You might be wondering, do companies sell life insurance for overweight people? Can I purchase life insurance coverage if I’m obese? If so, what weight or BMI will keep me within their limits?
After all, from our doctors to our lecture halls to our media, we constantly hear about the dangers of obesity and how it increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
In the rest of the piece, we’ll dig into this in more detail. In particular:
- Why your weight matters to life insurance companies
- How life insurers obtain and use your weight data
- What that means for your rating class, and, ultimately, your life insurance cost
Why Your Weight Matters
Purchasing life insurance coverage can feel invasive and rife with judgment. However, no one is looking at your physical appearance or attractiveness.
Life insurance companies are in the business of analyzing the risk that you will die (your mortality risk). The longer you live, the more they profit.
Since they don’t have a crystal ball, they, of course, have to use the medical history they have for you now to estimate your mortality risk in the future.
The Long-Term Health Risks Of High Body Fat
One factor that has a very strong long-term correlation with mortality risk is body fat.
Body fat levels are linked to serious health conditions that increase mortality risk. According to Medline Plus, these include:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Fatty liver disease
- Kidney disease
While you may not have these conditions now, historical data tells the insurance company that you will likely develop one or more of these conditions in the future.
Using BMI To Estimate Body Fat %
It is difficult (and expensive) to directly measure a person’s body fat. Therefore, life insurance companies often use an indirect measure called Body Mass Index. BMI is an estimate of your body fat based on height, weight, gender, and age.
Weight Questions On A Life Insurance Application
A life insurance company can learn about your weight in one of two ways:
- Your life insurance application
- The post-application medical exam
The first place you’ll be asked about your weight is in your life insurance application’s initial “personal information” section, as shown in the screenshot below from Bestow‘s life insurance application.
Most life insurance companies also ask about any significant weight loss you’ve experienced recently. Since recent weight loss is often hard to maintain, many insurers will give you only 50% credit for this amount.
For example, let’s say you’ve lost 30 pounds in the past 6 months, from 180 pounds to 150 pounds. Instead of considering your current weight to be 150, your insurer will conservatively add back half of the weight you lost and consider your weight to be 165 pounds.
For traditional life insurance companies, which typically require a medical exam, you’ll likely have your height and weight confirmed by a nurse during your medical exam.
How A Life Insurance Company Uses Your BMI
Life insurance companies decide whether or not to approve you by putting applicants in various “rate classes”. A big factor here is your body mass index.
As the name suggests, this also determines your life insurance rates (or life insurance premiums).
Life Insurance Ratings Classes & BMI
Many factors determine an individual’s rating class, such as their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoker status, and “build,” among others.
You must meet all of the criteria of a specific rating class to qualify for that class.
The chart below shows the height-weight (or “build”) thresholds many life insurance underwriters use.
According to the chart, someone who is 5 foot, 6 inches tall will qualify for:
- Preferred Plus if they are less than 180 pounds
- Preferred if they are 180-200 pounds
- Standard Plus if they are 200-210 pounds
- Standard if they are 210-222 pounds
- Table Ratings if they are 222-308 pounds
In other words, this table tells you your life insurance weight limits. If you try to buy life insurance while you are over the maximum weight limit, you will be denied coverage.
Life insurance underwriters do not have leeway with these limits. Finally, to state the obvious, the way to get the best life insurance rates is to begin losing weight and reducing your risk of health issues.
Table: Obese BMI Table Ratings
|Height||Pref Plus||Pref||Standard Plus||Standard||Table Rate|
|4′ 10″||135||155||165||170||182 – 249|
|4′ 11″||141||160||170||176||187 – 254|
|5′ 0″||146||166||177||184||193 – 262|
|5′ 1″||152||173||185||191||199 – 269|
|5′ 2″||158||179||190||197||205 – 277|
|5′ 3″||164||184||195||203||213 – 284|
|5′ 4″||169||189||200||209||221 – 292|
|5′ 5″||174||194||205||215||226 – 299|
|5′ 6″||180||200||210||222||232 – 308|
|5′ 7″||185||205||215||228||239 – 316|
|5′ 8″||189||209||220||235||246 – 324|
|5′ 9″||195||215||225||242||254 – 331|
|5′ 10″||200||221||232||250||262 – 340|
|5′ 11″||206||227||237||258||269 – 349|
|6′ 0″||211||232||244||265||275 – 356|
|6′ 1″||217||239||252||271||282 – 365|
|6′ 2″||222||244||257||279||289 – 374|
|6′ 3″||228||250||262||285||296 – 383|
|6′ 4″||233||255||268||292||301 – 394|
Can Overweight People Get Life Insurance?
