As of 2019, over 42% of American adults are considered obese with a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Back in 2008, that number was only 34% and in 1980 it was 15%. Despite numerous public health campaigns, the obesity rate is rising continuously and is expected to cross the 50% threshold by 2050.
Obesity is correlated with numerous health issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, strokes, and reduced life span. Given the negative effects of obesity, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many life insurance companies use BMI to determine their premiums. Simply put, when you’re overweight, life insurance policies are more expensive.
Life Insurance for High BMI
Level Term life insurance policies are structured in such a way that if the insured individual passes away during the term of the policy, their beneficiaries receive a death benefit. Since obesity is correlated with a shorter life span, the likelihood of the death benefit being paid out goes up and the policy requires a higher premium.
To understand how the rates for life insurance for obese individuals are calculated, we first need to understand body mass index. In theory, BMI is a measure of body fat, though the calculation only uses your height and weight rather than any measure related to body composition. It’s a fairly simple calculation that takes your weight and divides it by the square of your height. So if you weigh 100 kg and are 1.8 meters tall the formula would be:
100/(1.8*1.8) = 30.8
If you don’t want to use the metric system, you can apply a correction factor of 703. So if you weigh 200 lbs and are 72 inches tall the formula would be:
(200*703)/(72*72) = 27.12
While BMI is a reliable predictor of health, it is not without its caveats. Athletes have high BMIs even though they are usually in excellent physical health. Their increased muscle mass causes them to have a higher than average weight for their height and thus a higher BMI. Insurance companies take that into account and only use BMI as a guideline, putting much more stock into medical exams and family history.
Can You Be Denied Coverage for Being Overweight?
As with most insurance questions, the answer is “it’s complicated.” Applicants with extremely high BMIs could be denied coverage, but it’s much more likely that their obesity would simply cause their life insurance premiums to go up. However, there may be extreme cases where someone’s obesity becomes too great of a risk for the insurer to underwrite.
Lowest Cost Life Insurance for Overweight People
If you are someone with a high BMI, there are a few things you can do to get the best life insurance rates. .
If you’re a heavy smoker and overweight, life insurance premiums can be strikingly high. Life insurance for smokers pay around three times more than non-smokers for life insurance. Lower rates become available once you’ve gone a year without tobacco.
See a Doctor Regularly
Having a high BMI will increase your premiums, but this can be offset by getting regular checkups with your general practitioner. Insurance companies like to see that you’re aware of any health issues that crop up and are taking steps to reduce their ramifications.
This is obviously one of the more difficult methods for lowering your life insurance premiums but it comes with the added benefit of improving your overall health. Yearly checkups with your regular doctor will record any pounds lost.
In the first year after losing weight, you’ll only be credited with half of the weight loss. Insurers want to know that the loss is sustainable and not part of a crash diet, so you won’t get the full rate reduction until after the first year.
Take a Medical Exam a Few Years After Getting the Policy
If you purchase a policy that requires a medical exam and are diagnosed with conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, you’re more likely to have a high premium. If you take steps to curb these conditions or at least keep them under control, you may be eligible for a lower premium after a few years. It’s always a good idea to have a second medical exam once you’re in better health.
Choose a Policy That Doesn’t Require a Medical Exam
It is possible to buy a no medical exam life insurance policy without or filling out extensive paperwork. Rates for these policies are based on your age, gender, and the amount of coverage you’re requesting. They also cost quite a bit more than policies with a medical exam since the insurer has very little data to calculate their rates from. Insurers assume you are less healthy if you’re choosing this type of policy.
Need Some Help Choosing a Policy?
Finding the right policy for your life insurance needs can be a minefield filled with intrusive medical exams, difficult-to-understand paperwork, and lengthy stints on the phone trying to get ahold of the right person. An Insurist independent life insurance agent can work with you to find an underwriter with the best coverage for the lowest price. Insurist agents can also talk you through any steps that’ll lower your premium throughout the life of the policy. Contact our agents today and learn more about how being overweight may impact life insurance.
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