By James Tobin
LIHD Difficulty Rating
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
However, the type of policy that can be approved, and the rates charged, will depend on the nature of your weight issues, and your overall health.
Because the underwriting standards are different for each type of policy, this review of life insurance options for overweight applicants is broken into three sections: (click button to go directly to section)
In order to underwrite your application life insurance carriers will need to know your height & weight and any connected symptoms that you have experienced. This would mean diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and any treatment undergone, including prescription drugs and any medical follow up. For a more exhaustive discussion of the underwriting of stroke applications please scroll to What Insurers Will Want to Know
In order to get the best rates possible you may need to take an exam. Applicants who are merely a little overweight will likely qualify for no exam policies, if there are no connected conditions. However, applications seen as more serious will require an exam.
The exam is a para-medical exam that collects blood and urine samples. The exam is administered at no cost by a travelling nurse and can be done at your choice of location.
If it turns out that simplified issue or guaranteed issue policies are the best fit for your application, no exam will be required. See How Term Life Insurance Works for more on the exam.
The rates you pay for tem insurance are dependent on the underwriting class you are graded by the carrier. Overweight/obese applications are generally going to be rated as standard (rare) or lower. This issue is discussed using rating guides and pricing samples. Sample pricing for simplified issue and guaranteed issue policies is provided in the corresponding links.
The quotes you receive from the quote tool on this site are 100% accurate for the information inputted. That is to say, if you get the rate class correct- your rate will be correct. The problem with online tools is that people generally think they are inn better or worse shape than is reality.
If you are unsure about rate class you should choose a range and hope to be pleasantly surprised. Alternatively, you can fill out the customized quote form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.
The most effective ways to improve your life insurance rating are to use an agent that has access to the companies that will view you most favorably and to take care of your health.
See Why to use Independent Agent when Shopping for Life Insurance when overweighty to better understand the reason to use an independent agent.
As far as lifestyle goes, if you take diet and exercise seriously along with limiting alcohol and quitting smoking (if you smoke), it should be reflected in your weight and blood markers.
If you have a condition connected to your weight , documenting compliance with medical advise and any medications is very important. Obtaining a physicians letter stating that you have been compliant and improving is helpful.
Do these things and you can't help but improve your health and your life insurance rating.
Life insurance companies have differing appetites for specific risks. These appetites are reflected in underwriting and ultimately pricing. Simplified issue carriers will be state dependent and three of the better known term carriers for dealing with weight issues are Prudential, American General (AIG), and Banner.
However, risk appetite can, and does, change and the only way to guarantee the best possible deal is to work with an experienced independent agent. see the case study here to get a clear understanding.
Regardless of your pre existing condition, the application process is largely the same. The life insurance application process is an eight step process that includes choosing your terms, picking a carrier, submitting to the exam, and signing documents (digital signatures accepted). The entire 8 step process is laid out for you here.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 prescriptions, see WebMD .
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.
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.
Life insurance companies have differing appetites for specific risks. These appetites are reflected in underwriting and ultimately pricing. Simplified issue carriers will be state dependent and three of the better known term carriers for dealing with weight issues are Prudential, Protective, and Banner.
However, risk appetite can, and does, change and the only way to guarantee the best possible deal is to work with an experienced independent agent. see the case study here to get a clear understanding.
Although the term life insurance market is quickly adopting accelerated underwriting programs that do not require a medical exam as part of the application process, this option will not be available if you have been diagnosed with morbid obesity. * There will likely be no exam options for a mild elevated BMI.
The exam is a 15-20 minute meeting with a nurse. Your exam will consist of a blood draw, a urine sample, and height and weight recorded. The exam can be done at home or work.
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:
Average weight the last 12 months
Treatments Undergone- This will require a list of any pharmaceutical drugs being taken as well as any recent prescription changes.
Dates of Treatments-This will include any hospitalizations as well as evidence of compliance.
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!
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.
At the top of this article we stated that any body can be approved for affordable life insurance with weight issues. Note, however, we mention “affordable” rather than "inexpensive" or “low cost". The reason for the distinction is that all too often, life insurance with obesity is not cheap life insurance.
In fact, because the coverage can be expensive on a per benefit dollar basis, the benefit is often reduced to make the life insurance affordable. While this is often not an ideal situation, the truth is we all have to live within our budgets, and sometimes the way to make life insurance affordable is to reduce either the term of coverage or the benefit amount.
The basic mechanics of term life insurance are pretty straightforward. As long as the policy premium is paid by (or for) the insured, and the policy is in force, the beneficiary will receive the death benefit upon the insured's death.
Some sample term life insurance pricing with obesity issues.
$500000 20 Year Term
$250000 10 Year Term
$100000 10 Year Term
$200000 20 Year Term
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
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
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
Enter your text here...
*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).
Some final expense or "burial insurance carriers are not concerned with weight. In fact, they don't even ask! These "no-exam needed" burial policies are the next best choice for anyone who will not get through traditional underwriting.
The "final expense" market serves differing consumer needs. There is the need that is made obvious by the name "final expense". This term refers to a funeral, burial and miscellaneous cost tied to the rituals surrounding life's end.
