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Can I get life insurance faster with accelerated underwriting?

The life insurance application process takes a long time. If you're young and healthy, accelerated underwriting can help you skip ahead to the finish line.

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Published September 14, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The underwriting process is a health assessment that helps set the cost of your life insurance policy

  • Accelerated underwriting uses available data rather than relying on medical exam results

  • Not everyone will be eligible for accelerated underwriting based on health and other factors

Typically, getting a life insurance policy can take four and six weeks. That’s because you need to go through underwriting, where the insurer will look at how much risk you pose to the company that you’ll die and they’ll have to pay out. That means getting a detailed picture of your health and lifestyle, including talking to your doctor and asking you to take a medical exam.

If you don’t want to go through all that, or if you just want to get life insurance coverage sooner, then you need accelerated underwriting life insurance. This can bring the underwriting process down to a couple of days. Life insurers do this by using readily available data and previous medical records instead of asking you to take a new exam.

IN THIS ARTICLE

How the underwriting process normally works

During underwriting, the insurer will gather information about you using a number of different sources. Your medical history and your hobbies will play a significant role in determining not only your premium rates but also whether you’re eligible for life insurance coverage at all. Especially unhealthy people or people with unusually dangerous hobbies may be declined coverage or have to pay higher premiums.

After underwriting is completed, the insurer will use the information to classify you and set your premium rates based on that classification.

What you’ll have to do during the underwriting process:

Although much of the underwriting process is your insurer’s responsibility, there are a few things that you have to do as well.

  • Have a phone conversation with the insurer to confirm some of the information on your application.
  • Take a free paramedical exam, which is like a physical with your doctor, that could include a blood draw and urine test.
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What the insurer does during the underwriting process

It’s in the insurer’s best interest to confirm that you are who you said you were on the application, so it will take some of these steps to get the information it needs.

  • Check your driving record to see if you’re reckless on the road.
  • Look up your prescription history.
  • 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).
  • Order an attending physician statement (APS), which details any medical conditions you have, how your doctor is treating these conditions, and what your prognosis is.

These steps take time. Just getting the APS can take four to five 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.

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.

When you apply with an insurer that offers accelerated underwriting, you’ll have an initial medical interview over the phone, during which you’ll be asked about various elements of your health.

The insurer will also check the MIB database, pull your motor vehicle report, and run a prescription check to get a full picture of your risk.

If the medical interview and various database checks are good, then you move on to the next step. But if this process turns up any serious medical conditions, you’ll be required to take a medical exam, just like the one you take when applying for life insurance with regular underwriting.

If the results of your medical exam show a more complex health history, the insurer may order an APS after all. While this is a bummer if you were trying to speed up the process, between 50% and 60% of accelerated underwriting applicants are approved without having to submit additional lab tests or an APS.

Accelerated underwriting life insurance policies

You can get an accelerated underwriting life insurance policy from Lincoln TermAccel and Brighthouse SimplySelect.

Lincoln TermAccel

Lincoln TermAccel is a competitive policy for individuals in good health — though if you have a more complicated medical history, it may be harder to get approved for coverage. Policies are available to individuals 18-60, with some age restrictions for 30-year terms and smokers.

How does Lincoln TermAccel work?

Lincoln TermAccel offers all the perks of a term life insurance policy — without an in-person medical exam for individuals 18-60. Instead, the insurer conducts a phone interview that is followed by a deep dive into your insurability via your prescription history, motor vehicle report, and medical history. Most of the time, this is enough information to warrant an application approval (or denial), but additional labs might be required if something in your background check is flagged as a risk.

The entire process takes about two to three days — compared to the usual wait time of four to six weeks for a traditional life insurance policy.

The policy is especially valuable to people who may not get an affordable no medical exam policy elsewhere. Marijuana smokers who don’t work in the industry can get competitive rates and smokers have a better chance of getting coverage than they would with other accelerated life insurance policies.

Even though the application process for a Lincoln TermAccel policy usually doesn’t require a medical exam, the coverage you can get is comparable. Term length offerings include 10-, 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms and the death benefit amount can be anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million. Policyholders have the option to convert their coverage into a whole life insurance policy at the end of its term. Other supplemental coverage options include the accelerated death benefits rider, children’s life insurance rider, and waiver of premium rider.

How much does Lincoln TermAccel cost?

Lincoln TermAccel premiums are some of the lowest in the industry. According to Policygenius quoting data, here’s how much you can expect to pay with a Preferred health classification for a $500,000 policy:

Monthly premiums for women

AGEAVERAGE MONTHLY PREMIUMS
25$17.31
35$19.09
45$39.54
55$88.72
60$149.65

Monthly premiums for men

AGEAVERAGE MONTHLY PREMIUMS
25$20.42
35$22.36
45$50.22
55$120.73
60$211.44

Brighthouse SimplySelect

Brighthouse SimplySelect is a no medical exam term policy that offers coverage comparable to a traditional term life insurance policy almost immediately. You can get a term length of 10, 20, or 30 years and up to $2,000,000 in coverage.

The application process forgoes the medical exam but includes a phone interview and a review of the following information:

  • Previous physicals and labs
  • Pharmacy records
  • Prior diagnoses and procedures
  • Medical billing records
  • Credit history
  • Driving history
  • Relevant public information such as criminal history or bankruptcy

Your financial justification for a policy will also be reviewed — and the death benefit amount will depend on your age and income. Within 24 hours of your phone interview, you’ll know if your application has been accepted, rejected, or if it has been “referred to the underwriter”. If your application is accepted, you’ll sign off on the policy via DocuSign and your coverage will be active. If it’s referred to the underwriter, the insurance company needs to ask you some additional questions before they make a decision.

