High Risk Life Insurance | How to Negotiate Insurance Rates

Last Updated June 13, 2024

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     All life insurance policies have an underwriting process that works as a medical guide to determine your eligibility for life insurance. Final expense insurance options also have an underwriting process, although it is far more lenient than whole life insurance or term life insurance. Should you smoke or be in poor health, the insurance carrier may see you as “high risk” to the insurance company. What does all of this mean for folks with health issues? Final Expense Benefits reviews what it means to be high risk and how you can negotiate for a better premium. 

What is Considered High Risk for Life Insurance?

     Per the underwriting requirements, life insurance for high risk individuals means that the applicant has risk factors associated with a lower life expectancy. These risk factors include a pre existing condition, a dangerous job or hobby, age, or weight. 



    Most insurance companies will ask if you have undergone any kind of chemotherapy or if you have had a recent cancer diagnosis. All of this will gauge whether or not you qualify for high risk life insurance and how much your monthly premium may be. 

Heat Attack or Heart Disease

     If you have had a recent heart attack or have heart disease you may need life insurance for high risk individuals. Of course, if it has been a while since you have had a heart attack, insurance companies may consider that. It is doubtful that you will be denied life insurance outright, but it is always possible if you are in poor health and suffer from one of these conditions.

Chronic Conditions

     Chronic Conditions, in general, can lower someone’s overall quality of life and impact the amount you would pay for health insurance. If your chronic condition is severe enough to lessen your life expectancy, you may be considered for high risk life insurance.


     Folks who have been diagnosed with HIV and AIDs are considered high risk even if the disease is managed well with medications. Some life insurance companies may deny you for having this diagnosis. On average, people who are diagnosed with HIV and Aids have a lower life expectancy.


     Your lifestyle has far more impact than you think when it comes to deciding if you are high risk for insurance. You could be relatively healthy compared to the next adult but your hobbies, jobs, and tobacco use can make you only qualify for high risk life insurance. Below we discuss what factors put you in an underwriter’s high risk category. 

Tobacco Use

    It is no surprise that using tobacco products, whether you are smoking or chewing tobacco, is bad for your health. Smokers are almost always charged a higher premium than their non-smoking counterparts. Even if you are in good health, smoking will significantly impact how much you pay a month. This is due to the fact that smoking leads to a number of health issues such as COPD, cancer, and heart disease. 

Dangerous Hobbies

     You might be wondering how a hobby could be considered dangerous. There are a number of hobbies that underwriters take into account for trying to summarize if you need high risk insurance. These hobbies include things like skydiving,  aviation, motocross, and rock climbing. You may consider yourself a master at these hobbies with years of experience, but the fact of the matter is that you will have higher premium rates compared to someone who has a hobby like knitting or Dungeons and Dragons. 

Dangerous Jobs

      A lot of times, what you do for a living will affect your coverage amounts and means you only qualify for high risk life insurance. Manual labor jobs, policing, and firefighting are a few of the careers that are considered high risk and dangerous. You may still find life insurance for high risk careers through your employer but may still have a higher premium than those with “safer” careers. In 2022, the most dangerous careers included power-line installers, pilots, roofers, and logging workers. 

Alcohol and Drug Use 

     It goes without saying that excessive alcohol and drug use may limit you to only qualifying for high risk life insurance. Underwriters will ask about what drugs you use, both prescription and non-prescription, and if you consume alcohol more than casually. This is not to say that you will get denied immediately, but they certainly can impact how much you pay in premiums a month. 

High Risk Life Insurance Underwriting

     Underwriters calculate who does and does not qualify for high risk life insurance through a rating system. This rating system takes the information from a medical questionnaire and assigns you to a class based on the amount of risk you pose to the insurance company. Depending on the insurance company, these ranks may have a different name or may even be combined. Typically, this is how a life insurance company categorizes these underwriting classes:

Preferred Plus

    It goes without saying that excessive alcohol and drug use may limit you to only qualifying for high risk life insurance. Underwriters will ask about what drugs you use, both prescription and non-prescription, and if you consume alcohol more than casually. This is not to say that you will get denied immediately, but they certainly can impact how much you pay in premiums a month. 


     One notch lower on the underwriting class list is preferred. People who are under the preferred writing class may have little health issues, or a dangerous job or hobby. You would otherwise be considered in perfect health aside from those minor issues. 


     Most people may find themselves in the standard class. You have a few health issues, may be a bit older, or have a riskier lifestyle. You will pay more in terms of your monthly payment 


     High risk insurance applicants will be part of the substandard underwriting class. If you are of advanced age or find yourself suffering from more than one serious medical condition, you will be paying higher premium rates on average. This also may or may not include tobacco use but often those have their own underwriting classes. 

