Obesity and Weight Limit For Life Insurance…Everything You Need to Know

Obesity and Weight Limit For Life Insurance…Everything You Need to Know

If you or a loved one is overweight and need to learn about the weight limit for life insurance, you have come to the right place.

As an Independent Life Agent and a guy who has struggled with his own weight, I understand the anxiety when someone asks me “what are the weight restrictions for affordable life insurance”. I write on this matter from a very personal perspective

The process of obtaining a life insurance with obesity issues is similar to seeking life insurance with high cholesterol  or Rheumatoid arthritis and many other specific conditions.

​Whether, your risk to the insurance carrier is health related like lupus and high blood pressure, or is lifestyle related like marijuana use or scuba diving the application process is similar.

 The purpose of this article is provide a background on navigating the the underwriting process, life insurance weight limit, and the information you need to get the best possible deal on life insurance with obesity issues.

If you already know what information you are looking for, you can use the quick navigation tool to skip around.

Fast Facts about Obesity

Obesity is defined by the the American Heart Association as having a BMI or Body Mass Index of over 30. Put simply it means that you weigh more than 20% above your ideal weight.


According to the Centers for Disease Control over one third of the population   (​36.5 %) has a BMI over 30.

The CDC statistics around obesity make for interesting reading as correlations between income ,education and obesity differ dramatically by gender.

  While the trend towards a heftier society exploded from 1990-til present , as early as the 1930s, life insurance companies identified excess weight as a risk for premature death; as a result, they used weight as a factor in determining premiums.

By the 1960s,  national surveys showed a clear trend toward heavier weight. The combination of a shift to 'fast food" and a more sedentary lifestyle appears to be at the root of the obesity epidemic.

The "good news" about obesity is that even modest weight loss can help prevent the problems associated with obesity.Changes in your diet and increased activity can help with weight loss.

What Carriers Will Take Into Consideration with Life Insurance for Overweight and Obese  Applicants

Life insurance underwriters usually have a few basic questions that can spur further questions. When it comes to weight issues, there will be considerable scrutiny on related health issues as excessive weight often correlates with other conditions.

  • Do you fit into the usual risk factors for obesity?

  • What is your height and weight

  • Has there been any treatment

  • If so, has there been follow up & compliance

  • What is your health like apart from being overweight

While the outline above is general in form , the questions will require specific answers. These answers will be gathered from your application, a telephone interview, the Medical Information Bureau, a Script Check, and an Attending Physicians Statement (APS).

​Lets look at the general areas of inquiry one at a time.

Do you "fit" into the usual risk factors for obesity

The reason underwriters are more comfortable with making offers when an applicant fits into the usual patterns is because if they don't fit, there as a real possibility that something else is at play. When this is the case, underwriters will try to allay their fears by taking a harder look at the file.

In the case of obesity , the common "risk factor range" is family history, lifestyle, and diet.

This subject is discussed in some detail at the Mayo Clinic  site.

What are/were your symptoms

While this is a typical question for any condition disclosed on a life insurance application, it's pretty straight forward in the case of weight issues.

Underwriting will need to know your height and weight to calculate body mass index or BMI  and determine if you are within  the weight limits for life insurance.

Additionally, underwriters will want to know of any sudden or significant gains or losses. 

Your Diagnosis and Treatments

If after reading this heading you are thinking "diagnosis..huh? I just need to lose weight", I'm sympathetic, However, underwriting will want to know if you have ever been prescribed any of the various weight loss medications available.

Most weight loss medication works by decreasing hunger or encouraging a "full" feeling. Usually only prescribed to patients with BMI( over 30, these medications are used in tandem with recommendations for a healthy diet and increased physical activity.

For a list of common weight loss precriptioins, see  WebMD .

Your Follow Up Care

If you are/were on prescribed medication to treat obesity, underwriters will want to know about your compliance with the program. This usually includes regular visits to your prescribing doctor.  

If you underwent surgery for weight loss, the follow up and compliance history is extremely important.

Your Over all Health (and any related conditions)

When it comes to the basic application questions about a condition like obesity, overall health and related conditions is the big question.

If your application fits into the weight limits for life insurance, underwriters will look for complications like type II diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver. You can get a full list of complications of obesity at the Mayo Clinic site.

Obtaining Life Insurance While Obese

With a couple of caveats, the process of obtaining life insurance is essentially the same for everyone regardless of health.

The primary caveats with severe  obesity are that no exam or so called “non-med” policies will only be available in very small face amounts and an attending physician's statement (APS) is likely to be requested.

The APS can slow the process as doctors are rarely in a hurry to respond to requests from life insurance companies.

The information that you will be required to provide in order to get the most accurate quote is as follows:

  1.  Current weight
  2. Average weight the last 12 months

  3. Treatments Undergone- This will require a list of any pharmaceutical drugs being taken as well as any recent prescription changes.

  4. Dates of Treatments-This will include any hospitalizations as well as evidence of compliance.

  5. Other Health Issues

Insurance carriers use   "build charts" to determine how height and weight  will affect your health rating and your premium rate.

