Most Americans are overweight.
Your ability to buy life insurance, if you are like the majority of Americans and are overweight or obese, is sometimes not as simple as one would hope.
What you need – an insider’s guide (a cheat sheet, if you will) to understanding exactly how life insurance companies underwrite an overweight or obese individual.
Consider this your go-to resource to:
- Understand how life insurance companies evaluate weight
- Find answers to the questions most commonly asked by overweight applicants
- View sample weight charts
Life insurance carriers know perfectly well most of us are overweight. And for the most part, they still want our business.
Carriers look at two primary factors:
- Your specific height and weight
- Whether you are experiencing health complications
1. What is your specific weight?
By far, this is one of the most important factors in determining the best life insurance for overweight individuals.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Around since the 1800s and considered antiquated by many medical experts, the BMI, or body mass index, is a simplistic number assigned to you based solely on your height and weight.
Most life insurance carriers refer to BMI measurements during underwriting. And, every life insurance carrier utilizes a weight chart that determines whether or not you qualify for traditional coverage.
Important – each carrier’s weight chart is different. You could be declined with one company and accepted elsewhere.
While it seems impersonal, your specific height and weight, in relation to a company’s cutoff point, makes all the difference.
Thankfully, a good number of carriers are quite generous in their weight limits. So even if you are considerably overweight, there may still be a traditional product available to you.
Note – view sample height/weight charts here.
2. How is your health?
Frequently, an overweight individual will experience health complications as a result of their weight.
Because life insurance companies absorb risk in exchange for coverage, they are interested in evaluating your health.
In other words, a carrier wants to understand just how much risk they are absorbing when they offer you a life insurance policy. Serious health conditions, like diabetes, can affect your application.
Here, you’ll find the most commonly asked questions about life insurance for an overweight person – and their important answers.
Think of this section as an insider’s guide to finding the best life insurance for an overweight applicant.
Should I wait to buy life insurance until I’ve lost weight?
The best time to buy life insurance was yesterday. The second-best time is today.
While you may be able to secure lower premiums if you lose weight, don’t leave your loved ones without financial security in the meantime. Besides, you can always reapply for cheaper rates if you lower your BMI.
Further, as you likely know, it’s tough to lose weight and even tougher to keep the weight off.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that almost half of Americans are trying to lose weight, there are real biological barriers to finding success.
In other words, the body often fights against our attempts to attain a healthy weight. An overweight individual often has –
- Restricted calorie-burning capacity
- Different gut microbiota
Remember – don’t put off buying life insurance until you’re at an ideal weight. It’s difficult to lose weight and those you love need financial protection now.
What if I am morbidly obese?
As you know, there’s a big difference between being a few pounds overweight and obesity.
If your doctor has used the words, “morbid obesity” with you, it likely means your weight is negatively affecting your health.
Generally, doctors will diagnose you as morbidly obese if your BMI is more than 40 or you are more than 100 pounds overweight.
Your ability to secure an affordable policy does become difficult if you are significantly obese.
Carriers, and the underwriters they employ, will need to know how your obesity is affecting your life.
Morbid obesity poses a significant amount of risk because it’s associated with serious negative health consequences:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Certain cancers
- Renal failure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
Keep in mind – traditional life insurance for morbidly obese applicants is sometimes still available. You will need to fall within the accepted height/weight limits and not have a health condition(s) that would cause a decline.
What if I am muscular?
In general, a person who has a high BMI is likely to have body fatness and would be considered to be overweight or obese, but this may not apply to athletes. – Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
According to the BMI formula, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is overweight. And, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is classified as obese.
That’s ridiculous, of course.
If you are an athlete or have a muscular build, an independent agent working on your behalf is highly recommended.
Independent agents will communicate what applications in and of themselves cannot – your specific circumstances. For instance, a cover letter explaining your muscular build can make all the difference during underwriting.
Note – Most life insurance companies are generous in their height/weight charts.
In fact, even though just about all NFL quarterbacks would be classified as overweight according to the BMI standards, they would typically still be able to qualify for “Preferred” health class ratings.
Can I lie about my weight?
While the answer to this question may seem like a no-brainer, it’s common to be tempted to fudge the numbers a bit. Just like most driver’s licenses don’t list our actual weight.
Discrepancies on life insurance applications spell trouble. At best, your policy’s issuance could be delayed. At worst, your policy could be declined.
Honesty is the only policy.
I have recently lost significant weight. Does that affect my application?
Not all weight loss is the same in the eyes of a life insurance carrier. Let’s breakdown a couple of scenarios and explain how they affect your application.
I lost weight on purpose
Let’s say you have lost 40 pounds over the last six months through diet and exercise. That’s fantastic!
