How much do premium rates rise if you are overweight?

Millions of Americans are overweight. Stating this openly at the outset is important to understanding how the government and the life insurance industry are reacting. Taking the adult population, it's estimated about hundred-twenty-seven million are overweight, sixty million more are obese, and nine million are severely obese. Because of the cost to the healthcare industry, federal and state governments have been trying to encourage Americans to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. The FDA is moving on regulations to force food producers to show the nutritional value of the food more clearly on the labels, schools and colleges are removing soft drink machines, even reality television is adding to the propaganda by running shows such as The Biggest Loser, and so on. So what exactly are we talking about here?

What is obesity?

Each life insurance company has its own height/weight charts. The majority base their charts on the Body Mass Index as the starting point for judging the acceptability of weight. Others are moving on to the height/waist ratio. The cheapest rates are given to people who keep their BMI below 25. The further you go over this range, the higher the annual premium rate.

An example of the health classification based on BMI:

Height Weight range BMI Status
5' 9" 124 pounds or less 18.5 or less below ideal weight
5' 9" 125 to 165 pounds 18.6 to 25 the ideal weight
5' 9" 166 to 200 pounds 25.1 to 30 overweight

Shopping around

Insurers have a different view of the ideal body type so by getting as many life insurance quotes as possible, you can begin to identify which insurers have the most generous definitions and the lowest rates.

What are the common results of obesity?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a long list of problems caused by carrying excess weight. These are the most important in alphabetical order:

What to do if you lose weight

Remember once you have been through the medical examination, the rates for term life and many of the whole life policies are fixed for the duration of the term. So if you lose weight before the examination, the insurer cannot later penalize you if you put the weight back on. That said, you will live longer and have a better quality of life if you keep your weight down. Let's turn that the other way round. Suppose you go through the medical examination at an unhealthy weight and begin to pay a higher premium. If you lose weight and your health improves, there's nothing to prevent you from asking for another examination. If this confirms an improvement in your life expectancy, you can ask for a reduction. There's no obligation on the insurer to agree, of course, but you can only improve your relationship with the insurer by showing you now care more about your health.