The answer to the question “what are the weight limits for low cost life insurance” will depend on the carriers build chart. Build charts vary by as much as 30-40 lbs. from one carrier to another.

That’s a lot of weight (and premium) difference for the same health classification!

Possible Underwriting Ratings with Obesity

Because Life insurance applications are evaluated on a case by case basis, your story always matters. That is to say two people with the same age and condition may get vastly different offers from the same carrier based on age of diagnosis and patient compliance. Because each case is different, the following pricing scenarios are the best estimates based on experience.

Best Case – If obesity  is mild (BMI under 31), any connected conditions are  under excellent control and there is good compliance, some cases have a chance for a standard rating. Simply use the quoter on the left for a standard quote.

Mid Case –If your obesity  is  moderate (BMI 31-35) and good compliance with any connected issue you may be looking at a mid substandard rate. You calculate this rate by multiplying the standard rate by 1.5 (Table 2/B) or 2 (Table 4/D).

To learn about how table ratings work click here.

Severe Case – If your Obesity  symptoms are severe (36 BMI +) and you have a need for chronic  drugs and/or you have a history that includes diabetes, the best you will likely do is a severe substandard rate. You calculate this rate by multiplying the standard rate by 3 (table 8/H).

* while expensive this may still be a very good outcome for the circumstances

Decline– For a severe case you may be declined for traditional coverage. If this is the case you may be eligible for a smaller face amount policy. These policies are referred to as Guaranteed issue or simplified issue. If you have been declined please contact us.

Why you Should Use an Independent Agent when Shopping for Life Insurance with Obesity?

Now you know that your story is important, and that two people in similar situations can get very different offers from the same life insurance carrier.

What you might not know is that different insurance companies will also treat each case differently.

For example Lincoln Financial may have more of an appetite for the risk that Obesity  presents than say AIG. In this case the underwriting grade will reflect this increased appetite.

So, if your Agent only represented one carrier and you found out later that that you could have gotten a rate 35% or 45% better, how would you feel?

You’d probably be mad either at the agent or yourself or both. So it’s important that your Agent represent multiple carriers.

In fact a good independent agent will have access to over 50 carriers. This ensures the best chance at a good rate.

Note that if he doesn’t, he may not be in a such hurry to let you in on this info.

Key Take Aways

  • Access to more carriers will result in better pricing.
  • "Captive" agents have a financial incentive to "stay home" or write business with the home carrier.
  • Only independent brokers have the freedom to offer the best deal at all times.

Case Study Pricing: Weight Limit For Life Insurance

So, I have been preaching about the importance of using an independent Agent and you may think that sounds a bit self serving coming from an independent agent.

You’re right, it is. However, it is also the (provable) truth.

Please see the case study below . it will show why it is in your interest to have as many options as possible available when shopping for life insurance with obesity or any other impairment.

Gender: Male Age: 45

$500000 20 Year Term

Tobacco: No

Obesity BMI 35

Metformin for Pre-Diabetes

This looks like a best case scenario that could be either standard or Table 2/B or 4/D depending on the insurers appetite for a obesity risk.. Let’s take a look at the rates.

Standard Rates - Table 2/B Rates - Table 4/D Rates

 protective$95.25 banner126.00 banner166.25
 banner98.08 protective142.88 principal193.81
 mutual omaha99.93 mutual omaha147.17 mutual omaha194.43
 prudential logo112.50 transamerica144.48 transamerica191.78
 assurity130.50 prudential logo171.22 prudential logo230.98

*Rates as of 12/10/2016

This table which shows only a few of the major life insurance companies available illustrates the difference in rates. For standard rates Assurity is 33% more expensive than Protective.

On it’s face this seems like a pretty straight forward choice and if underwriting grades between carriers is the same, it really can be that simple.

This kind of easy price shopping is particularly useful for younger folks in good health and demonstrates why you want to use an independent Agent.

For people who suffer from Obesity  or any other serious diagnosis, it gets much more complicated.

Because life insurers manage their appetite for specific risks by being more lenient or more stringent with underwriting grades, you need to know which company will grade you a standard or table 2 risk and which ons will grade you as table 4-6.

In the case above Prudential (the second most expensive standard rate) is likely to be the best deal because the more competitively priced carriers will likely rate the risk table 2/ 4 while Pru might well go standard.

This is something you can’t know by simply looking at the lowest price. In this case using an independent agent could save you 38% (the difference between Prudential @ standard and Banner @ Table 4).

Your Next Step

Now that you know the information you will need to receive the most accurate quote possible, it’s time to gather the information and speak to an independent Agent (raising my hand).

Thank you for visiting lifeinsurancehelpdesk.com and reading about the weight limit for life insurance. If you have any questions, We’d like to hear them.

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James Tobin, CFP

Jim Tobin is the owner of Life Insurance Help Desk, a Fairfield County, CT. life insurance agency. You can find him on Google + and Facebook. Over the past 10 years, Jim has used his CFP-financial planning designation to help individuals with their life insurance needs. In addition to working with life insurance clients, Jim teaches ESL classes in his spare time. He resides with his beautiful wife Nicole and the 3 cats that rule their lives..