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Can you get life insurance with pre-existing conditions?

Many people assume that a pre-existing medical condition will prevent them from securing life insurance cover, but this is not necessarily the case. The UK has the fourth-largest life insurance market in the world, creating intense competition right across the sector. As a consequence, we have seen the emergence of niche life insurance companies. Many of these companies will offer life insurance even if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Can you get life insurance with pre-existing conditions?
Mark Benson
· 6 min read

Many people assume that a pre-existing medical condition will prevent them from securing life insurance cover, but this is not necessarily the case. The UK has the fourth-largest life insurance market in the world, creating intense competition right across the sector. As a consequence, we have seen the emergence of niche life insurance companies. Many of these companies will offer life insurance even if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

What are pre-existing conditions for life insurance?

Life insurance companies will take into account many different pre-existing medical conditions. Some of the more common conditions which may impact life insurance cover/premiums include:-

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Epilepsy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Mental health conditions

When looking at life insurance cover for the over 50s, it is worth considering the more prominent causes of death for each age group. Using data supplied by the ONS, we have summarised the results below (between 2001 and 2018).

Aged between 50 and 64

  • Between 2001 and 2018, heart disease was the leading cause of death for males in this age group, with 17.2% of deaths attributed to the disease. Over the period, there were three times as many male deaths as there were female deaths (6.8%) as a consequence of heart disease.
  • In 2001 breast cancer accounted for 12.2% of female deaths in this age group – a trend which continued until 2007. From 2008 onwards, the leading cause of death was lung cancer, accounting for 10.1% of female deaths in 2018.

Aged between 65 and 79

  • Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for males aged 65 to 79. However, the rate has fallen from 26% in 2001 to 14.8% in 2018.
  • Heart disease was the leading killer for females in this group from 2001 to 2013. Since 2013, lung disease is the leading cause of death, accounting for 10.4% of deaths in this age group in 2018.

Aged 80 and over

  • In 2001, heart disease accounted for 21.8% of male deaths and 18.1% of female deaths. More recently, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have become more prominent, becoming the leading cause of death in males from 2015 (15.1% of all deaths in this age group).
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease briefly became the leading cause of death for females in 2009 and then again from 2011 onwards.

The change in leading causes of death in different age groups illustrates historic lifestyles, taking into account trends in smoking, for example. It also reflects the ongoing improvements in medical care which have been more successful in some areas than others.

Can you get life insurance if you're already sick?

Just because you have a pre-existing medical condition does not necessarily mean this will impact available life cover and premiums. For example, those with type I and type II diabetes will likely see very different results when applying for life insurance. This is because:

  • Type I diabetes is hereditary with diagnosis typically at a very early age. As a consequence, by the time an individual applies for life insurance, they will likely be able to manage the condition with relative ease.
  • Type II diabetes is seen by many as a “lifestyle” condition and as a consequence can emerge at any time in later life. Those with type II diabetes will probably find it more challenging to obtain life insurance.

This is a perfect example of an ongoing medical condition which may or may not have an impact on your ability to secure life insurance. The chances are that even with type II diabetes, you should still be able to secure life insurance, although premiums will likely be higher.

Can I get life insurance if I have a heart condition?

As we touched on above, heart disease has been and continues to be a prominent cause of death in over 50s. If we look at life insurance for those with a heart condition, there are numerous issues to take into consideration. A life insurance company will likely request details such as:-

  • When the heart attack occurred
  • The severity of the attack
  • Treatment received in the form of surgery or medication
  • Current lifestyle

Statistically, those who have experienced a heart attack are more likely to experience another in the future. This will be taken into consideration as will all of the above elements, including current lifestyle. Life insurance companies calculate premiums on cold hard facts and statistics, not emotion.

What medical conditions affect life insurance?

The calculation for life insurance premiums is simply a reflection of the risks associated with insuring the life of an individual. Insurance companies always to take into account diagnosed medical conditions, but there are also other issues such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Smoking habits
  • Lifestyle
  • Family medical history

There is no doubt that those who maintain a healthy lifestyle will reap the rewards with lower insurance premiums. For example, obesity is a massive problem at the moment, so if you can improve your BMI, this could have a significant impact on your premiums.

While many over 50s life insurance policies do not require a formal medical examination, insurers will still require details of your medical history. So, individual life insurance premiums for those over 50 can vary significantly. Indeed, those with specific medical conditions may need to approach specialist insurers.

Life expectancy in the UK

As life expectancy is a significant element of any life insurance policy calculation, we have included UK life expectancy graphs published by the United Nations. These not only show the gradual improvement in life expectancy from those born in the 1970s and approaching 50 but also the annual rate of improvement. Interestingly, from 2020 to 2100, the improvement in life expectancy appears set to tail off.

UK Life Expectancy from Date of Birth and Future Projections

graph showing future UK life expectancy projection

UK life expectancy from 1950 to 2020

graph showing UK life expectancy from 1950 to 2020

Life insurance companies in the UK

As we touched on above, the UK life insurance market is the fourth largest in the world.

The leading lights in the UK life insurance market (including over 50s life insurance) include:-

  • Aegon
  • AIG
  • Aviva
  • Guardian
  • Legal & General
  • Liverpool Victoria
  • Royal London
  • Scottish Widows
  • Vitality
  • Zurich

Other life insurance companies specialise in over 50s life insurance plans, such as:

  • Shepherds Friendly
  • Assurity
  • OneFamily
  • SunLife
  • Sainsbury's
  • National Assurance
  • Post Office

With numerous factors to take into consideration when seeking life insurance, many people use insurance brokers to find the best policy for their situation.

Conclusion

The UK life insurance market is vast, the fourth largest in the world according to premiums paid in 2019. As a consequence, there are many specialist/niche insurers with particular focus on the over 50s life insurance market. Premiums will take into account existing medical conditions, family medical traits as well as lifestyle issues. It is therefore sensible to take advice from third-party insurance brokers to find the best deal for you.

Mark Benson
Mark Benson
Mark has over 10 years’ experience specialising in writing around property, finance, and investment subjects. Mark has been published on a variety of popular websites covering these topics and others.
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