Preferred Tobacco

     As stated above, folks looking for life insurance who consume tobacco in any way will find that they have their own underwriting class. Preferred tobacco means you are otherwise in excellent health with the exception of tobacco use. You may pay a similar or only a slightly higher rate than a non-tobacco preferred person. 

Standard Tobacco

     Most smokers who do not have a number of serious medical conditions will find themselves part of the standard tobacco underwriting class. Smoking in itself can cause a number of medical conditions so underwriters take that into account when assigning you your class. This does not always equate to paying more than other standard class members as some life insurance companies often have comparable smoker prices. 

Life Insurance for High Risk Applicants

    Final Expense Benefits has got you covered if you are looking for the best life insurance for high-risk applicants. We work with several insurance companies that specialize in helping to protect high risk individuals and their loved ones.

Company 50 y/o Male 50 y/o Female 60 y/o Male 60 y/o Female 70 y/o Male 70 y/o Female

These figures were obtained from the NFDA and are estimates only. For a detailed quote, please contact an agent. 

What is the Impact of Being High Risk for Life Insurance?

     You may be wondering what the impact of these risk factors is and whether or not you can find a way how to negotiate insurance rates to be in your favor. Unfortunately, being considered high risk by an insurance company means that either your application will be denied or you will have to pay a much higher premium. 

     Not all final expense companies or insurance companies are created equal, however. Some insurance companies prioritize lower risk individuals and offer great benefits; only if you are considered healthy. However, there are other insurance companies that have the same rates regardless of your health and risk factors. These are the insurance companies that you want to stick with and apply to. 

How to Negotiate Insurance Premiums and Lower Risk

Are insurance rates negotiable?

      Confusion with rates and premiums is very prevalent amongst seniors looking for the best life insurance for their budget. Folks often confuse the two terms, premium and rates, thinking they are the same thing. Premiums are the monthly payment made to the life insurance company once you agree to their coverage terms. Rates are a more abstract terminology.  “Rates” are an industry term used to talk about the cost to an insurer to cover their specific losses. So the question,“Are insurance rates negotiable,” the answer is no. More specifically you should ask yourself, “ Can you negotiate life insurance premiums?”  Insurance premiums can be negotiable under certain conditions such as with a health improvement. A change in your health for the better can qualify you for a better underwriting class that comes with a lower premium amount. 

How to Lower Life Insurance Premiums

  • Change Your Lifestyle
    Sometimes all it takes to lower your monthly insurance premium is to change your lifestyle. This could look like choosing to quit smoking, lose weight, or find prescription drugs that do not pose a threat to your life insurance coverage. Discuss with your life insurance agent to see what underwriting class you are currently under or qualify for. They can help you to discuss your options for improving your underwriting class.

  • Ask for Reconsideration
    If you are trying to figure out how to lower your life insurance premiums, you may notice that you will have to submit to more medical questions or a medical exam. Most final expense insurance companies do not require a medical exam but ask for one should you want a reconsideration. You can also go to your doctor and submit to a health exam to show any improvements to your insurer. You will need to get information on your weight, any weight loss, how long it was sustained, pulse, blood pressure, and submitting urine and blood samples. You will also want to inform your doctor if you have quit smoking so that you can have a record of when you quit and for how long.

  • Prepare for a Medical Exam or Medical Questions
    Once you have made the necessary lifestyle changes or some time has passed with a certain diagnosis that has shown improvement, you can ask for reconsideration on your premium amount. You may have to prove that you have or can sustain this lifestyle change for your insurance company to reconsider your premium amount. Be aware that depending on your condition, the reason for the underwriting class assigned, or other factors your insurer may not consider a rate change.

  • Shop Around
    Finding the best insurance for you can be complicated, especially if you are trying to figure out where you fall in the underwriting process. Final Expense Benefits partners with over 20 carriers with customer satisfaction guaranteed. They offer no medical exam options at much more affordable rates that fit your needs. Some of our highly-rated carriers include:

    The Final Expense Benefits experts have covered you if you are looking for trusted and affordable final expense insurance. Call one of our talented agents today at 1 (866) 311-4338 to get an affordable quote with one of our highly-rated insurance carriers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is burial insurance worth getting?

If you have family or dependents who you want to support should you pass, then burial insurance is absolutely worth it. 

Do I need a medical exam?

Most final expense insurance policies do not require a health exam. You will have to answer some simple health questions in their application. 

How quickly will my death benefits be paid to my loved ones?

Death benefits from a burial insurance policy are not held in probate. So your loved ones should receive the death benefit very quickly. 

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