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Can you buy life insurance if you are overweight?

Life insurance may be more expensive for those that the CDC defines as overweight or obese. But multiple coverage options are available for most individuals, and rates can improve if you lose weight later.

Logan SachonAmanda Shih author photo

Logan Sachon & Amanda Shih

Published June 8, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • 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

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 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.

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Evaluating your height-to-weight ratio

Your height-to-weight ratio is one of the first data points that life insurance companies look at to determine your rates. The application and underwriting process includes a review of your health history and a paramedical exam. This helps the company evaluate the risk they take in insuring 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 own health history, will affect your rates as well.

Height-to-weight charts

Each carrier has its own height-to-weight table, which is similar to a BMI chart, and your rates will largely come from where you fall on that table. No two insurance companies have the same height/weight chart. That means that one insurance company may be able to give you better rates than another one.

Average rates by age and weight classification, $250,000/20-year policy for a 5’10” male

AgeAverage weight (Monthly/Annual)Overweight (Monthly/Annual)
25$14.17 / $164.94$17.38 / $202.31
35$15.46 / $179.96$18.38 / $217.89
45$29.89 / $348.01$35.08 / $408.45
55$70.36 / $819.85$84.36 / $973.97

Average rates by age and weight classification, $500,000/20-year policy for a 5’10” male

AgeAverage weight (Monthly/Annual)Overweight (Monthly/Annual)
25$21.59 / $251.33$27.39 / $318.80
35$24.47 / $285.03$30.21 / $351.66
45$49.84 / $580.82$59.73 / $696.11
55$125.60 / $1,298.47$149.85 / $1,747.47

Average rates by age and weight classification, $250,000/20-year policy for a 5’6” female

AgeAverage weight (Monthly/Annual)Overweight (Monthly/Annual)
25$12.47 / $145.16$14.48 / $167.91
35$13.37 / $158.81$16.49 / $195.61
45$24.55 / $285.75$28.17 / $327.99
55$52.19 / $607.97$59.13 / $687.36

Average rates by age and weight classification, $500,000/20-year policy for a 5’6” female

AgeAverage weight (Monthly/Annual)Overweight (Monthly/Annual)
2518.24 / $212.32$21.48 / $250.06
35$20.31 / $236.37$25.33 / $294.89
45$40.66 / $473.64$46.73 / $544.51
55$91.78 / $1,062.86$104.94 / $1,223.29

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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.

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.

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. 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 carrier 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.

Annual renewable life insurance

This kind of policy is renewed with the insurer every year, and rates start out 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.

Get 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 an employee’s salary. While these policies provide you with coverage and save you money, note that coverage ends when your employment does, and an individual policy obtained outside of your workplace will offer much higher coverage amounts.

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked in nonfiction book publishing and freelance content marketing. Amanda has a B.A. in literature and communication from New York 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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