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.

Zack SigelNupur Gambhir

Zack Sigel & Nupur Gambhir

Published March 18, 2020


  • 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

Applying for life insurance takes just a few minutes. Plug in some basic information, get quotes online, and schedule a call with an agent or representative to go over your policy selections.

But going from choosing a policy to getting that policy in force can take much longer. In fact, the average time from application to coverage is between four and eight weeks. That’s because you need to go through underwriting, the process during which the life insurance company verifies the information in your application and determines your final premium.

During underwriting, the carrier 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 weeks – or, in some cases, a couple of days. Life insurers do this by using readily available data instead of medical records and exam results, which can take a long time to retrieve and review.

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.

You may have to accept a lower coverage amount, as many accelerated-underwriting life insurance plans cap out at $500,000 in coverage. Traditional-underwriting life insurance policies often go as high as $2 million.

When you apply with a carrier 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. This will give the insurer a pretty 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.

What qualifies you for accelerated underwriting

Not everyone qualifies for accelerated underwriting. If you’re a smoker 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. 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 — which often happens at random — 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.