Most Americans are overweight.
If you’re among the majority of Americans who are overweight or obese, finding life insurance might not always be as simple as you’d 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 your weight
- Find answers to the questions most commonly asked by overweight applicants
- View sample weight charts
Armed with the right information, you can confidently shop for life insurance.
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)
Obesity is determined by calculating a person’s weight in relationship to their height.
The resulting figure, known as a Body Mass Index (or BMI), falls into a range which determines ideal weight.
BMI ranges for adults are categorized as follows:
- A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy weight
- A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight
- A BMI of 30 or higher is considered to be obese
BMI by the Numbers
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state more than 36% of adults in the United States are obese.
Obesity rates are high amongst all age groups, but tend to be highest for adults who are 40-59 years old, and those over 60.
Hispanics and Non-Hispanic Blacks have a higher genetic predisposition to obesity than other ethnicities.
Regardless of this predisposition, though, obesity is preventable and reversible.
Maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the first steps in losing weight and improving your BMI.
How Underwriters View BMI
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.
It’s important to note each carrier’s weight chart is different, meaning you could be declined with one company and accepted elsewhere.
Even if you have a BMI of 31, some companies may not consider you to be obese if you are in good general health, live an active lifestyle, and are under the regular care of a doctor.
While it seems impersonal, your specific height and weight, in relation to a company’s cutoff point, make all the difference.
Thankfully, a good number of carriers are quite generous with their weight limits. So even if you are considerably overweight, there may still be a traditional product available to you.
Note: You can 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.
Obesity can lead to a number of high-risk health conditions which are red flags for an insurance company. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have all been linked to obesity and have high mortality rates.
In addition, being overweight can contribute to high blood pressure and put a strain on your bones and joints.
Other health conditions obese people are at high risk for developing include:
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 You Wait to Buy Life Insurance Until You’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
Bottom line: 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 You Are Morbidly Obese?
As you know, there’s a big difference between being a few pounds overweight and being obese.
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 higher than 40, or if your BMI falls in the 35 to 40 range and you have a high risk health condition.
Morbid obesity often interferes with a person’s ability to walk or perform other basic physical functions.
Someone who is morbidly obese is considered the highest risk for a life insurance company.
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) which would cause a decline.
What If You Are Muscular?
According to the CDC, a person who has a high BMI is likely to have body fat and would be considered to be overweight or obese, but this may not apply to athletes.
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 You Lie About Your 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.
Does Recent Significant Weight Loss Affect Your 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.
You 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.
Your 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.
What Type of Policy Will You Qualify for?
Remember, two primary factors 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
Exactly what type of life insurance policy you will qualify for is difficult to determine.
Health class ratings and potential costs vary widely from person to person.
While many obese people receive a Standard rating, their premiums differ due to existing health conditions, medications they may be taking, or the type of lifestyle they lead.
In some cases if you are morbidly obese, have limited mobility, and have other high risk health conditions, you could still receive a Sub-Standard rating.
Can You 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
Note: If you are not under the regular care of a doctor, it could work against you. Since obesity can lead to many life-threatening diseases, a life insurance underwriter may find you to be a higher risk because you are not getting regular check-ups and tests to monitor your health.
You can increase your chances of being approved for life insurance by seeing a doctor before you apply.
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 at 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|
Don’t give up! Many obese people are able to lose weight, changing their overall health dramatically.
Get in touch with a doctor who specializes in nutrition and weight loss, and start making lifestyle changes as soon as possible.
If you qualify for life insurance coverage now, you can always decrease your premiums over time as you lose weight and your BMI improves, too.
We know which life insurance companies will cover obese applicants and we’ll do our best to help you find the best option possible. Contact us today to get started.
If you struggle with your weight, and it’s making it difficult to find affordable life insurance, contact us today.