Can I still qualify for life insurance or long-term care insurance if I’ve had health issues?

By: Kimberly Lankford

It depends on the insurance company, the details of your medical condition, and how much time has passed since your last treatment. Because of medical advances, it can be easier for some people who have had major health issues — such as certain kinds of cancer — to qualify for insurance coverage now than it had been in the past.

Life insurance

Life insurance companies offer several pricing tiers based on your health status when you apply for the policy, such as preferred-plus (the best health and the lowest rates), preferred and standard.

You’re unlikely to qualify for preferred rates if you’ve had cancer, but many insurers will consider you for standard rates (or a more-expensive rate class) if you’ve been cancer-free for two to five years. The specifics vary by insurer, type of cancer, severity of the cancer, and the type of treatment you received.

If you’ve had mental health issues, most insurers will require you to be recovered and medication-free for a few years before you can get life insurance, although a few insurers will provide coverage even if you’re still taking medication. However, the premiums may be higher than they are for the standard rate class.

It’s also worthwhile to shop around for life insurance if you’ve quit smoking or lost weight. Insurers charge a lot more for smokers, but many will consider you in the non-smoker class if at least two years have passed since you quit. Your height and weight can also have a big impact on your premiums, and insurers will generally use your current weight unless you’ve lost more than 10 lbs. in the past year. If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, it can be worthwhile to wait a year or two before applying for coverage.

Long-term care insurance

Long-term care insurance companies look at different medical criteria when deciding who to insure and how much to charge. They’re usually not as concerned about health issues that may lead to death, but instead are focused on conditions that could cause you to need long-term care for a long time, such as dementia. Having a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, for example, can make it more difficult to get a preferred rate with some insurers.

You may be able to qualify for standard rates even if you’ve had certain kinds of cancer in the past, but insurers may require a couple of years of cancer-free history first.

Similar to life insurance, you may qualify for a lower rate if you wait to apply two or three years after you stop smoking, lose weight or finish taking certain medications. Also keep in mind that being declined recently by a long-term care insurer may cause other insurance companies to reject you automatically, so it’s a good idea to wait three years or more before applying again after a denial.

Hybrid policies that provide life insurance and long-term care coverage can have different underwriting requirements because they consider both the risk of death and of needing care for a long time. Some of these policies either accept or reject you, without having several rate classes. If you’ve had breast, colon, prostate or lung cancer, for example, you may be able to get coverage after 6 to 12 months of completing treatment, depending on the stage of the tumor, the treatment type, and time that has passed since you completed the treatment. You may have to wait three years after completing successful treatment for other types of cancer. Also, some insurers may automatically reject you if you have rheumatoid arthritis and are taking Prednisone or a biologic agent, or if your body mass index is greater than 42. Insurers often have a list of medications that can cause a denial, too.

How to strengthen your case

The medical criteria can vary a lot by insurer, so it’s a good idea to work with an agency that deals with several insurance companies. Tell them up front about your health condition so they can start to focus on insurers that might be a good match for someone with your medical history.

If you have a complicated medical history, it helps to keep good records of the dates of diagnosis and treatment, the doctors visited, and the medications taken. Insurance underwriters check your medical records, so it’s better to provide this information yourself rather than having them piece together your history on their own, which will extend the application process and delay their decision.

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Saturday Insurance Services, LLC (“Saturday” or “Saturday Insurance”) is a licensed, digital insurance advisor. All tools, quotes, and information provided by Saturday are for educational purposes only and based on the limited information, if any, provided by you. We urge you to consult with your financial and tax advisors before making any purchase decisions. All quotes and estimates are non-binding and are not to be construed as a guarantee you will be able to purchase insurance. Availability of insurance and final pricing is determined solely by our insurer partners and subject to their review and acceptance of a completed application. All product guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of your insurer.