How do prescription medications affect getting life insurance?

You’ve done all the work – figured out how much life insurance you need, the type of product that best fits your situation, and you know what to do once the policy is issued.

But what about the in-between; the part that happens once you zero in on the policy type and amount, and before it gets issued?

As anyone who has had to fill out long, boring, life exposing college and job applications have experienced, applying for a life insurance policy can be a daunting and nerve-wracking task. There are questions asked that include the word “ever” and plenty of questions that ask you to go back 10 years or more with specific diagnoses, dates, doctors information as well as pretty identifying personal information.

Then of course, after you’ve sweated through the life insurance application process, you’re told your doctor(s) will most likely be contacted for confirmation and further information, and you may have to go for the dreaded medical exam. Oh, and by the way, you could be denied based on any information you or your doctor(s) provide.

Nervous yet? You may not have to be. While insurance companies think mainly in terms of risk when evaluating an applicant for life insurance, they do take into consideration the type of medication and the reason you are taking it before they will flat out deny you coverage.

This does not mean that some medications don’t automatically disqualify you, but it does mean that honesty and detailed information provided to the company on your application is the best way to go to ensure a thoughtful and correct application determination.

So now I’m sure you are looking at the list of medications you may be taking or have recently stopped taking, and wondering what, if any, difference those treatments make to the insurance companies decision to approve or deny your application.

Before you start getting all sweaty again, let’s take a look at some of those medications that could be on your list, and how they affect getting life insurance.

Muscle relaxants, and Pain Relievers

Medications such as over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also be included in this section. If you take any type of NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, pain relievers, or benzodiazepines, the insurance company will first look at the type of medication you are taking, frequency and longevity, as well as the reason you were prescribed, before making a final determination.

Examples of these types of medications include but are not limited to:

  • aspirin
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Motrin (Ibuprofen)
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)
  • Skelaxin (metaxalone)
  • Valium (diazepam)

If say, you were involved in a car accident two years ago and took some muscle relaxants for a week or two until you felt better, chances are it won’t cause any flag for concern with the underwriter assigned to your case. In case you didn’t know, the underwriter is the person who reviews your application, checks for validity, and handles any red flags raised by your application before making a final decision on whether to approve or deny your application.

This doesn’t actually mean you will be denied, but it will most likely delay your determination as the underwriter takes their time to decide whether your risk of death is any greater due to your prescription history. The company can then decide to deny you outright, offer you a policy, but at a higher rate than you had applied for (called substandard or table rating), or issue it without certain riders or incentives.

How do prescription medications affect getting life insurance_

There are many different types of heart-related meds that have various functions:

  • anticoagulants (blood thinners)
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)
  • Beta Blockers
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Cholesterol-lowering meds (statins)
  • Antiplatelet Agents (APA)
  • Dual Antiplatelet Therapy Drugs (DAPT)
  • Digoxin and Cardiac Glycosides
  • Vasodilators (nitrates, nitroglycerin).

While a lot of these types of medications seem like they would all get you a sharp NO! from an underwriter, you’d be surprised to know that out of the above list, the only one that is likely to get your application flagged are the Antiplatelet Agents (APA). This is mainly due to the nature of taking these drugs, which are largely used immediately to a year after a major health issue such as a stroke, heart attack or surgery.

Of course, the other medications mentioned could potentially raise a second thought from the underwriter, depending on the other information provided on your application, and may result in a higher rate (substandard or table rating) upon issuance of the policy.


There are three types of diabetes including type 1 for insulin-dependent diabetics, type 2 which is the most common and is largely controlled by diet or medication, and gestational diabetes which occurs in pregnant women without a prior history of diabetes.

For gestational and type 2 diabetics, most insurance companies will review the application information to see how the diabetes is being controlled, how long you’ve had it, and what other health factors you might have.

Type 1 diabetics will fall under the same scrutiny, but may also be considered at higher risk for other health conditions, so you may get a substandard rating if the policy is approved. This is not guaranteed, however, and healthy type 1’s who are well controlled and have lower risk factors or other health concerns can still get standard or even preferred ratings on a life insurance policy.

Mental Health

Now that mental health struggles are becoming more and more common, insurance companies have become laxer in their risk factors based on medication only. This is another health risk that proves the more details on your application, the better.

