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Staying physically active is always a good idea. But does it also impact your rates?
Published July 1, 2019
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Whether you lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement because you are motivated to shed a few pounds, or your doctor has ordered you to get moving to improve your heart health, the reasons to run are varied. On top of the physical benefits, it looks like there’s a new incentive to get moving: affordable life insurance premiums.
But is it really that simple? Will becoming a runner lead you down a path towards cheaper life insurance? It might, but it’s more complicated than it seems.
Running can improve your health but doesn’t guarantee a better life insurance rate
Maintaining a balanced lifestyle can help you get a better classification
Insurance companies take your medical history, family history, and lifestyle into consideration
Though it’s true that running is linked to improved physical health, there’s no way to guarantee that a runner will be considered a Preferred Plus customer with the most competitive monthly life insurance premium. Since underwriters look at several different factors to create a health snapshot around each customer, family history, lifestyle choices, BMI, etc, can land you in the Preferred or Standard Plus classification instead.
The better the health classification, the more affordable your monthly premium will be. Take a look at these sample rates of the lowest premiums for a 20-year, $500K insurance policy in California for a 30-year-old, male nonsmoker.
|Health Classification||Lowest Premium|
The fifth and final category, known as Substandard, is scored differently than the others. Based on your health and medical history, you’re placed in a table rating system that grades you by letters or numbers (either A-J or 1-10). Your premium will typically be the Standard price plus an additional 25% for every step down in letters or numbers.
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When life insurance underwriters are creating your profile, they check if you or your family have a history of cholesterol, heart issues, and diabetes, among other conditions. While you might assume that these health benefits are guaranteed to place you into the most advantageous insurance classification, in reality, it’s not so cut and dry. Each company has its own underwriting guidelines so they have their own way of evaluating various health conditions. This is one of the reasons why you should compare multiple carriers.
Running can potentially lower your life insurance rates and place you in a higher classification because it helps combat the following issues that are considered risky for insurance companies:
When life insurance companies determine your health classification, they look at all aspects of your medical history, including cholesterol. They assess your cholesterol by looking at your total blood cholesterol level and the ratio of “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. The reason it’s a two-fold process is because you might have a low number for total blood cholesterol but your ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol could still be higher than it should be, which increases your risk for heart disease.
Running might increase your HDL and lower your LDL cholesterol levels, helping to improve your overall numbers and boost your health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), lower weight is equated with better health. Underwriters take that into consideration when they assess your health background. If you are overweight, that might impact your health classification and rates. Each carrier has their own height/weight table that they reference, much like a BMI chart, to get a better picture of your health.
While being at a healthy weight is always recommended, you shouldn’t try and do something rash, like crash dieting. Your best bet is to maintain a balanced diet and exercise routine, which is where running comes into play. Since running provides an efficient calorie burn, you could lose weight and improve your health if you are consistent with it.
Diabetes plays a role in your health classification assessment because it’s associated with health complications that increase your likelihood of passing away. Underwriters look at several different factors under the diabetes umbrella to assess your risk: age, type of diabetes, severity, complications, and treatment/control.
Regularly running and working out falls into the treatment/control category. Since your muscles use more glucose when you are running, you might be able to lower your blood sugar numbers and maintain a healthy number if you are living with diabetes.
When underwriters assess your physical condition they will look at your heart health history and any current medications you’re currently taking. If you’ve had a heart attack, they will look at the date, cause, any follow-up reports, stents, EKG results, and echocardiogram results.
Running on a regular basis may lower your risk of heart attack and strengthen your heart. In fact, running for just a few minutes daily can significantly lower your risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to non-runners.
As part of your health assessment, underwriters will look at your blood pressure reading from your medical exam. They look at three readings of your diastolic/systolic blood pressure and average them to get one final reading. For example, if your reading is 120/80, 110/70, and 100/60, they will average those numbers and record 110/70.
They will also reference your historical blood pressure from your medical records and some carriers will factor in any blood pressure medication you’re taking as well. If you have high blood pressure, that can place you in a less-ideal health class and increase your monthly life insurance premiums.
Running can play a role in improving your health report card because it has been shown to lower blood pressure. Regular exercise strengthens your heart so it can pump more blood without exerting itself as much. The less effort required to pump, the less focus on your arteries, which helps keep your blood pressure down.
While running can make you healthier and potentially place you in a better health classification, there are other factors outside of your control that can influence your “report card” from the carrier.
After you take your medical exam, underwriters will review various factors to determine your risk profile which reflects the projected life expectancy of the customer, in other words, how likely you are to die while your insurance policy term is still active. Those factors include:
Physical makeup - Your age, gender, height, and weight will all be analyzed as part of the underwriting process.
Lifestyle - Where you work, what you do for fun, how often you travel, etc.
Family history - Does your mother have a heart condition? Does your father have diabetes? Their health profiles play a role in determining yours.
Medications - Underwriters will look at your current and previous prescriptions to fill in any gaps in your medical records and get a better idea of your health history.
Procedures and surgeries - All of your hospitalizations, procedures, and surgeries will be carefully reviewed during the underwriting process.
Illnesses and conditions - Past and present illnesses and conditions will also be factored into your health snapshot.
Reina Marszalek is a managing editor and writer based in New Jersey. Previously, she was the senior editor at DoctorOz.com, answering today's biggest health questions and discovering the latest trends in food and health.
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