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Can Canadians With Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Get Life Insurance?

February 25, 2021
Updated: April 19, 2023


As a Canadian with a pre-existing medical condition, you may feel like your options for acquiring life insurance are non-existent.

And, sure, as a Canadian with pre-existing medical conditions, getting life insurance may be harder for you to secure than for others without pre-existing conditions. But we want you to know that there are still life insurance options available to you— even if you’ve already been denied life insurance because of your pre-existing condition.

In this post, we’ll help you identify and understand those options, so you can finally secure the coverage you and your family need.

Rather skip the reading and jump right to discussing your medical history and options with one of our insurance advisors. Contact us today!

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Can You Still Get Life Insurance With a Pre-Existing Medical Condition?

Yes, you can get Life Insurance even if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Unfortunately, having a pre-existing condition can sometimes deem you a “higher risk” in the eyes of the insurer from an underwriting standpoint, which may make it harder to secure a standard insurance policy. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get the coverage you need.

As a “higher risk” individual, you could end up with what’s called a “rating” on your policy, which means you can still get coverage, but you’ll have to pay a higher premium than someone without a rating would. In some cases, your rating may be reconsidered if your health improves.

How Your Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Impact Your Insurability

Any health condition can impact your eligibility, but every case is different. If you’re worried about how your condition will impact your life insurance options, it’s good to know that the underwriters will consider the answers to the following questions:

  • When did your health condition start?
  • Is your health condition under control?
  • When did you have your last treatment?
  • Have you fully recovered?
  • Do you have any pending medical tests?

These factors and others can all affect your ability to secure a life insurance policy.

If you have had or are currently under treatment or investigation for any condition (like cancer, a heart attack, a stroke, diabetes, or mental health conditions), it’s important to talk to an Insurance Advisor about your options and the effect a formal diagnosis could have on your ability to obtain life insurance coverage.

Life Insurance Options for People with Pre-Existing Conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, know that there are a variety of different Life Insurance policy options available to you.

Even with a pre-existing condition, you can secure:

  1. Term Insurance, which covers you for a specific period of time;
  2. A ‘Whole Life’ Policy, which covers you with certainty for the entirety of your life; or
  3. A ‘Universal Life’ Policy, which is similar to Whole Life, but includes investment options.

And, since Life Insurance is affected by your past, current, and potentially, your future health status, you can choose a policy that’s structured in any of the following ways:

Standard Contract Policies (With Standard Rates)

A standard contract policy offers standard rates in perpetuity. You get to keep the rates you were originally quoted, with no modifications needed over time. This is a great option as it allows you to keep the same rates even if your health declines later on— avoiding higher premiums.

Standard Contract Policies (With Substandard Rates)

This policy type allows you to have an insurance policy but with an increased premium over standard rates. Your contract will not change over time – even if your health deteriorates.

Simplified Issued Policies

With a Simplified Issued policy, no medical information is required at the time of application. Instead, you’ll answer a series of questions to determine your eligibility. This is the option we recommend to people who have a number of current or past health concerns.

Guaranteed Issue Policies

This option was designed specifically for those candidates who are the most difficult to insure. Like Simplified Issued policies, it requires no medical information and instead asks a series of questions to determine eligibility. The great benefit of this coverage is that the policy can be issued on-the-spot once the questions have been answered.

One downside of this type of insurance is that in some cases, the policy won’t pay a death benefit within the first two years of the effective date, unless death occurs as a result of an accident. If you were to pass away from any reason other than an accidental death within two years of securing this coverage, your policy would only pay out your premiums paid and, in some cases, limited interest.

Life Insurance For Different Conditions

As much as we wish we could provide you with a very black-and-white response of if you have X condition, this is what you’d be eligible for– it is not possible. The outcome will vary depending on several factors, such as the condition, how long you have had it, if it’s treatable, or how long you have been in remission.

As there are a lot of factors at play when getting a life insurance policy, especially with an existing condition or a complex health history– we recommend you reach out to an insurance advisor.

They’ll be able to speak with the different insurance carriers to determine what you could be eligible for.

Even though we can’t advise you on your outcome without knowing your unique situation, we did outline some considerations and possible outcomes for different conditions below.

Certain types of cancers are very treatable and sometimes do not require chemotherapy or other invasive treatment types. For instance, thyroid cancer can be treated with different methods (such as radioactive iodine therapy). As such, we’ve seen clients obtain a standard contract with a history of thyroid cancer.


