Determine your Body Mass Index
First, you need to determine your Body Mass Index (BMI). Your BMI is a basic method of measuring the types of tissue that comprise your body’s weight in correlation to your height with a focus on your body’s fat content. Your BMI score helps select the type of life insurance policies for which you qualify. Based on your score, a determination can be made regarding how much body fat you’re carrying in proportion to your build, height, and relation to the population average, and then you’ll placed into one of four weight classes: Underweight, Normal Range, Overweight, or Obese. Your height and weight combination will determine how much you pay for a premium and different carriers have different criteria so always shop around for the most competitive price.
Most life insurance agencies use BMI as the standard method of establishing your rate. In order to determine your BMI, do the following:
- Take your weight in pounds and multiply that by 703.
- Take your height in inches and multiply it by itself (i.e. if you are 5 feet and 9 inches, you are 69 inches tall which you multiply by itself: 69 x 69 = 4761).
- Divide the number you derived from Step 1 by the number from Step 2.
- The final number from Step 3 will be your BMI.
Essentially, BMI is just a way of taking a high-level view of your body’s composition and does not account for fitness or muscle mass. It isn’t an exact measurement of your health and if you’re fit with a low percentage of body fat, BMI will not provide an accurate measurement. However, a more precise picture of your overall health will be determined during your phone interview and life insurance medical exam so be clear, concise, and honest.
General life insurance classifications
Major life insurance companies will gather information regarding your height and weight and classify your body weight by category. If your weight is in the Obese or Extremely Obese category, you will likely be considered risky and you can expect to pay a higher premium or possibly be denied coverage due to the potential risk to your health.
In most instances, however, life insurance applicants will not be rejected based solely on their BMI.
Categories are as follows:
- Preferred Plus: If you are in nearly perfect health, optimal weight to height ratio, and do not have any history of illness or medical issues, you can expect to qualify for Preferred Plus. Nonsmokers only.
- Preferred: This plan is for those who are generally in good health with a limited history of minor health issues and little or no predisposition (family history) to major illnesses. You must be of average weight but being a few pounds over won’t disqualify you from this category.
- Standard Plus: Typically, applicants who have a family history of heart disease, cancer, mental illness or the like will qualify for this category. Again, being overweight will not prevent you from qualifying from Standard Plus but you will need to be in good health.
- Standard: This category is for the moderately obese or very overweight, with controllable health issues.
- Substandard or Table Rating: For the Extremely Obese and high-risk. This category is based primarily on your weight and the bearing your excessive weight has on your continued health.
The category you fall into is the big driver for your life insurance cost.
For example, a 51 year old man who is 5'9" will be charged according to how much he weighs (see table below.) If you are a 51 year old woman who is 5’5”, the prices are slightly lower.
Prices shown are for a $500,000 20-year term policy from Pacific Life.
Weight loss credit
If you are focused on losing weight through diet and exercise, understand that life insurance companies will only credit you for half of your weight loss if you’ve lost more than 10 lbs in the last year.
So, if you weigh 260 lbs now and lost 30 lbs last year, you will be considered 275 lbs. The reason for this is your weight loss is not yet considered stable so after you’ve taken the weight off, carriers need to see you can keep it off. If you’ve kept the weight off for more than a year, you can call your carrier to have your weight, and price, adjusted accordingly.
Weigh your options
Don’t let the insurance companies just put you on the scale, it’s just as important that you weigh them and your options. Much like body types, not all life insurance carriers are created equally. Due diligence and research are always your best method of finding a carrier that will offer you the greatest coverage at a rate that you can afford. Again, the greater your weight in relation to the general population, the more you can expect to pay in premiums.
Keep in mind, your height, weight, and family history will be uncovered during your life insurance medical exam. Do not starve yourself or begin a crash diet to place yourself within a desirable category. Maintain your health, first and foremost, and find a plan that works for you and your family.
If your weight prevents you from qualifying for a term policy you might consider guaranteed issue policy such as Accidental Death Benefit (ADB). You can quickly qualify for an ADB policy, generally in less than 24 hours, and there are no medical questions or exams. This type of policy only covers you in the event of an accident, but you can rest assured you have a policy in place while you work toward your health goals.
Carrying a few extra pounds on your frame is far from uncommon. In fact, carrying more than a few pounds is fast becoming the new normal and it most definitely does not preclude you from finding the coverage you need. To explore your life insurance and estimate your monthly price, get a quote today.