Life Insurers Use The Body Mass Index To Tighten The Belt On Fat People


 Life Insurers Use The Body Mass Index To Tighten The Belt On Fat People

You might be surprised to find out that life insurers are using your weight and height against you. They’re penalizing people for carrying extra weight, and they’ve been doing it for quite a while now. In most cases, these higher premiums can add up to a difference of thousands of dollars!

This blog post will tell you how life insurance companies use the Body Mass Index to judge your risk as an insured individual. We'll also show you how this affects individuals with different weights who have the same BMI score. And finally, we'll offer some tips on how this might affect your own experience with an insurer.

(Note: The cited article is from 2014, so some things may have changed as a result of that, or maybe not.)

What Is the BMI?
The Body Mass Index is a number that's used to measure the relationship between your weight and height. It's compiled by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. So if you weigh 100 kg and are 1.7 m tall, then your BMI would be 100/1.7 = 74 kg/m2 .

After arriving at your BMI, it's fed into a formula that comes up with your "underlying fatness." This score indicates how much of you is made up of fat, and how much is made up of lean tissue. A BMI under 20 is considered ideal, while a BMI over 30 means that your underlying fatness exceeds what's considered healthy.

What Impact Does The BMI Have On The Cost Of Your Life Insurance?

The short answer: If you're overweight or obese, then chances are you'll see higher life insurance rates when compared to thinner people who have the same BMI score.

For example, according to LifeHealthPro, a moderately obese person (i.e. someone with a BMI of 35) and an otherwise similar person with the same BMI score but who is not obese would pay $1,415 on average more for their life insurance.

The average difference in premiums between a person with overweight BMI and a thin person with the same BMI (9%) is roughly twice as much as the average difference in premiums between an obese and overweight person (5%).

What Are The Weight Classes For Life Insurance?

The most common weight classes for life insurance are: "healthy weight," "overweight," "obese" and "morbidly obese. "In the United States, there is no universal definition for what constitutes an "overweight" or "obese" person; each insurance company may define these classes differently.

For example, the standard weight class for men is "overweight"; however, Life Health Pro defines overweight as a BMI of 30-34.5 (p.8). They define morbidly obese as a BMI of 40-44.9 (p.9). These are only US standards; it's extremely likely that other countries will have their own classifications for these people as well.

Are Insurers Subject To Any Regulatory Oversight?

Yes. Under "The Affordable Care Act," the federal government requires that life insurers use certain standards to determine what constitutes an "obese" person. The standards they use are based on BMI scores, with a BMI of 30 or above considered to be "obese." See the link below for more information on the Federal government's role in regulating life insurance rates and policies in this area.

The ACA also requires that major medical underwriting (i.e. underwriting for people with pre-existing conditions) cannot start until 2014 at the earliest, and will not be required for those who already have health insurance coverage by 2014.

The FDA has also been working on a set of recommendations for insurers and employers to help them better understand the impact of overweight and obesity on life insurance rates. This includes recommendations for determining a "fitness" standard that is different from the BMI standard, as well as recommendations for better understanding how to measure the impact of underweight and a low fitness standard.

When Is it A Good Idea To Consider A Weight Loss Program?

If you've been given an offer letter with different underwriting premiums, it's possible that your insurer is using your weight against you. You might be able to get a better deal if you lost a few pounds, or alternatively, if you're able to prove that your weight isn't causing you any problems.

Of course, there's no guarantee that the underwriter will take your request into consideration. It might not make sense for them to change their criteria for underwriting purposes unless they want to lose money. But at the very least, it's worth asking!

What Comes Next?

If you're interested in how life insurance companies use obesity and weight based criteria, we recommend searching the internet for information on this topic. There are plenty of websites devoted to reviewing life insurance polices and provide information on how your insurer scores people based on their BMI score.

If you're looking for information that discusses how obesity might affect life expectancy, then we recommend taking a look at one of our previous blog posts on this topic. You can find that post here: How Does Obesity Affect Life Expectancy?

We also have some other posts discussing different types of underwriting criteria that are used by life insurance companies when insuring an applicant. You can find them here:

What Are The Most Common Underwriting Factors? Another look at the most common factors used by life insurers when determining your premium. What Is "Pre-Existing" Medical Underwriting? Explains how pre-existing medical conditions can impact your ability to get a policy. How Does Smoking Impact Your Life Insurance Rates? What Are The Most Common Underwriting Factors? A look at the factors that go into determining underwriting classifications for life policies.

Last updated: 04/25/2014

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Conclusion: We won't be able to determine with exact certainty how life insurance rates are calculated until we have some more data points. However, it seems likely that obesity can negatively impact your chances of getting a policy. This is particularly true if you're morbidly obese or if your BMI is above 35 for other reasons (such as being very muscular).

Please leave any additional comments below! I welcome them. There's no need to be afraid of political correctness; at the end of the day, most people want to hear what you have to say. So stay in touch and get in touch with me on social media! Thanks for reading! Gavin Andros | Facebook Page | Pinterest Boards

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