Having cancer certainly makes your chances of getting life insurance coverage more challenging, but, again, depending on the type and the length of time since you have been cured - it certainly doesn't mean you’re not insurable!

Similarly to cancer, where it truly is considered on a case-by-case basis, life insurance coverage for cardiovascular issues will depend on the severity and the damage done to the heart. You can usually still obtain a contract after experiencing any cardiovascular issues.

If your diabetes is controlled and your weight/cholesterol/blood pressure are all in line with where they need to be (as determined by your doctor)– you can usually either get a standard contract policy with standard rates or substandard rates.


For high blood pressure - as long as it is under control, you’d most likely be eligible for a standard policy if there are no comorbidities.

Mental health - again, medication and treatment plan, hospitalizations, etc. will dictate an underwriting decision, but a policy can still be issued standard, rated, or declined depending on your unique circumstance. We are here for you if you want to chat about what options might be available to you.

Additional Considerations

Please note that if you’re currently being medicated for an existing condition, the carriers typically want to see stability and no change in medication for a period of 6 months to a year. Pending tests will almost always result in a postponement as they cannot decide without all the information.

Sharing all this information with your advisor upfront will help to ensure a smoother process, and they can set potential expectations upfront. Rest assured that even if you are declined, there are usually other options which your insurance advisor (like us!) can help you navigate.

When To Apply For Life Insurance

You should apply for Life Insurance as early as possible. When it comes to securing life insurance, the healthier you are when you apply, the better. And as you may well know, your health can change in a flash.

Premiums are based on factors such as age, gender, health, and smoking status. They also depend on the amount and type of insurance you’re buying. Securing Life Insurance when you’re young and healthy lets you lock in the best possible premiums.

Life Insurance For Children

Most people do not realize that Life Insurance policies can be purchased for children, but it’s true! Life Insurance can be secured after a child is born— and deciding to purchase it early on is something that every parent should consider.

Why is this important? Well, Life Insurance purchased during childhood ensures your child’s insurability into the future, regardless of changes in their health as they age. That means that, as a parent, you have the opportunity to lock-in extremely favourable, life-long premiums for your child on their behalf— well before anything affects their ability to get a life insurance policy in the future.

Another benefit? In addition to purchasing a standard policy, you can add a “guaranteed insurability rider,” which gives your children the ability to buy more insurance in the future without having to provide any medical information.

Related: Life Insurance for Children in Manitoba

What If My Health Is Declining?

If your health is currently declining, you’ll want to get Life Insurance as soon as possible. Contrary to what some believe, you can still be eligible— your options will just be slightly different.

We recommend opting for either “guaranteed issue” or “simplified issue” life insurance, because these types of insurance do not require you to complete any medical questionnaires. Instead, you’ll be asked questions to determine your eligibility. These options help get you coverage, and although they may come with a higher premium, it’s worth the peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be looked after financially in the event you pass away.

Note: It’s important to know that while there are different options available based on your health and needs, certain conditions apply. That means that unfortunately, in some cases, your application could still be declined.

We recommend talking to an Insurance Advisor before giving up on getting coverage or deeming yourself ineligible. As specialists, they can recommend options that will help to meet your needs.

What To Do If You’ve Been Declined

You can still be eligible for Life Insurance even if you’ve been declined in the past. But it’s important to know that when you apply again, in most cases, the insurer will be able to see your previous application and reason for decline.

The majority of Canadian insurance companies are part of a non-profit organization called MIB (formerly called the Medical Information Bureau). When you apply for insurance, you consent to your personal and health information being coded into the MIB. So, if you were declined by one company in the past and you try to apply for insurance with another company, the information from the first application will be available and used for underwriting purposes. Any inconsistencies in information between the two applications, the system may flag the fact that you were previously declined.

An insurance policy is a legal contract, so it’s important to always be honest and truthful on your applications! Any previous applications will be noted in your file.

Protect Yourself & Your Family

You work hard to care for your family and loved ones, offering them support when they need it the most. Life Insurance should be there for you in the same way.

If you don’t already have a Life Insurance plan, it’s not too late to get one! There are so many different types of plans available to meet your needs, and the earlier you can start this conversation, the better. Having an insurance advisor on your side is one of the best things you can do– especially as you navigate these not-so-clear waters.

Ready to get started today? Get in touch with us! Our Insurance Advisor will contact you and help you find the plan you need.