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What is Considered High Risk Life Insurance?

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Life insurance can be a complex topic that elicits many questions on how it all works. I find that one confusing question people have is what is considered high risk life insurance? Very often I come across two types of individuals. The first one might have something common like high cholesterol and thinks that they are high risk and won’t get approved or pay very high rates, the other person tells me that they are in good health, except they have type 1 diabetes and Sleep Apnea. While both individuals may be in good overall health, the person with high cholesterol is not considered high risk, while the type 1 diabetic is. So what is actually considered high risk for life insurance and what options are there for individuals that are considered high risk? We’ll explore both these topics in this blog post.

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Understanding High Risk Life Insurance Health Ratings

The first step in understanding high risk life insurance is an understanding of life insurance health ratings. Insurance companies have health ratings like Preferred Best, Preferred, Standard Plus, and Standard. Most people will fall into one of these categories based on their blood pressure reading, cholesterol, height/weight, family history, etc.

If you have ever gotten a life insurance quote online, you probably have seen the health ratings options I just mentioned, however there are also substandard ratings that life insurance companies offer, also called Table Ratings. These are usually numbered from one to ten, or lettered from A-J and are reserved for people that wouldn’t fall into rates at Standard or better, but also wouldn’t get declined for coverage. Anything below a standard rating – or substandard is considered high risk. Those individuals that wouldn’t get approved even at the substandard rates are also considered high risk, and there are other types of life insurance they may qualify for such as Simplified Issue Graded Benefit or Guaranteed Issue life insurance, which we’ll discuss in more detail.

Substandard Life Insurance – when would I get approved at a table rating?

There are two types of categories that would put someone in a substandard rating.

Lifestyle Risks for Substandard Life Insurance Ratings:

Someone who is perfectly healthy but uses recreational marijuana, could get a substandard health rating. Another example of a lifestyle risk is someone who has had a DUI within the last 12 months – that could also put them at a substandard risk category.

Health Conditions that Lead to Substandard Life Insurance Rates

There are many health conditions that can lead to substandard life insurance rates. For example both Type 1 and type 2 diabetics would get a table rating on a policy. Other conditions that can lead to substandard rates are Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, history of cancer or stroke, Hepatitis C, and Elevation in liver function test. In all these cases it is possible to get approved for a regular life insurance policy – just at a substandard rate, which basically means a higher premium amount.

High Risk Life Insurance – Graded Benefit Plans

In cases of more severe health conditions – for example aggressive MS, or a stroke within the past 12 months, uncontrolled diabetes, etc. one would probably be declined for a regular life insurance policy and would need to look for graded benefit life insurance.

Graded benefit life insurance is a type of life insurance policy for people with high risk and typically during the first two or three years the death benefit is equal to all premiums paid, plus interest. After the initial waiting period is over the full amount of coverage is in effect. Coverage available ranges from $5,000 to $150,000 depending on the age and insurance company.


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Liran Hirschkorn

Liran Hirschkorn is the founder of His mission is to help individuals across the country in finding the best rates on life insurance as well as helping individuals with high risk life insurance.

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