Depending on your mental health diagnosis, you could be taking:

  • anti-depressants
    • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – Prozac (Fluoxetine), Citalopram, Sertraline, Paroxetine, Escitalopram   
    • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – Venlafaxine, Duloxetine
    • Bupropion
    • Older medication types including tricyclics, tetracyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • benzodiazepines
    • Klonopin (clonazepam)
    • Ativan (lorazepam)
    • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • stimulants
    • Methylphenidate (Methylin)
    • Adderall, Adderall XR, Mydayis (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine)
    • Lisdexamfetamine
    • Clonidine (Kapvay, Catapres)
    • Guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv)
  • antipsychotics
    • Chlorpromazine
    • Haloperidol
    • Perphenazine
    • Fluphenazine
    • Risperidone
    • Olanzapine
    • Quetiapine
    • Ziprasidone
    • Aripiprazole
    • Paliperidone
    • Lurasidone
    • Lithium (Lithobid)
    • Valproate (Depacon)
  • mood stabilizers
    • Carbamazepine (Equetro)
    • Lamotrigine
    • Divalproex (Depakote)
    • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal, Oxtellar XR)

If you have had some bouts of anxiety or depression (especially when coupled with life-changing events) in the past and have taken medication, but don’t need it long term and aren’t currently being treated, your mental health will likely not cause any concern with getting your application approved and could still be classified as a preferred rating.

However, if you have been hospitalized or taking multiple medications at once, it can raise the red flag. Also, applicants who have attempted suicide, have job or financial issues, or have problems with drugs or alcohol abuse will raise red flags. While any of these factors do not guarantee a denial, they could potentially knock you out of the preferred rating and get you a standard or substandard rating.

Cancer medications

Anyone who is currently diagnosed and being treated for cancer will not be eligible for a fully underwritten life insurance policy. However, you can most likely get a guaranteed issue life insurance policy. This type of policy foregoes the insurance exam and has almost no health questions but comes with lower coverage amounts and higher rates.

The type of medication you take for cancer treatment does not have much weight when making a life insurance application determination. Underwriters are more concerned with the type of cancer, family history, treatment type, and risk of mortality post-cancer.

Survivors who have been in remission for two to five years or more have the greatest chance of getting their life insurance application approved. However, they still run the risk of standard or substandard ratings depending on other application factors.

Dementia and other cognitive diseases

Medications for these diseases include:

  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Donepezil (Aricept), Galantamine (Razadyne, Reminyl), Rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • Namenda (memantine) for Alzheimer’s

People with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), dementia and Alzheimer’s will likely find themselves in the same predicament with current cancer patients in that they will not qualify for fully underwritten life insurance but may be eligible for guaranteed issue life insurance if they are able to answer the very basic health questions favorably.

HIV, AIDs, and Hepatitis

Due to the nature of HIV and AIDs, almost every insurance company will deny an application if the applicant is taking medications for these ailments. Uncureable and high mortality diseases are too high risk for a life insurance company to gamble on.

If you had Hepatitis A or B that is completely resolved, you will be non-rated. Someone with chronic Hepatitis B or C or cirrhosis of the liver will likely get a standard or substandard rating, or be declined completely. The underwriter will be looking closely to determine if you are an acceptable risk based on other application factors.

What you need to do

So, what are the best ways to ensure a favorable application outcome? First and foremost, research life insurance companies. All have their own internal guidelines as to what constitutes approval or denial, and one company may be better suited to your health history than others.

But most importantly, be 100% honest on your application. Speaking honestly with the agent taking your application ensures that the correct information is input so that the underwriter determining your eligibility can do so quickly and objectively.

Keep in mind, life insurance companies are not out to deny people or cause them to go without insurance. Their job is to determine your mortality risk and they can only do so with as much information in the application as possible.

When filling out your application, be prepared with all your medications, dosages, dates of first occurrence and treatments, doctors information, and an explanation as to what caused you to need that type of doctor visit or treatment. The information you provide can help you get a more favorable insurance rating, which will save you money on your premiums and ensure you get the coverage amount and length of time you need.

If you are looking for more information about possible life insurance options, reach out to us directly to receive a free quote.