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Life Insurance for High-Risk Applicants

Nearly everyone can benefit from applying for life insurance, but those with medical conditions, riskier jobs, and similar lifestyle factors may feel an especially pressing need to protect their loved ones. High-risk applicants may pay more for life insurance but may have plenty of choices. Plus, understanding how life insurance risk classifications work can help you find ways to reduce your risk and increase your options. This article explains how life insurance risk classifications work and some factors insurers consider high-risk to help you find the coverage you need.

What is life insurance for high-risk applicants?

Life insurance for high-risk applicants is any policy designed for individuals deemed to have an increased risk of passing away. These policies allow applicants to qualify for life insurance coverage despite health conditions, risky occupations or hobbies, or other factors that increase an applicant’s risk. Policies may come with increased premiums or other stipulations to account for the increased risk.

Factors that make people high-risk applicants for life insurance

Two broad categories of risk can cause an insurer to treat you as a high-risk applicant:1

Medical risks

Medical conditions may increase an applicant's risk. Conditions that create medical risk may include conditions associated with:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic respiratory diseases
  • Autoimmune diseases

Insurers analyze your personal and family health history. Even if you don’t have the condition, a family history may associate you as a high-risk applicant with some insurers. That said, proof of vigilant health care and management can make you appear less risky. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and following your provider’s treatment regimen can help demonstrate that you are managing a condition well.

Lifestyle risks

Lifestyle and occupational factors can significantly impact your risk as well. Here are some of these factors:

  • Nicotine or tobacco use: Nicotine and tobacco use have been linked to various health conditions.1 Therefore, insurers consider applicants who smoke to be high-risk. Insurers may differ in what they classify as smoking status.

  • Alcohol use: Excessive alcohol use may lead to high-risk treatment. What’s considered high-risk varies by insurer, as well.

  • Job: Some jobs are deemed high-risk by many insurers. These include roles like active duty military, police officers, commercial pilots, and refinery workers.2 Some jobs may be considered high-risk only in certain situations. For example, delivery drivers who transport hazardous materials may classify into a higher risk category.

  • Hobbies: Hobbies like skydiving, rock climbing, and professional racing create a higher risk of passing away. Therefore, insurers may classify you as a high-risk applicant if you engage in these activities.
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Life insurance rate classifications

Life insurance providers use six risk classifications to assign you a risk class based on your health and lifestyle information:2

Super preferred

Super Preferred, also called Preferred Elite, Preferred Plus, or Preferred Select, represents applicants with the lowest risk. Policyholders in this category may get more budget-friendly premiums.

Applicants in Super Preferred tend to have a BMI of 18 to 29, which ranges from healthy to overweight.3 This classification of applicants tend to have no immediate family members who have passed away from diseases like cancer or heart disease. Finally, Super Preferred applicants don’t often have risky jobs or hobbies.


Preferred, also known as Non-Tobacco or Non-Smoker Preferred, is for applicants with slightly increased risk than Super Preferred. Preferred policyholders may also have budget-friendly premiums.

This classification of applicants may have health conditions, such as well-managed high cholesterol, but are generally healthy and lead healthy lifestyles. BMI may range from 30 to 31.3 These applicants may also tend to have little to no family history of major health conditions.

Standard plus

Standard Plus is the next risk category, which could offer higher premiums than Super Preferred and Preferred. This classification of applicants may tend to have a BMI of 32 or 333 and may have mild-to-moderate unresolved health conditions, particularly if managed well.


The Standard classification is designed for policyholders with higher risks than Standard Plus, Preferred, or Super Preferred. BMIs tend to range from 34 to 38.3 This classification of applicants may have moderate health conditions that they have resolved. They could also have mild, chronic physical or mental health conditions or have had a serious condition several years prior.

Certain information may qualify you for Standard Classification regardless of the rest of your medical and lifestyle history. For example, if you had quit smoking within the past year, you may be classified into the Standard risk category.

Table ratings

Table ratings are designed for applicants with more severe health conditions. Insurers calculate premiums by using various tables of data to assess risk. The insurer adds a particular percentage, such as 25% increments, to the Standard classification’s premiums. Each increment of 25% is a different table.3

Preferred tobacco

Preferred Tobacco represents the classification of applicants who may use tobacco products less frequently than applicants in the Standard Tobacco classification. They may also have fewer personal or family health conditions that could lead to increased risk.

Standard tobacco

Standard Tobacco classified applicants may account for the highest risk levels. Applicants in this category may use tobacco products frequently or have a health history or conditions that can increase risk.

How much does high-risk life insurance cost?

High-risk life insurance costs may be more impactful, by comparison to standard life insurance. Insurers may charge more to offset the extra risk. However, several factors can impact your premiums:4

  • Life expectancy: Younger policyholders tend to qualify for competitive premiums, given the same risk levels.

  • Coverage amount: The more life insurance coverage you purchase, the higher your premiums may be.

  • Disease management: Well managed conditions can bring down medical risk-related premiums; which involves following medical treatments, taking any required medication, and leading a healthy lifestyle.

  • Type of risk: Risk factors themselves can vary. For instance, an insurer may consider a controlled chronic condition less risky than a more severe, untreated condition.

  • Policy type: Policy types vary in cost. For instance, term life insurance may have more cost-effective premiums than permanent life insurance for the same level of coverage.

  • Gender: Men have lower average life expectancies, resulting in higher premiums.4

How to find the right high-risk life insurance policy

Finding a high-risk life insurance policy doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some ways to get competitive rates for the coverage you need:

  • Compare quotes: Due to competition and other factors, insurers may charge different amounts for the same coverage. Gather quotes from several insurers and compare them to find preferred rates.

  • Consider no-exam life insurance: No-exam life insurance, such as final expense and guaranteed issue life insurance, doesn’t require a medical exam. The insurer may still ask some basic health questions on the application, but the lack of a medical exam may reduce the importance of your health status and possibly speed up underwriting.

  • Explore workplace options: Group life insurance through your employer may offer coverage at competitive rate. However, it may not offer enough coverage since most employers may not provide the coverage you may need.

  • Work with a broker: Some brokers specialize in helping high-risk applicants find coverage they qualify for. A high-risk life insurance broker can help you explore your options and navigate the process. Usually, they get a commission from the insurer, so you may not owe anything.

  • Improve health and lifestyle: Regardless of your situation, you have some level of control over your health and lifestyle. The smallest improvements in health could help you fall within a reduced risk classification. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and manage health conditions diligently.

Get a quote for Aflac life insurance

Life insurers look closely at risk factors to quote accurate premiums for the coverage you need. High-risk applicant's premiums vary. However, there are many life insurance options to consider. Plus, applicants can manage factors they control, like lifestyle, to reduce their risk levels.

Working with a provider like Aflac helps as well. Aflac has numerous life insurance policies to suit a range of needs and situations. Speak with an agent today to explore your options and get a quote.

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