So, what’s the verdict on overweight life insurance? Does life insurance for overweight people exist?
Whether it’s permanent or traditional life insurance, the answer is an overwhelming yes!
As long as you weigh less than the figure in the far-right column (for your height), life insurance companies will have no problem approving you.
The caveat is that life insurance rates will be 2-4x higher than the standard rate and towards the higher end for those who are obese. However, compared to the risks of having no coverage, you may still want to purchase life insurance despite this differential in life insurance rates.
Unless your build (BMI) is in the highest 1% of the population, a life insurance company will not deny you solely because of your weight.
If you look at a life insurance company’s “build chart” (a height-weight chart), you’ll see that individuals far over the “obese” threshold, per the body mass index (BMI) scale, can still be approved within insurers’ table rate classes.
While your life insurance rates may be higher, you can still get a million-dollar life insurance policy while obese. That’s valuable coverage for your family!
As mentioned, they will pay much higher life insurance rates vs. the standard rate, but the bottom line is that they still qualify for approval.
What If You Have Been Denied For Life Insurance?
Very few people will be denied life insurance coverage solely due to a high BMI.
But let’s say that a life insurance company did deny you, and the reason cited was your build. What are your options if you still want life insurance?
1. Lose Weight
The first of these options is obvious. You could lose enough weight to fall within the company’s build chart.
As if this weren’t hard enough, note that life insurance companies will give you only partial credit for the weight you’ve lost in the previous 12 months.
2. Find A Lenient Life Insurance Company & Re-Apply
Second, you could apply for a life insurance policy at another insurer.
Is this just an exercise in insanity (“trying the same thing over again and expecting different results”)?
Not at all. While insurance carriers have very similar weight thresholds for regular rate classes, their ranges are wildly different for their table rate classes.
For example, for a 5′ 9″ male, the weight limit for Mutual of Omaha’s final table rating is 266 pounds; however, for Pacific Life, it is 349!
Therefore, your life insurance denial could very well result from bad luck. I.e., you happened to choose an insurer with strict weight criteria.
If this were the case, your approval odds could be significantly higher with other insurers.
3. Buy A Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance Policy
A third option, especially if you need coverage immediately, is to apply with a life insurance company that offers “guaranteed acceptance” policies.
As the name suggests, approval is guaranteed with these policies, and your weight is not a factor.
But as you probably guessed, there’s a catch:
- Guaranteed acceptance policies offer minimal coverage, typically no more than $25,000 (industry-wide).
- Monthly premiums are significantly higher than an equivalent, fully underwritten term life insurance policy — so investing your premium amounts may be more economical than putting those funds towards an insurance policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does your weight affect your life insurance?
Yes and no. It is very unlikely that you will be denied life insurance coverage solely because of your weight (even if you are obese). However, in terms of the monthly premiums you will pay, your weight is one of the primary factors that life insurance companies consider. This is because obesity (i.e., having a BMI of over 30) is linked to a number of conditions that can shorten your life, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and a range of cardiovascular conditions.
Can overweight people get life insurance?
Absolutely. Even people who are overweight can qualify for great life insurance rates, assuming they have no other health problems that might increase their risk level. Your health or weight aren’t considered when the employer pays for the coverage.
Should I lose weight before getting life insurance?
The best path would be to lose weight before applying for a life insurance policy. If you are 40 pounds overweight, this will almost certainly result in higher rates. Every insurer will have higher rates for people 70 pounds or more overweight.
We hope this helped answer most of your questions about how your weight affects your ability to be approved for life insurance.
If you have any questions left, however, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send us an email at [email protected].
The GetSure Team