Updated January 19, 2021|5 min read
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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) associates lower weight 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 of 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 if you met their criteria for a healthy weight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t purchase life insurance. It just means it’s more important to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best rates for your build and health profile.
Being overweight or obese doesn’t disqualify you from purchasing life insurance, you may just have higher premiums
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 in the immediate term
If you maintain a healthy weight according to CDC guidelines for a year or more you could lower your rates
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.
Each insurer 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/weight chart, which means one insurance company may be able to 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 Preferred Plus or Prefered). Each insurance company varies in how they determine rating classes and how much they factor in height-to-weight.
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.
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.
Losing weight right before or after you apply isn’t likely to lower your rates either. An underwriter will rarely give you “full credit” for weight loss within the last 12 months. That means if you weigh 240 lbs at the time of your medical exam but you weighed 280 lbs a few months ago, they are not going to use 240 in your height to weight chart. What they will use is dependent on the company. Some companies might do something called a “half credit,” which would calculate your weight for the table as your current weight plus half of the weight you lost recently. In this example, that means your weight for the table would be 260.
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. 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. A second option is to 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.
Ready to shop for life insurance?
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.
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. Remember, 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.
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 an employee’s salary.
While these policies provide you with coverage and save you money, note that 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.
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.
Insurers use weight to help determine your health class, and losing weight can get you a better rate.
You can still get life insurance coverage if you’re overweight or obese, but you might have higher premium rates.
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.
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