Depending on your personal situation, shopping for life insurance can be a very different and sometimes frustrating experience. Chronic illness, daily habits, and even your job can all play into the premiums you need to pay for a given policy.

Finding your way through that net and finding life insurance options for your high-risk jobs or personal health can be difficult. That's especially true because some life insurance companies treat these conditions differently from others, with some even specializing in unique situations that would be considered high risk for most policies.

Fortunately, you're not on your own. In this guide, we'll cover exactly what life insurance companies consider to be "high risk," and which policies especially make sense if you fall into one of those categories.

What is Considered High Risk for Life Insurance Companies?

The exact parameters around what is considered high risk generally depend at least partially on the company with whom you're trying to sign a life insurance policy. With that in mind, though, high risk when shopping for life insurance can generally be categorized into three basic categories:

  1. High-Risk Jobs or Career Path: Your occupation determines the risks you take in your daily life. Naturally, steelworkers and construction workers face a higher chance of death than office workers. Different insurance companies consider different occupations to be "high risk," but you'll typically also find firefighters, farmers, miners, commercial fishermen, and roofing specialists in this category.
  2. High-Risk Lifestyle: Beyond your occupation, your daily lifestyle also matters. Regular skydivers, scuba divers, bungee jumpers, racers, and hang gliders can expect to pay more for their policy. The key here is that you do these activities regularly. A one-time scuba dive on vacation won't have an impact on your life insurance rates.
  3. Health and Medical Risks: Finally, and perhaps most commonly, your health will have a massive impact on your life insurance policy and monthly payments. Smokers and regular drinkers can expect to pay higher rates. People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, anyone diagnosed with cancer, a history of heart disease, HIV, or dementia can also anticipate higher premiums.

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Beyond these three categories, some other, more unique situations can also impact whether a life insurance company will consider you "high risk." For example, convicted felons may not be eligible for some policies and pay higher rates on others as will active members of the military due to the high-risk nature of their profession.

It's important to reiterate, though, that the above are not universally true for any type of life insurance you can get. They're all variables potentially but do not necessarily influencing your eligibility as well as your monthly rate and maximum policy. If you fall into one of these categories, it's best to shop for life insurance providers who offer policies specifically for you.

Best Life Insurance Companies For High-risk Customers

Life Insurance Options for High-Risk Jobs

When you work in a high-risk career, such as construction or aviation, your life insurance rates will almost assuredly increase. However, it's important to be comprehensive in your application.

Many policies will ask questions related to how often you engage in dangerous tasks, what a typical workday looks like, and what type of safety gear you wear. Answers to these questions allow your insurance company to be more specific with your rates, rather than giving you a blanket rate based on the industry in which you work.

It also helps to look for insurance quotes that come with a medical exam. The more you can prove that you are currently in good health, the less your occupation will affect your rates.

Almost every life insurance company offers policies for applicants with high-risk occupations; the only issue is that your rates will increase. On average, you can expect to pay up to $5 per $1,000 of coverage every month. That said, here are a few companies that have rated especially well if you find yourself in this situation:

  • WeCovr, which offers specific rates and policies for individual occupations like construction workers 
  • JRC Insurance Group, a broker that can help you find custom insurance rates from some of the nation's top companies depending on your occupation

Life Insurance for Firefighters

Firefighters have many of the same concerns and considerations as other high-risk professions. However, as first responders, they also have some unique options for life insurance:

  • VFIS, the leading insurance provider for emergency organizations, offers group life insurance options that entire firehouses can leverage to provide coverage for each of their members.

Life Insurance for Active Duty Military

Active duty members of the U.S. military have dangerous occupations but also the benefits of the nation's patriotism. In addition to being automatically enrolled in the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, they can benefit from more than one provider offering special rates for their needs, with some of the top-rated options below:

  • AAFMAA offers free term life insurance for cadets and midshipmen, as well as reasonable rates for other policies that can apply to both members of the military and their spouses.
  • USAA life insurance is perhaps the most well-known option, offering unique benefits such as expedited policies in the event of deployment, severe injury benefits, and coverage during times of war.

Life Insurance for Those With a High-Risk Lifestyle

Of course, your occupation isn't the only potentially high-risk aspect of your life. If you're a thrill seeker, you might have to pay extra for that pleasure when it comes to insuring your beneficiaries in the event of your passing. 

As with your occupation, your lifestyle isn't the only thing that plays into your premiums and eligibility. Your age, health, and medical history also matter. Finally, it's important to be specific. Many providers have a cut-off at which a regular, active lifestyle becomes high risk. Depending on the provider, that might mean something like more than 10 scuba dives per year.

Finally, when looking to get life insurance with a high-risk lifestyle you usually have two choices: policies that don't cover accidents incurred by that lifestyle (usually with regular premiums) and policies that do cover these accidents but for higher premiums.

AIG has received high ratings for its flexible and customizable policies that can adjust to match your lifestyle and needs.

Life Insurance Options for High Health Risks

Finally, and perhaps most commonly, your life insurance premiums will rise if your insurance provider deems you high risk due to either your own health or your family's health history. Knowing what your options are here is absolutely crucial to making sure you can get affordable rates that still carry realistic benefits.

One option to consider is to look for insurance options that don't require a physical as part of the quote or final policy. These policies generally carry higher rates by default but can avoid unpleasant surprises that a physical would uncover. But you'll also do well to work with insurance providers who are known to be willing to take on customers with high health risks:

  • Mutual of Omaha is widely considered among the best options that don't require a medical exam, with a quick application process that includes high-risk options.
  • Gerber has received positive reviews for its high-risk policy options, thanks in large part to widespread availability and affordable premiums.

Life Insurance for Smokers

Due to their significantly reduced life expectancy, smokers can sometimes have trouble finding the right life insurance policy. Some providers even make them ineligible outright. Still, you have some options: Fidelity Life and Haven Life have been rated positively in working with smokers who are looking for life insurance.

Life Insurance for Cancer Patients and Survivors

While cancer naturally increases the risk of death, many life insurance companies have made it their goal to still provide coverage to this vulnerable population.

AARP and United Home Life are especially popular options, both for patients currently going through treatments and for survivors whose cancer is in remission.

Life Insurance for Diabetics

While it might be natural to assume that being diabetic automatically raises your life insurance rates, providers actually tend to look at how well you manage this chronic illness in determining rates.

Some, like John Hancock's Aspire and Pacific Life, have even built custom policy options specifically around the needs of people with diabetes.

Life Insurance Options for Convicted Felons

For most insurance providers, a criminal record is considered high risk. Some do not offer life insurance policies to convicted felons at all, regardless of how far in the past the conviction might have been. 

Much of that strict application is due to the fact that people who spend time in jail or prison tend to have a shorter life expectancy and higher risk of developing chronic illnesses. That's why it can help to emphasize when your actual prison sentence was short and much of your sentence was spent on probation.

Generally speaking, your chances of receiving a reasonable policy offer are highest when you are not currently being charged or serving a sentence but at least 12 to 18 months past your probation period. Because so much depends on your individual situation, it makes the most sense to work with an independent insurance agent who can find the right plan for you rather than going to a specific provider to start.

The Wrap Up

Almost everyone knows that life insurance premiums rise for people considered "high risk" or those who work high-risk jobs, but not many know what that actually entails. As it turns out, the various types of risks can lead to many different insurance options. Shop around, and make sure that you exhaust all of your options before applying for a policy that can protect your loved ones.

Cheap Life Insurance Quotes by Age

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