Buying Life Insurance When Overweight or Obese: A Guide

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Being overweight or obese can make it challenging to find affordable life insurance. Still, everyone deserves to feel secure and protected no matter what the future brings. Luckily, there are still ways you can get coverage when overweight.

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There’s a lot of confusion around life insurance, regardless of health, wellness, or size. This guide will discuss the best types of life insurance if you’re overweight, how premiums or payouts are affected by obesity, shopping for a policy with this condition, and more. It’s always important to be informed when making important decisions about your future. 

Can You Buy a Life Insurance Policy If You’re Overweight or Obese?

First, it’s not always clear whether you can buy a life insurance policy if you’re over a certain weight. In short, the answer is yes, you can buy life insurance if you’re overweight or obese. This is especially true if you don’t suffer from severe weight-related health issues, like limited mobility due to being morbidly obese. 

If you’re an athlete or, for some other reason, have a high Body Mass Index (BMI) but a low body fat percentage, you may still qualify for the best rates an insurer offers. This is an opportunity to talk to your doctor about your weight and health outlook. As many already know, weight isn’t always the best indicator of health. 

How Your Weight Affects Your Life Insurance Rates

Unfortuantely, because being overweight or obese has been linked to additional health issues, it is a condition that is of concern to life insurance companies. As a result, insurers evaluate each applicant individually and price policies accordingly. 

The rates you pay for your policy will be based on the class into which the insurance company places you. For most insurers, the classes are:

  • Preferred Plus: If you’re in excellent health and without a history of medical issues, you will probably qualify for preferred plus rates. If you're over the ideal weight for your height by just a few pounds, the insurer is unlikely to give you this rating.
  • Preferred: This rating is for those who have a minor medical issue or a family history of moderate health conditions. Still, if otherwise in excellent health, you'll likely qualify for a preferred rating. Some insurers also offer a preferred category for smokers who would otherwise be eligible for preferred plus rates except for their tobacco usage.
  • Standard Plus: this class typically includes people who are in good health except having a negative family history or a single condition that prevents them from qualifying for preferred rates.
  • Standard: This class is for people of average health that may have a couple of common but controlled issues, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. There's also a standard rating for tobacco users. If you're overweight, and particularly if you're obese, you'll likely receive a standard rating.
  • Table Ratings: This is a category for high-risk applicants. Unless you have a very high BMI, it's unlikely you’ll receive a table rating for life insurance based upon weight alone. Additional medical issues are usually present when a policy is issued with table ratings.

Additionally, some life insurance companies will take age into account, providing more favorable rates to younger applicants who are slightly overweight. This is because the ideal weight range for a given height broadens as an applicant gets older. Categorizing people based on health factors is far from a perfect science, so don’t take these classes personally.

Why Do Life Insurance Companies Have BMI Requirements?

What’s the deal with these BMI requirements anyway? With a lot of mixed opinions around whether BMI is a useful metric, it’s understandable to be confused about this in regards to life insurance. 

In short, this is because having a high BMI increases your chances of developing a medical issue in the future. Life insurance companies put BMI requirements into place to price their policies accordingly. Since insurance providers are in the business of making money, these requirements protect their interests. 

They’re concerned about an insured individual later developing a condition linked to obesity that increases mortality risk, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fatty liver disease

Though you may be overweight and not have any of these conditions, insurers won’t offer you preferred rates because of their inability to adjust premiums after a policy is issued.

What Are the Best Types of Life Insurance for People Who are Overweight or Obese?

There are two types of life insurance that overweight or obese people should consider: traditional life insurance (term and whole life) and guaranteed issue life insurance. Unless you’re an insurance agent, it’s normal to be confused about these definitions and what they mean in reality. 

Traditional life insurance

First, traditional life insurance includes two types of policies: term life and whole life. Term life insurance offers protection for a predetermined period, such as 5, 10, or 20 years, and is the most affordable coverage you can buy. It provides a death benefit to your beneficiary if you die during the period specified in the policy. Unlike permanent insurance like universal or whole life, term life insurance doesn’t accumulate any cash surrender value. 

Though term insurance is generally less expensive than other types of insurance, it does have one major drawback. If you outlive the policy’s term, you may not be able to qualify for another life insurance policy if you’ve experienced any complications related to your weight or have developed any other health problems.

Some term life insurance policies have a guaranteed insurability option that will let you convert your term life policy to a permanent type of life insurance regardless of your current medical condition and without proving insurability. A professional life insurance agent can help you find this type of policy and determine how much life insurance you need.

Whole life insurance is also available for people who are overweight or obese, but it’s more expensive than term life insurance. It costs more because it has several advantages. First, whole life insurance accumulates what is known as “cash surrender value.”

A slice of every dollar you pay in premiums is deposited into the cash value component of your whole life policy. The cash value receives interest at a rate set by the life insurance company, and some insurers will also add dividends to the cash value, depending upon their profitability in a given year. 

Also, whole life insurance will remain in force for as long as you pay the premiums, unlike term life insurance which will expire at a point specified in the policy. Last, whole life insurance premiums never increase. Regardless of your age or any changes to your health, your premiums will remain the same with a traditional whole life policy.

