High Risk Life Insurance: What You Need to Know (2022 Applicant Guide)

Peer reviewed by Erik Heiderbrecht, Certified Life Insurance Advisor
In This Article

When you’re living with a chronic condition or chasing risky hobbies, buying life insurance is probably the last thing on your mind because you’re at work maintaining your health or busy with thrill-seeking. 

Or you’re afraid of how costly your policy might be because of your condition or lifestyle. 

But everyone deserves affordable life insurance. And if you think your health or lifestyle is working against you, read on to find out how to get a policy and find peace of mind. 

What is high risk life insurance?

High risk life insurance refers to policies for folks living with medical or lifestyle risks and, as a result, the risk of passing away prematurely is reasonably higher.  

Lifestyle risks include: 

  • Having a dangerous job like mining or construction
  • Thrill seekers who thrive on skydiving or motorcycle racing 
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive drinking and drug abuse

Medical conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer 
  • Heart disease which can lead to heart attacks or stroke
  • Dementia
  • HIV/AIDS  

If you pass away while your policy term is active, your loved ones will receive a tax-free lump sum. Read more about whether life insurance is taxable here.

We go into more detail about how you know you’d be considered “high risk” below. Jump to section.

How much does high risk life insurance cost in Canada?

Here’s the bottom line: the higher the risk of premature passing, the higher the life insurance premiums. But the sticker shock may not be as scary as you think. 

When applying for life insurance as a “high risk” individual,  a provider might assess your eligibility for approval based on many factors: 

  • How old you were when you were diagnosed
  • Whether you’ve developed complications
  • How well you’re currently managing your condition

Then they calculate your premiums using well-established industry ratings with corresponding percentage increases to your monthly life insurance cost. The ratings range from A to J or 1 to 10, with A and 1 being the lowest ratings. The higher a condition is rated as risky, the pricier the premium is. 

Here’s an example of a rating range below:

Best High Risk Life Insurance in Canada 2022: chart detailing life insurance rating system for high risk applicants

When a premium is 2 to 3 times more expensive than an initial premium, then you are living with high risk conditions or illnesses the insurer has taken into consideration.

We asked Erik Heiderbrecht, Life Insurance Advisor at PolicyMe, on the topic: 

“You might be at higher risk, but still very much insurable,” explains Erik.

Think about how your insurability and how much life insurance you need might change over time: “You are high risk now, but you could end up paying more for a high risk life insurance policy in the future as you age or your condition progresses,” Erik adds. 

At PolicyMe, we make getting a no-commitment quote for life insurance easy, because we know you have so much more on your mind. 

How do I know if I'm considered "high risk" for life insurance?

The insurance industry has put a lot of know-how into determining when a person applying for life insurance is deemed as high risk. Here’s a snapshot: 

What are occupations that are considered high risk? 

  • Underground miners
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Commercial fishermen
  • Construction workers
  • Roofing specialists
  • Steelworkers

What are health issues that are considered high risk? 

  • Crohn's disease
  • Heart disease
  • Organ transplants
  • History of cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking cigarettes or cigars
  • Chewing tobacco

Recommended reading: Can you get life insurance if you're overweight and applicant guide to life insurance with pre-existing conditions

What are hobbies that are considered high risk? 

  • Skydiving
  • Scuba diving
  • Bungee jumping
  • Racing (boat, car, bike, skiing)
  • Parachuting
  • Hang gliding

“At the end of the day, being ‘high risk’ is just an underwriter classification,” adds Erik. “But it doesn’t take away the probability of you getting coverage and protecting your family.” 

How to find the best affordable high risk life insurance

Step 1: Shop around

Insurers differ in how they treat a particular health condition in their underwriting process. The more life insurance quotes you get, the more likely you’ll find at least one good deal.

If you're 60+ you'll want to check out our guide to the best life insurance companies for seniors in Canada.

Step 2: Manage your health condition and re-apply

Look for an insurer that will let you get reassessed within a year or two of buying your policy. This way, if you manage your condition effectively and become healthier as a result, you might be able to score a lower premium in the future.  

Step 3: Get no-medical coverage as a last resort

No medical life insurance coverage doesn’t require an extensive medical exam. But the provider won’t know your full medical history might assume you’re high risk to insure and charge equally high premiums. 

Our advice: Do the extra leg work and consider term life insurance coverage; the type of life insurance that’s more affordable, first. Use no medical life insurance as a Plan B.

Read more about how no medical life insurance works in Canada.

The best high risk life insurance companies

Here’s our roundup of the insurance providers with your best interests and your budget in mind. 

The overall winner: PolicyMe

We assess your risk with an online application process that can be completed in around 20-minutes. And we'll only ask additional online health questions if a question requires more detail.

In comparison, most fully underwritten life insurance policies in Canada require an extensive application process, including a 45-minute medical interview with a nurse.

You'll get an instant decision: so you know if you're approved, declined or if we require more information right away. 

Runner-up: Canada Protection Plan

Canada Protection Plan is the leading provider of no medical and simplified issue life insurance, located in Toronto, Ontario. That means no blood tests, medicals, or urine samples are required. 

However, if you're just trying to avoid a nurse’s visit, this isn’t your best option. You'll end up paying a lot more, because their coverage assumes anyone who applies is “high risk”. 

Whereas if you take time out to answer a few medical questions to secure term life insurance with PolicyMe first,  your risk—and your premiums— may be lower than you think. 

If you don’t qualify for term life insurance, a simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance policy from Canada Protection Plan is a great way to get coverage—up to $750,000—for your loved ones.

In third place: Sun Life

Sun Life Go Guaranteed Life Insurance is a no medical life insurance product much like Canada Protection Plan's simplified issue insurance, which helps high risk individuals get coverage.

It’s a fair product for someone looking for a non-medical policy, however it's much more expensive compared to insurance from CPP or term life insurance from PolicyMe. 

Another downside to this policy is coverage is limited to a maximum of $25,000 for your beneficiaries. Which for the average Canadian’s life insurance coverage needs, isn’t enough to cover end-of-life services, mortgage debt and other lifestyle expenses for your loved ones.

Read our full reviews of the best life insurance companies in Canada.

In summary: High risk life insurance can be affordable  

  • When you’re living with a high risk condition, profession or hobby, you should still apply for life insurance.
  • Life insurance for high risk individuals will be more expensive than standard life insurance, but it may not be as pricey as you think. 
  • Affordable term life insurance is possible. At PolicyMe, a simple online process makes it easy to get a quote with less stress and more hope. 
  • No medical policies, like those from Canadian Protection Plan or Sun Life, don’t require a medical history or nurse’s visit, but they are more expensive and provide lower maximum coverage than term life insurance. 

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

About the Author

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