However, your underwriter will view your recent weight loss through the lens of a statistician.
Statistically speaking, you are likely to gain some of the weight back, so carriers will only give you credit for half of your weight loss – if the loss occurred within the last 12 months.
In other words, your 40-pound weight loss will typically count as a 20-pound weight loss if it occurred within a year of your life insurance application.
Still great, but understandably frustrating.
If the weight loss occurred more than 12 months before your application, then congratulations, you get full credit for your hard work.
Important – Do not wait to purchase life insurance just because you won’t receive full credit for your weight loss. Protect your loved ones now and reapply for better rates when you qualify.
Also note – Weight loss as a result of a surgical procedure is underwritten differently. Depending on the carrier, expect to receive a “rating” (surcharge on your premiums) for at least 6 – 12 months, and sometimes longer, after your surgery.
My weight loss was involuntary
Unplanned weight loss is concerning to underwriters because it could signal a health concern.
For example, if you have lost 10 pounds or more without intending to, your life insurance application could be postponed.
Unintentional weight loss is sometimes indicative of a serious medical condition:
Additionally, your age can factor into how the underwriter views involuntary weight loss.
If you are a senior citizen, many carriers place a cutoff point on the minimum amount you can weigh. Low weight as a senior is often associated with frailty.
Recent documented doctor’s appointments will help during underwriting.
What type of policy will I qualify for?
Remember, there are two primary factors that determine how much your weight will affect the types of life insurance you will be able to purchase:
- Does your weight fall inside or outside the carrier’s weight charts?
- Do you have health complications as a result of being overweight?
Best case scenario
Your weight falls within a life insurance company’s Standard (or Preferred!) weight chart and you are not experiencing serious medical conditions.
If you fall into the best case scenario category, plan to have all types of traditional policies available to you:
- No exam life insurance
- Term life insurance
- Guaranteed universal life insurance
- Whole life insurance
- Indexed universal life insurance
Worst case scenario
Your weight falls outside all weight charts and/or you are experiencing serious medical conditions that impede your ability to qualify for traditional coverage.
Do not fret. You can still purchase coverage:
Somewhere in the middle scenario
Let’s ponder some hypotheticals.
As an example, let’s say your weight falls outside a carrier’s Standard weight chart but is within the Substandard limits.
Or, you may be experiencing some health difficulties as a result of your weight, but nothing serious enough to disqualify you from purchasing coverage.
In this case, it might be that you qualify for a traditional policy but will need to pay a surcharge on your premiums:
- Life insurance with a table rating
Alternatively, you might need to purchase life insurance in which you will need to wait, typically a couple of years, before the full death benefit will pay out:
- Graded benefit life insurance
Can I skip the medical exam?
No exam life insurance for overweight individuals is purchased all the time. It’s quite possible you will be able to secure coverage without participating in a medical exam.
For sure, a good number of us have “white coat syndrome.” Said differently, the thought of a visit to any sort of doctor’s office is enough to steer us away from buying a policy.
Fortunately, most types of life insurance are available for purchase without a medical exam.
There are a number of potential perks in skipping the paramedical exam.
- Medical environment is avoided
- Speedy underwriting and policy issuance
- Ideal for someone who hasn’t seen a physician recently (e.g. within 2 years)
You’ll want to consider a few possible pitfalls before applying for a no medical exam policy.
- Face amount limits
- Premiums will likely cost more (often the increase in price is slight)
- Age restrictions exist
There are three things to keep in mind concerning build tables:
- Most carriers utilize BMI measurements.
- Many carriers now use the same height/weight chart for males and females.
- Some carriers use different weight limits for different ages.
Let’s take a look at a couple of sample charts so you can gain a general idea of weight cutoffs. We’ll evaluate Standard and Substandard limits.
Standard limits refer to the maximum weight in which you can be approved for regular premium prices.
Sub-standard limits refer to table ratings.
Remember, a table rating means that you pay a surcharge on your premiums (typically somewhere between 25 – 200%).
Keep in mind – every life insurance company uses its own height/weight tables.
Below are only examples, and may not apply with every single company:
Sample Build Table - Ages 18 thru 59
|Height||Standard Weight||Table Rating Weight|
Sample Build Table - Ages 60+
|Height||Standard Weight||Table Rating Weight|
In order to find the best life insurance policy when you are overweight, plan to do three things.
- Go independent. Partner with an independent agent in order to access multiple quotes. Carriers have different weight limits.
- Organize. You’ll want to be ready for the application process by having your medical (and lifestyle) information readily available to communicate.
- Don’t wait. Yesterday was the best time to secure coverage. Today is second-best.