Throughout the United States alone, the prevalence of obesity is just under 40 percent, affecting an estimated 9.3 million adults. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that obesity, or being unhealthily overweight, can lead to a range of medical conditions, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease and stroke. Being overweight by a few pounds may not seem like a significant issue for many Americans, especially those who are physically active and maintain a relatively balanced diet. However, the long-term impact of obesity and being overweight can influence much more than medical well-being.
For adults who carry extra weight, securing an essential component of their financial plans may be more difficult or more costly. Life insurance, which provides a death benefit to beneficiaries when the insured individual passes away, helps cover final expenses, including debt, income replacement, and burial costs.
While this is a crucial piece in the financial planning puzzle, overweight individuals pay a higher rate or may be declined completely when trying to get a life insurance policy. This is because life insurance carriers evaluate one’s health, including weight, to determine if they are an acceptable risk.
If you are overweight and in need of life insurance coverage, it is necessary to understand how life insurance companies take into consideration obesity when pricing life insurance policies.
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Understanding the Underwriting Process
The majority of life insurance providers require individuals to go through an underwriting process as part of an application for coverage. Life insurance underwriting involves insurance company professionals reviewing the details of your life, including your current weight, to determine whether or not you are at a higher risk of passing away. Through the underwriting process, a life insurance company asks for the following:
- Smoker status
- Medical history
- Driving history
- Drug use
- Prescription history
- Some financial information
- Height and weight
You may also be asked to submit to a paramedical exam, which captures details on your current health status. Each of these factors is considered together along with information included in the application process to determine if you qualify for new life insurance coverage.
Life insurance companies include height and weight information as a means to test your mortality. Because being overweight or obese carries specific risks to your health, an insurance provider is likely to charge a higher premium for your coverage than if you were within healthy weight parameters. While you may not be declined for coverage, being overweight is seen as a greater risk from an underwriting standpoint.
Life Insurance and Obesity
Being obese or even slightly overweight might lead to several health conditions, even for otherwise healthy individuals. The National Institutes of Health share that overweight adults may carry additional weight for a variety of reasons, including poor eating habits, an inactive lifestyle, or an underlying medical condition that causes weight gain over time. Regardless of the reason behind the excess weight, adults who are considered overweight or obese have a much higher risk of the following health conditions:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Joint problems
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
A life insurance company evaluates your weight in a few ways, including your total weight compared to your height. Your body mass index, or BMI, measures your height-to-weight ratio and is the most common factor for evaluating you in the life insurance underwriting process. BMI is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared, then multiplying that by 703.
For adults over age 20, weight is considered normal when BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9. Adults are considered overweight with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 and obese when BMI is over 30. Individuals with a BMI over 40 are considered extremely obese. Life insurance companies use these guidelines to determine insurance premium costs. If your BMI is higher than average, your life insurance premium is likely to be higher.
Life Insurance Policies to Consider
While nearly all life insurance companies that require an exam and health questionnaire as part of the underwriting process evaluate BMI, they may not have the same ranges that result in a higher premium or different health rating. For this reason, it is crucial to shop around for life insurance coverage from various providers if you are concerned about your weight’s impact on monthly or annual premiums.
If you’re looking for the best life insurance for your needs, below are a few life insurance companies that have more favorable underwriting for those who have less than ideal BMI measurements.
- Protective Life – While full medical underwriting is still required for new coverage with Protective Life, individuals who are in the overweight or obese categories for BMI may still qualify for better rates. A quick quote based on age, gender, height, and weight can be submitted online in most instances.
- MassMutual – As a leading life insurance provider, MassMutual has recently updated its underwriting process to provide faster decisions based on multiple data points from an applicant, including height and weight. The company offers a quick decision term life insurance policy that may be more cost-effective than comparable policies that have a more stringent underwriting process.
- Banner (Legal and General) Life – Banner Life Insurance, operating under the name Legal and General, offers affordable term life insurance coverage with some of more affordable life insurance premiums in the industry. There are some cases where full medical underwriting is required, but even with a higher BMI, Banner may offer an affordable solution.
In many cases, individuals looking for life insurance when their weight is higher than normal may want to consider a term policy. This is because term life insurance provides a much larger amount of insurance coverage at a much lower cost compared to permanent insurance policies. The lower cost of the term is offset by the temporary nature of the policy, but term insurance can be an affordable way to get the life insurance coverage necessary to pay for final expenses in the future.
If you are overweight or obese, getting life insurance is not completely out of the picture; however, the process may be more complicated and ultimately more expensive. Before selecting a life insurance company, be sure to understand its underwriting process, its view on BMI and weight, and its premium structure for those who do not fall into normal weight standards.