Underwriting Considerations for Term Life Insurance


That most Americans should buy a simple and inexpensive form of life insurance is well established, but how exactly to find the right policy is less well understood.

It is one thing to get a low quote for life insurance, however qualifying for that potential life insurance policy is the real key to getting that price.  Those low numbers are usually shown as being the best class available, however many Americans may not be able to quality for the best health class.

What exactly is a life insurance health class  and what does it have to do with term life insurance?

Your life insurance health class is a classification system that assists life insurers in rating proposed life insurance policies.  It takes into account many common health considerations.   There are four main life insurance health classes:  Preferred Plus (the best and lowest costing), Preferred, Standard Plus, and Standard.   Beyond these four classes are the so called Table Ratings.   Each of the four health classes listed above are further broken down into Tobacco or Non Tobacco use.

Term Life Insurance

There are lots of criteria that go into the underwriting of your health class.   The first, which is often the most obvious, is your weight.  Your weight matters more than most people would think it does because overweight people experience increased risk of all sorts of illnesses such as diabetes.   If an insurance agent knows nothing else about your health situation, your height and weight may be the biggest single indicator.    Each insurance company will maintain their own height weight chart and limits that they will accept for each health class.  A difference of just a few pounds, could mean a hundred dollars more per year in yearly premium costs.

Your general health history also matters greatly.  Have you had any major conditions, such as Heart Attacks, or Strokes?  Do you have any ongoing current issues such as Asthma or Cancer?   The more major the condition the more important, but really all health conditions matter.  Insurance carriers generally prefer to see a condition is being treated and that the applicant is following the prescribed plan.   In other words are refilling the prescription on time each and every month?

Believe it or not, your direct family’s health history matters as well.   Have your mom or dad had conditions such cardiovascular issues or various cancers?

There are several tests that most life insurance companies will run when completing a paramedical exam.   A paramedical exam is an exam done either at the client’s place of business or home at a time of their choosing.  Typically paramed exams are done for free.  One thing that will take place at your exam is that they will take your blood pressure.  A blood pressure reading that is either too high or too low could indicate possible issues and life insurance companies may rate you based on these results.

Cholesterol is another important health consideration.  Many seemingly perfectly healthy people unknowingly have high cholesterol.  Ask your doctor about your cholesterol levels to ensure that get the best rate possible.    Generally your cholesterol will be taking during your medical exam.   There are numerous other medical tests that will be performed, including testing you blood and or urine for prescription and nonprescription drugs.

There are other non-health related considerations such as what you like to do on your time off.  Certain activities such as Scuba Diving, Sky Diving, and Rock Climbing, depending on when you last went, how often you go, may mean that you need to pay more for life insurance.   When in doubt ask your life insurance agent about the types of activities that you do and if they are a concern for your proposed life insurer.    Insurance companies occasionally have differences of opinion about this, so it can pay to ask questions before you choosing an insurance company.

Driving is also an obvious consideration for all life insurers, as people that have more tickets tend to get into more accidents and hence need to pay more for term life insurance.   When was your last ticket?  How many tickets do you have? Your motor vehicle report will allow the insurance company a glimpse into your past driving experience. Asking your insurance agent about your past driving record could save you big time.

One last important consideration when determining your life insurance health class, is what you do for a living.   Do you do something dangerous for a living?  Obvious career issues might be a stunt driver, but commercial airline pilots may also be a concern for life insurance companies. Check with your agent.

All of these various factors assist in determining your acceptability, life insurance health class, and hence what you will pay for life insurance.  It is in your best interest, as a consumer, to know what the underwriting criteria are, so that you may prepare yourself with all of the information needed and to make your best case.   Clients that are educated about life insurance tend to secure a lower yearly premium and save money.

Scott W Johnson is the owner of WholeVsTermLifeInsurance.com a comparative life insurance website.  Johnson is an advocate of consumer insurance education and writes frequently about the differences between Whole, Universal, and Term Life Insurance. The motto of Whole Vs Term is “Life Insurance is Complex, Don’t Get Lost.”  Johnson can be found on twitter @marindependent1

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