Applying for a life insurance policy is fast. Like, "do it in a few minutes" fast. Getting that policy into force… well, that can take a little longer.
The average time from application to getting covered is around four to eight weeks. This is called the underwriting process; it’s how an insurance company determines your final premium and verifies the information in your application. And in the spirit of thoroughness, they take their time.
But life insurers are starting to introduce what’s known as accelerated underwriting. This can take the underwriting process down from a month or two to a couple of weeks – or, in some cases, a couple of days. They do this by using readily available data instead of medical records and exam results, which can take a long time to retrieve and review. PolicyGenius currently offers accelerated underwriting from Banner, Lincoln, SBLI, and Principal, making them the first stop for anyone who just wants to get covered quickly.
Here’s everything you need to know about accelerated underwriting, including the companies who offer it and how you can qualify for it.
How the underwriting process normally works
After you apply for a life insurance policy, you typically go through the underwriting process. This can take a while because it’s pretty involved. The insurer will look through your medical history – along with a few other things, like your hobbies – to basically see how risky you are to insure based on how likely you are to die during the term of the life insurance policy.
The insurer will use this information to classify you and set your premium rates based on that classification.
During the underwriting process:
You’ll go through a free 20-minute medical exam, which is like a physical with your doctor.
The insurer will check your driving record to see if you’re reckless on the road. They’ll also check your prescription history.
The insurer will also look at the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) database to see whether you’ve previously applied for life insurance (but not the outcome of that application).
They may order an Attending Physician Statement (APS), which they request from your doctor and gives more detail into your health history.
These steps add up in terms of time. Just getting the APS can take 4-5 weeks; it’s probably not at the top of your doctor’s to-do list, and they can take a while on paperwork anyway, so by the time they get to the request and the underwriter is able to review it, weeks have gone by. But since life insurance carriers don’t want buying life insurance to be a hassle, they’ve been working on cutting down all of these steps, getting the information they need upfront, and introducing accelerated underwriting to get the process done quickly.
How accelerated underwriting works
The way accelerated underwriting speeds up the process is by avoiding some of the more onerous medical steps – namely the APS request, which can take the longest to complete. The best part is that accelerated underwriting doesn’t cost you anything extra or raise your premiums. You still get the same affordable rates, it’s just a faster process.
When you apply with a carrier that offers accelerated underwriting, you’ll have an initial medical interview over the phone. You’ll be asked about various elements of your health (which we’ll get to in a bit) and your answers, along with MIB, motor vehicle, and prescription checks, will give them a pretty full picture of your risk.
If the medical interview and various database checks are good, then congrats! You get to skip the medical exam! If not, the insurer will order a round of lab tests to get a closer look at your health. That might add a little time to the process, but it’s faster than a full medical exam so you’ll still be coming out on top.
If they still need a better look at your health history, they may order an APS. This is a bummer if you were trying to speed through the process, but it’s as a last resort rather than a required part of the process, and some insurers report that nearly half of their applicants get through without even labs tests being ordered, nevermind an APS.
What qualifies you for accelerated underwriting
Obviously insurers still want to make sure you’re paying the right amount for your life insurance. It’s important for you so that it remains affordable, but also important for them in order to stay in business. That’s why accelerated underwriting isn’t an automatic process, and not everyone qualifies for it.
For example, most insurers require that you’re not a smoker, at least for a certain period of time (usually a minimum of three years). Your health and family health history is also taken into account; there’s typically a pre-determined list of health conditions, like cancer, untreated diabetes, or drug use, that will automatically disqualify applicants.
Insurers will also take non-health issues into account. You’ll usually need to have been a US citizen for a certain number of years and can’t have any criminal activity on your record. You can’t participate in some hobbies, like deep sea scuba diving or private aviation, and you can’t have a bankruptcy or DWI on your record for a set number of years.
Accelerated underwriting restrictions
Even if you qualify for accelerated underwriting, there are a few more details that will determine whether or not you can apply with it. Besides your age (most insurers won’t allow it for applicants over age 50) and being available only in certain states, other restrictions center around the policy itself.
Insurers will only allow accelerated underwriting on policies up to a certain coverage amount and, sometimes, certain term periods. But even with coverage limits, you’ll usually find that you’re covered; coverage amount limits usually go all the way up to $500,000 policies but some carriers, like Principal, will allow it on policies all the way up to a million dollars.
Accelerated underwriting is also only available for certain health classifications. Some are strict, allowing only the healthiest classifications to be eligible for accelerated underwriting, but others are more accommodating and allow it for any classification.
There are other things to take into account when you’re looking for a life insurance carrier and policy, but anyone looking to get through the process quickly should check out insurers who provide accelerated underwriting. As you can see, what exactly you need to do to qualify can vary depending on the carrier, so talk to one of our licensed agents via email, chat, or phone to see how you can speed up the underwriting process and get protection as quickly as possible.