Guaranteed life insurance

As mentioned above, guaranteed issue life insurance is another option if you are overweight or obese and want to buy life insurance but have been declined when you’ve applied for a traditional term or whole life policy. 

Guaranteed issue policies are the most expensive policies sold by life insurance companies because they assume a large amount of risk without underwriting. The insurer won’t ask you any questions about your health history or require you to undergo a medical examination with guaranteed issue life. 

Guaranteed issue policies are usually small whole life policies with limited death benefit amounts ($2,000 to $25,000), though a few life insurers offer policies with death benefits of $50,000 or greater. Guaranteed issue life policies also differ from traditional life insurance policies with a lump sum payout. They have a “graded death benefit” feature, meaning that your named beneficiary will only receive a partial death benefit payout if you die during the policies’ first two years.

Does Being Overweight or Obese Affect Premiums or Payouts?

Being overweight or obese may affect your premiums, but it won’t affect your beneficiary's payout of the death benefit. As previously mentioned, when a life insurance company issues a policy to someone who is overweight or obese, the insurer may charge higher than standard rates for the coverage. Rates will vary by insurer.

For example, a 200-pound overweight male might get a Preferred rating from Mutual of Omaha but a Standard rating from American General. But a 220-pound obese male with no other medical issues could receive a Standard Plus from Primerica and get favorable premiums for term life insurance.

Once a policy is issued, the payout isn’t affected by a person’s weight or obesity. A life insurance policy is a binding contract in which the insurance company has agreed to pay a death benefit to a beneficiary named in the policy upon the insured person's death, regardless of the cause or pre-existing medical, unless the policy expressly excludes it, such as suicide or being killed while committing a crime. 

How long it takes to get a life insurance payout will depend on the life insurance company that issued the policy. This is a question to ask your specific provider. 

How to Shop for a Life Insurance Policy If You’re Overweight or Obese

There are many online resources provided by life insurance companies, agents, and brokers that will give you choices of different types of policies and quote rates. The entire process of shopping for a life insurance policy can be completed online, including completing an application.

However, if you’re overweight or obese, the best strategy may be to find coverage through an independent life insurance agent specializing in helping people who are considered a higher risk. Independent agents represent many companies and can compare policies to get you the most favorable rating. 

In some cases, the agent may have you apply with more than one company and see what ratings they come back with. Even though an insurance company approves your application, you’re never obligated to accept the policy.

Frequently Asked Questions: Buying Life Insurance When You’re Overweight or Obese

Being overweight or obese can make buying life insurance more complicated. These are some FAQs concerning weight and its relationship to purchasing life insurance.

What happens if you get denied coverage based on your weight?

If your application to buy a traditional term life or whole life insurance policy is declined because of your weight, you have several options. One option is to apply for a guaranteed issue life insurance policy. As the name implies, insurers guarantee that you’ll be issued a policy, regardless of your weight. Everyone who applies is approved. 

However, you will pay more for a guaranteed issue life policy than any other type of life insurance. The reason is you won’t have to answer any medical questions, and you won’t have to take a medical exam. Without knowing anything about your health history, the insurer will issue you a policy, which increases their financial risk and your rates. 

Also, consider simplified issue life insurance policies. Simplified issue policies have modified underwriting requirements set in place by the insurance company. You will be required to answer several health questions on a short application, but you won’t need a medical examination. It’s easier to qualify for simplified issue life than for guaranteed issue life but more difficult than qualifying for a traditional policy with standard rates.

What happens if you become overweight or obese after you’ve purchased a life insurance policy? 

Once you’re issued a life insurance policy, an insurer can’t cancel your policy or raise your rates if you later become overweight or obese. The life insurance policy you were issued is a binding contract, and the insurer is legally obligated to honor the terms of that policy, including paying your beneficiary a death benefit for any cause of death not excluded in the policy.

Are there any good alternatives to life insurance if you’re overweight or obese? 

There are several good alternatives to life insurance for someone who can’t qualify for a life insurance policy because of being overweight or obese. The first alternative is to purchase an annuity from an insurance company. 

An annuity is a financial product you can use to set money aside for your loved ones when you die. Deposits made into an annuity may or may not be tax-deductible, depending on the type of annuity you buy. An annuity’s growth is tax-deferred - you won’t pay income taxes until you withdraw it.

Traditional savings and investment accounts are also alternatives to buying life insurance. Depending on the type of account, deposits may be tax deductible, and taxes due on the principal’s growth won’t be payable until you withdraw money from the account. 

The downside to annuities and other types of savings and investment accounts is that it takes a long time for deposits to grow and become substantial enough to provide financial security to your loved ones when you pass away. 

Tell The Truth About Your Weight When Applying for Life Insurance

 Unless you’re buying guaranteed issue life insurance, your weight will matter concerning your insurability and rates. If you’re applying online and won’t be taking a medical exam or providing doctor’s records, you can easily misrepresent your weight on the application.

Resist the temptation to do this. If the insurance company determines you misled them, it could be considered fraud, and your policy will be canceled. Or, worse yet, if you die and the life insurance company investigates your claim, they could void your policy and deny paying the death benefit to your beneficiary. 

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