What Is An Impaired Risk for Life Insurance?

Clifford PendellWritten by Clifford Pendell
impaired-risk-insurance-banner Finding an affordable life insurance policy can be challenging, especially if you are considered to be an impaired risk.

Your eligibility for life insurance - and the cost of your policy - is ultimately determined by the risk you expose to your insurance provider.

This is why it's important to work with an expert that understands impaired risk underwriting and the companies that specialize with it. 

In this article we've explained what life insurance companies consider an impaired risk. We've also included some tips to help you save money on your policy if you have an occupation that is considered dangerous or are in less than perfect health. 

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What is an Impaired Risk?

In the life insurance industry, someone with a health condition, dangerous job, unfavorable family health history, or hazardous lifestyle is considered to be an impaired risk. The greater the level of risk associated with an individual, the higher their life insurance premiums will tend to be. This is due to the elevated probability of them experiencing a premature death.

Thankfully, some life insurance providers will overlook minor health issues like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or being up to 40 pounds overweight. And, most us of do not have hobbies or occupations that are considered dangerous. In fact, being a commercial pilot, firefighter, or police officer will not prevent you from qualifying for a preferred rate class.

However, if you're an avid skydiver, dismantle explosives, or have serious health concerns, finding affordable life insurance can be a challenge. Every company is going to look at you differently, so using an impaired risk life insurance specialist is going to be your best option. These agents are not limited to one company like a local agent, they have the ability to compare dozens of providers.

What Are the Four Categories of Risk in Life Insurance?

In the life insurance industry, there are four primary risk categories: preferred best, preferred, standard plus, and standard. An individual in average or better health can expect to qualify for standard rates, while someone who is in exceptional health should be approved at preferred or preferred best.

Most people fall into a standard or better risk class unless they have serious health issues, an extremely dangerous job, or a hazardous hobby. Applicants in fair to poor health typically qualify at substandard rates if they are insurable. The tricky part is that every life insurance company evaluates risk differently.

As an example: If your total cholesterol is over 180, you cannot qualify for a preferred best rate with State Farm. On the other hand, with Mutual of Omaha, a total cholesterol of up to 300 will not prevent you from getting approved at preferred best.

Insurance providers also consider an individual's occupation and lifestyle differently. For instance, with Transamerica, a private pilot can qualify for preferred rates if they are instrument-rated. While Farmer's will probably charge you a flat extra or exclude piloting from your coverage.

There are literally thousands of examples like this which is why applying with the right company can save you money or increase your chances for approval. Below we've provided a breakdown of the top four life insurance risk categories and some common approval guidelines.

(*Please note, every company sets their own underwriting guidelines, and some companies will not offer as much leniency.)

#1. “Preferred Best” Underwriting Guidelines:

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 136/86
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medications: Above 120, or less than 300.
  • Cholesterol ratio must be 5.0 or less. To calculate this number, divide your total cholesterol number by your HDL number.
  • Family History: Family history is overlooked as long as there is no evidence of hereditary cancer.
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last 3 years.

#2. “Preferred” Underwriting Guidelines:

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 146/90
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medications: Above 120, or less than 300.
  • Cholesterol ratio must be 5.5 or less.
  • Family History: No cardiovascular disease in either parent or sibling before age 60.
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last 2 years.

#3. “Standard Plus” Underwriting Guidelines:

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 152/92
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medication: Above 120, or less than 300.
  • Cholesterol ratio must be 7.0 or less.
  • Family History: Usually not considered at this rate class.
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last year.

#4. “Standard” Underwriting Guidelines:

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 156/94
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medication: Above 120, or less than 300.
  • Cholesterol must be 8.0 or less.
  • Family History: Not considered at this rate class.
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last year.

If you do not qualify for one of these categories, some companies offer underwriting credits that may overlook a health issue if you're in otherwise good health, follow your doctor's advice, and exercise regularly. If not, you may qualify for a substandard catergory also known as a table rate. Most companies offer at least 8 to 12 substandard risk classes.

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Best Impaired Risk Life Insurance Companies

There are dozens of highly-rated of life insurance providers that specialize with impaired risk. However, each company specializes in its unique underwriting niches, this means the best company for someone with a hazardous occupation may not necessarily going to be the best choice for an individual dealing with a serious health issue.

For instance, Prudential stands out as a top choice for individuals with well-controlled type 2 diabetes, but they are not as lenient with blood pressure medications as most providers are. Lincoln Financial will overlook an occasional cigar, and offer you their best rates, but they are not a good fit for people with more than three speeding tickets in the last three years.

This is why it's impossible to narrow down just a few companies. The best impaired risk life insurance company for each individual is determined by a variety of factors including their age, overall health, lifestyle, and immediate family history. Working with an impaired risk expert that represents at least a few dozen providers is always going to be your best option. 

What Disqualifies Me From Life Insurance?

Unless you work in a high-risk occupation, such as being a high-rise ironworker or a similarly dangerous profession, most life insurance providers typically focus primarily on two key factors: your age and your overall health. Most companies will not accept someone over the age of 80, and we are unaware of any company offering life insurance to people over the age of 85.

Minor to moderate health concerns won't prevent you from qualifying for life insurance, but if you have a serious health issue or multiple compounding health issues, it will be more challenging to find coverage. Life insurance providers decline applicants that they feel are too high risk to insure.

Here are some health and lifestyle issues that will prevent you from qualifying for immediate coverage with any life insurance provider:

  • History of alcohol abuse with current use
  • Cancer under current evaluation or recieving treatment
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Dialysis or chronic renal failure
  • Drug abuse (excludes marijuana)
  • HIV positive
  • Flying experimental aircraft
  • Suicidal attempts
  • Stroke history under age 50
  • Transplant recipient
  • Quadriplegia
  • Wreck or salvage diving

If you do not qualify for life insurance with immediate coverage, other options could be available. Up to $25,000 of guaranteed issue life insurance is avaiable to most individuals over the age of 45, regardless of their insurability. The downside to these policies is that they offer limited death benefits, and full coverage does not start for 2 years.

To learn more about guaranteed issue insurance, please read our article: "What is Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance and How Does it Work?"

You can also call us directly at 855-247-9555 to speak with an expert. We work with 63 top-rated life insurance providers to make sure our clients are always matched with the best option available. Most importantly, our comparative shopping services are completely free.

How We Can Help!

Some life insurance companies are more lenient with specific lifestyle risks or health issues than others. Having access to dozens life insurance providers and their underwriting guidelines allows our agents to anonymously shop the market on your behalf, matching you with the top-rated company that offers you the best coverage for the least amount of money.

To get started, select your state from the map below to instantly compare life insurance rates from dozens of "A" or better rated providers, or give us a toll-free call at 855-247-9555. We are licensed to sell life insurance in all 50 states and DC. 

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Written by:

Clifford Pendell

Clifford Pendell

Managing Partner and Co-founder

Cliff is a licensed life insurance agent and one of the owners of JRC Insurance Group. He has helped thousands of families of businesses with their life insurance needs since 2012 and specializes with applicants who are less than perfect health. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and the great outdoors.

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