Reasons for Life Insurance Denial

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When a person buys a life insurance policy, the insurance company agrees to pay a beneficiary a predetermined amount of money in the event of the insured person's death. Since few people can boast perfect health, you should carefully choose insurance carriers when applying for life insurance, as different companies have different underwriting criteria. Insurers evaluate a number of factors, which might suggest that a policyholder will die prematurely. As a result, a person can be denied coverage.

Risk Factors

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Life insurance companies usually consider medical history, height and weight, whether you use tobacco or drink and if your job presents particular occupational hazards. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels, driving record, foreign travel and recreational activities such as high-risk sports are other factors taken into account. A critical illness or recent hospitalization may also be considered a major risk factor when a person applies for a life insurance policy. Insurance companies use all this information to determine rates and the terms of a policy.

Pre-existing Conditions

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You can be denied life insurance for a number of different pre-existing conditions. If the condition is not serious, an insurance company may offer you coverage but charge a higher premium. Also, insurers may offer you a policy but limit the amount of coverage for which you are eligible.

Underwriting Guidelines

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Many insurance carriers will deny you coverage if you have ever had cancer. Other companies will consider your application if at least 12 months have passed since you were last treated for cancer. And while one insurer may consider your weight to be normal for your height, another company may decide that you are overweight and deny you coverage or require a higher premium. The good news is that some insurance underwriters are willing to reconsider the significance of a potential risk factor after receiving additional information from the applicant's own physician.

Catch 22

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You can apply to multiple insurers if one denies you coverage, but most applications ask whether other insurers have turned you down. Since you must answer yes, this immediately raises a red flag to any previous medical problems. However, if you can prove that you are currently healthy, you should be able to find an insurance company willing to issue you a life-insurance policy. A good underwriter will put more weight on your current health status than on past medical records that may no longer be of any consequence.


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In some cases, insurers allow exceptions but at higher premiums rates and a number of exclusions on causes of death. Unfortunately, these may provide policyholders with inadequate protection. People with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and sometimes even epilepsy are commonly rejected. Many insurance companies will reject individuals who have a history of cancer or who are HIV positive. Or they might exclude payment of death benefits if medical problems related to one of these conditions cause death.

Medical Exam

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Most companies require a routine medical exam when applying for life insurance. The insurance company will hire its own physician or medical technician to perform the exam. While it is impossible to hide certain medical conditions, there are steps you can take to get better test results, and perhaps lower premium rates. Restrict consumption of salt and high cholesterol foods for 24 hours before you are scheduled for the exam. Do not drink alcohol for at least eight hours before you see the doctor. Take a pass on caffeinated beverages for a couple of hours before the exam. Also, avoid strenuous exercise for a day or two before the exam in the event that the insurance company orders a stress treadmill test. The person doing the exam will get your height and weight, check your pulse rate and blood pressure, as well as collect urine and blood samples. Depending on your age and the amount of the policy for which you are applying, the insurance company may request additional medical tests.