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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) associates certain height-to-weight ratios with better health — and life insurance companies use that data to inform their own underwriting tables and set premiums. The CDC defines adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30 as overweight and those with a BMI over 30 as obese.  A BMI between 18.5 to 24.9 falls within the CDC’s healthy range.
If you are considered overweight or obese according to the CDC guidelines, your life insurance rates may be higher than people within the healthy weight criteria, but it’s unlikely to affect your ability to get life insurance. Follow these steps and shop around to ensure you’re getting the best rates for your build and health profile.
It’s rare for insurers to decline coverage based solely on weight, and even more unlikely to be declined by multiple insurers.
Employer-sponsored life insurance is an alternative option for overweight or obese people.
If you maintain a healthy weight according to CDC guidelines for a year or more you could lower your rates.
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How your weight affects life insurance rates
Each insurance company has its own height-to-weight table, also called a build chart, which is similar to a BMI chart. Some insurance companies rely solely on BMI charts. Your rates are affected by where you fall on that table or chart. No two insurance companies have the same height-to-weight chart, which means one insurance company may give you better rates than another one.
Assuming your health is otherwise good, life insurance companies will likely assign you a Standard Plus or Standard rating class if you are overweight (as opposed to the best classes, Preferred Plus or Preferred). Each insurance company varies in how they determine rating classes and how much they factor in height-to-weight.
Evaluating your height-to-weight ratio
Your height-to-weight ratio is one data point that life insurance companies look at to determine your premium rates. The application and underwriting process includes a review of your health history and a paramedical exam. This helps the insurer evaluate the risk they would take to insure you. Whether a physician determines that you have a healthy height-to-weight ratio will impact the health classification that the insurance company gives you.
Even if you opt for no-medical-exam life insurance, providers can gather height and weight information from your application or medical history. While a no-exam policy could be comparable in price, it can also be more expensive than a fully underwritten policy, since skipping the exam means the insurer is evaluating the risk of insuring you with less information.
Other factors, including family history and your health history, will affect your rates as well.
Below is a comparison of rates for average weight and overweight men and women for a $500,000 policy with a 20-year term:
Average rates by age and weight classification
Methodology: Sample premiums are for male and female non-smokers with Preferred and Standard health ratings; Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, and Transamerica and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 2/22/2022.
An independent insurance agent or broker can run a variety of quotes using your specific height and weight measurements, as well as your other health information, to find the insurance company that gives you the best price.
Should you lose weight before you apply for life insurance?
If you need life insurance, the best course of action is to apply and get the coverage you need as soon as possible. Waiting until you lose weight is rarely a good option because it leaves your family unprotected.
How life insurance companies treat recent weight loss
How and when you lose weight affects how much you’ll pay for life insurance.
If you lost weight less than a year ago Your provider can’t verify that you can sustain the weight change long-term. Most insurers account for this uncertainty by splitting the difference.
If you lose more than 10 pounds in the 12 months before you apply for life insurance You’ll get credit for 50% of that weight loss until you’ve maintained it for at least a year. So if you weighed 300 pounds and lost 100 pounds in under one year, you’ll be rated at 250 pounds rather than 200.
If you lose weight through a procedure like gastric bypass surgery The same guidelines apply but you’ll likely face a longer wait to get lower premiums. Due to health risks associated with gastric bypass, for the first 6 to 12 months after the procedure, your coverage could be declined or postponed. In the first few years post-procedure, you may still receive a less favorable classification than someone who lost weight without surgery.
Reapplication or reconsideration after losing weight
If you’ve lost weight but still have higher rates than you’d like, or if you lose weight in the future, you may be able to lower your life insurance rates even after you have a policy.
Reapply for new coverage. Simply reapply once you’ve maintained a lower weight for a year or more. Your rates could come back lower, especially if the insurer offers better rates to people who have lost weight.
Ask for reconsideration. Petition your life insurance company to let you retake your medical exam one or two years after the policy goes into effect. This is called reconsideration, and it could lower your premiums if your health has improved.
Unintentional weight loss
Some people may lose weight as they become elderly or ill. If you experience any unintended significant weight loss (typically 10 pounds or more), the life insurance company may decline or postpone your application. They’ll also review your medical history to see what’s causing the weight loss; it could be symptomatic of a larger condition, like depression.
To receive coverage, the insurer will need to see your weight stabilize for around a year before they’d be willing to proceed with coverage.
Alternative life insurance options for people who are overweight
If you’ve applied for traditional life insurance and were declined a policy or the policy you were approved for is unaffordable due to your weight, there are other affordable options. Beyond these, you can also look into guaranteed issue life insurance, but it typically costs much more than traditional life insurance.
Annual renewable life insurance
This kind of policy is renewed with the insurer every year, and rates start on the lower end — often lower than they would be through a more traditional term life policy. If you plan to lose weight in the next few years, an annual renewable policy could lock you into a lower rate in the short term. Once you lose the weight you can apply for a term life policy.
Premiums on annual renewable policies increase every year, so if you don’t plan to lose weight, a traditional policy will probably save you more money in the long term.
Group insurance through your employer
If your application is declined or if paying a higher rate isn’t an option, you may be able to receive group life insurance through your employer. In this scenario, you won’t need to submit health information to receive coverage and companies often cover premiums for employees up to a set amount, like $50,000 or one to two times your salary.
While these policies provide you with coverage and save you money, they do not offer enough coverage to adequately protect most families. Group coverage also usually ends when your employment does, and an individual policy obtained outside of your workplace will offer much higher coverage amounts.
Your weight is only one factor in your life insurance application, so being overweight or obese according to CDC standards will rarely keep you from getting the financial protection you need. But, if you lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off for a year or more, you may be able to earn a more favorable insurance classification—and therefore, lower premiums—when buying a new policy or applying for reconsideration. A Policygenius agent can help you compare your options regardless of your height-to-weight to find the best coverage possible.
Editorial note: Policygenius does not advocate for weight loss that is not for health reasons. The purpose of this article is to provide guidance on navigating the life insurance process if you have recently lost weight.
Frequently asked questions
Does COVID-19 affect the life insurance application process or eligibility?
Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, some insurers are modifying processes and/or imposing coverage restrictions on certain health conditions or age groups. Speak to a Policygenius agent for free to find out how to get the most affordable policy.
How does weight affect life insurance rates?
Insurers use weight to help determine your health class. If you lose weight, you can get lower premiums after one to two years. Insurers won’t reconsider your application in the short term because they want to ensure your weight will remain stable.
Can you be denied life insurance for being overweight?
You can still get life insurance coverage if you’re overweight or obese, but you might have higher premium rates.
Does BMI affect life insurance?
Most life insurance underwriters use body mass index (BMI) to inform their height-to-weight chart calculations that determine premium rates. BMI, combined with several other measurements and factors (such as age, family history, and hobbies) affect the cost of life insurance.