Many of the buyers of these end of life policies simply want to remove any financial burden their funeral and burial would cause to their loved ones, while others want to leave a legacy.
Alternatively, the simplified issue marketplace serves as a safe harbor for people who need some life insurance, but cannot qualify for traditional term underwriting. The lenient underwriting standards of this market allow for people with severe obesity to get coverage.
How the policy works will be dictated by the type of final expense or burial policy it is:
With death benefit face amounts that range from $5000-$100000, the simplified issue or "final expense " life insurance market is mostly made up of whole life insurance products. However, there several policies that have components of term policies starting to emerge. Make sure you know what you are buying!
Whether term or whole life, the calculation of the death benefit depends on if the policy is first-day coverage or graded
First day policies are straightforward, and provide a full death benefit from day 1 of the policy.
Graded policies use a two or three year period in which the benefit increases to the face amount over the contractual time period.
These policies commonly pay premiums plus interest if you die in the first year of the policy; 50% if you die after one year but before two; and full face amount after two years.
The carriers offer graded policies based on the applicant's health. These provisions are a way for the carriers to provide coverage while limiting their risk.
Graded or not, a whole life policy has a fixed premium that cannot increase and the policy stays in force until the premiums stop being paid or the insured dies.
In addition to different underwriting standards, final expense pricing is complicated by the fact that a lot of providers only operate in certain states.
As a result the samples below are of limited value. You should use the final expense quote tool found here.
$25000 "Final Expense" Whole Life 1st Day Coverage
$15000 "Final Expense" Whole Life 1st Day Coverage
$15000 Final Expense" Whole Life Graded Coverage
$10000 "Final Expense" Whole Life Graded Coverage
Many burial policy insurers will have 10-15 minute home office interviews using the telephone. They are looking for the use of prescriptions that do not come up on their prescription check and assessing cognitive function.Be alert!
There are fewer riders associated with simplified issue policies than traditional term, but living benefits such as the accelerated benefit for terminal illness, and chronic illness are fairly common. Additionally, some final expense policies have a small cash component and have loan provisions.
The contestability laws are the same for all types of life insurance policies. That is, the carrier has two years from the origination of the policy to contest the benefit payout on policy where the application contained material misstatements.
As stated before, simplified underwriting is seldom concerned with morbid obesity is a deal breaker for some final expense carriers, but not others. Unlike traditional underwriting that grades on a scale, "final expense" is a yes or no proposition.
Note that "yes" is divided into first-day coverage and "graded" categories. The best obesity offers are generally not "graded". So, full coverage would begin on day 1.
Final expense policies contain "knockout" questions and prescriptions.Since obesity is not a question on many these policies, the only way to get ‘knocked out" is if you answer yes to a different "knockout" question....or your prescription drug is associated with a "knock-out" disease. This is a circumstance that your agent can help with.
Knockout questions tend to revolve around heart attack, stroke, cognitive function, insulin use, amputations and some of the heavy drugs these conditions require for treatment.
Because most final expense underwriting rules differ wildly, it's unusual that you can just go to the final expense quote tool and start.However, unless you have other conditions, that is exactly how to start.
Because morbid obesity BMI readings can be a decline or "knockout" with many carriers, the best price may not win. Remember to use the quote tool on the "final expense" page. The quote tool on this page is limited to term quotes.
Upon receiving your quote request, we will be in touch as soon as possible (often in minutes), and we will help you through the process. The whole process shouldn't take more than 30-40 minutes.
We are committed to a transparent pricing process and are happy to share a computer screen with you or send a video of the method used to get your rate. If you have any questions, please contact us.
As a stand-alone condition, obesity does not require the use of guaranteed life insurance. The only time that an applicant would need to go the guaranteed route is if the obesity was paired with a condition that could not qualify for graded a final expense policy.
If this describes your situation, keep reading.
Guaranteed policies should only be used as a last resort. In addition to the benefit grading provisions that make the policies toothless during the two or three year grading period, they are the most expensive policies sold.
With only the requirement of age (40) and citizenship, guaranteed issue life insurance policies have a death benefit that ranges from $5000-$50000. Such plans are exclusively whole life insurance.
However, all guaranteed issue policies are "graded". Generally, the grading represents a 2 or 3 year period that the policy must be in force before a full death benefit will be paid.
Like "final expense" policies, guaranteed policies use a two or three year period in which the benefit increases to the face amount over the contractual time period. These policies commonly pay premiums plus interest if you die if you die after one year but before two; and full face amount after two years.
Also, like the "final expense" write up says, these provisions are a way for the carriers to provide coverage while limiting their risk.
There is no exam for guaranteed life insurance. After all, it's guaranteed to be issued regardless of your health.
Although the contestability laws are the same as other policies, beyond age and citizenship, it's difficult to see where contestability may arise in a guaranteed issue case.
The guaranteed issue process is lightning fast and can be handled over the telephone in a matter of minutes. Give us a call or email us.
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 planwithapro.wpengine.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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Jim Tobin is the owner of Life Insurance Help Desk, a Fairfield County, CT. life insurance agency. You can find him on LinkedIn 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..
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