The Brighthouse SimplySelect policy comes with supplemental riders. This includes a term conversion rider, which allows you to convert your coverage into a whole life insurance policy at the end of its term. You can also add an accelerated death benefit rider, which pays out some of the death benefit while you’re still alive if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness.

How much does Brighthouse SimplySelect cost?

Check out the graphs below to get an idea of how much you might pay for a Brighthouse SimplySelect policy. Your actual premiums will vary depending on your individual circumstances.

Average premiums for women:

AGE$750,000$1,000,000$2,000,000
25$24.98$30.75$53.81
30$26.26$32.46$57.22
35$30.11$37.58$67.47
40$41.00$52.95$98.21
45$61.49$80.28$152.87
50$97.23$129.81$251.93

Average premiums for men:

AGE$750,000$1,000,000$2,000,000
25$32.67$41.00$74.30
30$33.95$42.70$77.72
35$35.87$46.12$84.55
40$50.60$64.05$120.42
45$80.71$104.19$200.69
50$139.63$171.66$335.63

Methodology: Sample monthly premium rates based on 20-year term life insurance policy for a non-smoker in Preferred health rating; quotes based on policies offered by Policygenius in 2020.

What qualifies you for accelerated underwriting

Not everyone qualifies for accelerated underwriting. If you’re in poor health or a skydiver, you may not be eligible (although every insurer has different eligibility rules). Your family health history will be taken into account, and some heritable health conditions will automatically disqualify applicants.

Note that if you fall into one of these disqualifying conditions, you may still be eligible for life insurance, but you will have to go through traditional underwriting instead. Talk to a licensed representative at Policygenius to find a policy from a life insurance company that works with your particular health profile and coverage needs.

Good health

Height and weight

You’ll qualify if you’re not too overweight or underweight. Most insurers have a build chart that checks a range of weights against each height, similar to the body mass index (BMI). For example, if you’re six feet tall and between the ages of 18 and 44, Principal accelerated underwriting considers you eligible if you weigh between 130 and 214 pounds, which spans from underweight to very overweight on the BMI.

You don’t have a major medical condition

While simply having health issues won’t necessarily disqualify you for accelerated underwriting, more serious conditions will automatically result in the denial of your application. While every insurer uses different standards, typical excluded medical conditions include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse, even if treated
  • Atrial fibrillation, heart disease, including heart surgery, hypertension
  • Cancer, with some exceptions
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Epilepsy

Your parents and siblings are also healthy

Your family medical history is a good indicator of the types of conditions for which you may be at risk. You may not be eligible if a parent or sibling died of a serious medical condition, including stroke, diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease.

You don’t smoke

Some insurers will reject your accelerated-underwriting application if you regularly use tobacco products, but others will allow it if you’re willing to pay a higher premium. Tobacco products could include everything from chewing tobacco to e-cigarettes. You may have to be tobacco-free for a certain period of time, such as 24 months.

Marijuana use within a certain time frame before applying could also result in a denial of your application, in which case you’ll have to go through traditional underwriting. Lincoln TermAccel offers accelerated underwriting policies that are favorable to marijuana smokers, however. How every insurer handles marijuana use whether for a traditional or accelerated application depends on how often you use THC products. Marijuana enthusiasts who don’t qualify for accelerated underwriting may still be eligible for full underwriting.

You’re still young

To qualify for accelerated underwriting, you have to fall within the insurer’s age requirements. A typical eligible age range is 18 to 60. Many insurers will insure you even into your 80s, but premiums in retirement age may be prohibitively expensive. Make sure you’re getting affordable life insurance by locking in your premiums when you’re young and healthy, whether you apply for accelerated underwriting or not.

Good finances

You may need to have good credit to qualify. Some insurers will reject your application if you have a recent history of bankruptcy.

You follow the law

Insurers apply a risk assessment to applicants who’ve broken the law. While you’ll be able to qualify for accelerated underwriting with a misdemeanor or other minor charge on your record, more serious charges could result in disqualification.

That means no

  • Felony convictions, although if you can show that you’ve stayed out of trouble within a given period of time, you may be eligible.
  • Moving violations, including driving under the influence and reckless driving

You’re a citizen or a permanent resident

Some insurers require you to be a U.S. citizen to qualify, but it will depend on the insurer and their underwriting guidelines. Other insurers will allow permanent residents to get accelerated-underwriting coverage.

You haven’t been declined coverage in the past

If you’ve applied for life insurance in the past and were rejected, you may have to go through traditional underwriting instead. The same is true if you’ve been declined for health insurance or disability insurance.

Accelerated underwriting and coronavirus

During the outbreak of COVID-19, you may be considering an accelerated life insurance policy for its quick turnaround time or lack of medical exam requirements.

If you’re young and in good health, you may be eligible to apply for an accelerated policy, but even young and healthy individuals get rejected from the accelerated underwriting process. If that’s the case, the insurer will ask you to complete the normal underwriting and take the medical exam.

Generally, when working with a Policygenius advisor, they’ll let you know if you qualify for an accelerated policy during your initial phone interview. If your accelerated policy is later rejected by the insurer, your Policygenius advisor will work with you to find another policy option that doesn’t require a medical exam.

If you end up going through the traditional underwriting process or applying for a no medical exam life insurance policy, you can still make sure you’re covered in the interim with a temporary life insurance policy.

About the author

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she has worked in marketing and business development for travel and tech. She has a B.A. in Economics from Ohio State University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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