you die. While it might be tempting to not declare a medical condition in a bid to cut costs, this can prove a false economy, as those who gloss over medical conditions to reduce life insurance premiums risk not being covered.” 

- Anna McEntee, Insurance comparison expert

Page last reviewed on 16 JANUARY 2024
by Helen Phipps