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Being fat is hard. Having been overweight for most of my life you’d think that I’d have gotten good at it but it’s still a grind. However, even after all these years, there’s not much that throws my condition in my face as much as being refused life insurance coverage. It’s only happened to me once but, judging by the questions I get from people in the same shoes as I (extra wide shoes…) it’s not an uncommon occurrence.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a secret sauce for you. I do, however, have a dose of reality and some practical advice. No matter what enticing tales an insurance agent spin to get your through their door, here’s the truth:
If you are morbidly obese there are two options for getting life insurance: improve your health until you qualify with a preferred provider, or simply shop around until you find someone who will insure you and pay whatever premium they demand. You can expect to pay several times what someone with a lower BMI would pay but it’s a small price to not be one of the 48% of people who die without life insurance and leave nothing for their families.
Why do life insurance companies deny people?
Being obese is just one of a myriad of reasons they people get denied. Insurance companies approve/deny people based on how risky of an “investment” they think it will be to insure you. The more likely it is that they will have to pay out your policy, the more likely it is that they deny you or charge you a big fat premium. Because of the health complications (and shorter lifespan) incumbent with obesity, we can expect significantly higher payments.
That doesn’t mean that all hope is lost though. There is hope and, if you have experienced denial, let’s talk about the way forward.
What to do if you’re denied life insurance:
1. Find out why you were refused coverage
The first you should do if you’re denied coverage is to hop on the phone and find out the reason behind it. Yes, you may be obese, but you may have been denied coverage because of a compounding factor such as a dangerous job or your adrenaline-seeking hobbies.
Knowing why you were refused coverage can help you take steps towards fixing whatever is causing the blockage.
2. Talk to an agent
Agents might not have any magical secrets, but there are good at what they do! Having someone on your side who knows how to navigate the industry can be an invaluable resource. A quality agent can typically find you a company that is more likely to accept you, as well as give you advice if you get rejected.
If you don’t want to chat with a dozen of people on the phone, I highly recommend you try PolicyGenius for a quote.
3. Apply for a different type of policy
There are 4 types of life insurance policies that people commonly apply for/have: group life insurance, term life insurance, simplified life insurance, and guaranteed issue life insurance. While there is some overlap here, understanding these terms and types of insurances will help most obese people the most beneficial option:
- Term Life Insurance: Term life insurance is typically the easiest full-coverage type of life insurance and is a great option for morbidly obese people. For term life insurance you are covered for a specified amount of time (typically 10, 20, or 30 years) and pay a monthly premium. If you die prematurely, your family gets the money. If you don’t, then your policy expires at a point where you (hopefully) no longer have kids at home, have fewer bills, and have significant savings.
- Whole Life Insurance: Whole life insurance is just what it sounds like, life insurance for your whole life. You will pay a premium significantly higher premium than for Term Life Insurance (typically 5-10x as much depending on age, etc) but your family receives a guaranteed payout at your death, you get a “cash value” savings account, you can borrow money against your plan, etc. This type of plan is significantly more complex and can be very expensive if you are obese. (read more about Term vs. Whole Life Insurance)
- Group Life Insurance: Group life insurance is the easiest to get as it does not require a medical examination. This is typically the type of life insurance offered through your job. For example, my last job offered $25,000 of complimentary life insurance (yippee) and gave me the option to add on if I decided to pay extra.
- Simplified Life Insurance: Simplified life insurance is one of the best options for morbidly obese people who want to buy a little time to figure out a more long term solution. There is no medical exam and your premium is determined by a short questionnaire. You can expect a higher premium than with other insurance types but you have the advantage of a life insurance policy that goes into effect with almost no waiting time. (read more here)
- Guaranteed Issue: Guaranteed issue life insurance provides an option for many people who could not otherwise get life insurance. It is typically a small plan ($2-25,000) that you can get with no medical exam and no health questions. For this reason, it is often referred to as a “no questions asked” life insurance policy. The main issue with this type of policy is that is has a 2-3 year waiting period (depending on the company) before your policy is actually active. (read more here)
Unlike a car loan or a mortgage, you shouldn’t use the shotgun approach and apply to a dozen different companies until you get approved. This is because there is a national database in which insurance companies have access to where they can peruse your past insurance applications and denials. This system was originally meant to make companies aware if a person has lied on an application in the past but, if you have a dozen denials on your record, it’s going to make companies wonder when they look through your application.
4. Fix what caused the denial
This is last because, in general, you should not wait to get life insurnace until you’ve lost weight, quit smoking, etc. However, it you’re able to get adequate life insurance for the moment, take the time to work on the things that raise your premium or increase your chances of denial. Not only will this save you money, it will also decrease the chances that you’ll you’ll need to use your policy anytime soon.
How much is life insurance for morbidly obese people?
The short answer is, it depends. Life insurance premiums are based on how much risk you pose for the insurance company. They are literally gambling (using science) on how likely it is that they will need to pay out on your policy. To keep the odds slightly in their favor, they will refuse a top percentage of the riskiest applicants and the fatter you are, the riskier you are.
Since every insurance company is different (just like every auto insurance company is different) you can expect different companies to have different risk tolerances, different prices, and different acceptance rates.
These are some rates that would be considered “average” for a 20-year term life insurance policy that would pay out at $500,00. Our “test subject” is an otherwise healthy 5’9″ man.
After the weight of 255 (BMI of 38) the annual prices diverge somewhat depending on who the carrier for your policy would be. At a weight of around 330lbs (BMI of 49) our man could expect to start getting denials from most companies.
Don’t forget that if you have other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. (even if they’re not related to obesity) these could send your rates higher still.
So a concise what to say it is something like: without confounding factors: increasing your BMI has an exponential effect on the cost of life insurance premiums. However, also note that the above estimates assume that you have not other significant problems or complications such as heart disease (or a family history of heart disease), nicotine use, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
I talked to an agent and got several quotes for myself with the pretense of losing weight to save myself some money. While there are many many factors to consider, manipulating my weight alone saw my policy go from $29/month to $69/month to not qualifying at all.
Life Insurance for Morbidly Obese People FAQs
Finding life insurance for morbidly obese clients (or yourself) can be difficult. I tried to be pretty thorough thus far but here are some other common concerns we’ve had come up on the issue:
Why was I denied life insurance converage?
If you’re here, you probably suspect that you were denied coverage due to your weight. While that is possible, there are several other reasons that you may have been denied. The presence of multiple risk-factors makes it much more likely for denial. If you are morbidly obese and have any of the following, the difficulty of getting life insurance is greatly increased:
- Too low of income. Low income demographics tend to be riskier and increase the chance that an insurance payout will be required.
- Poor health markers. Elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure (hallmarks of obesity) are almost guaranteed to increase your policy premium.
- Hazardous Occupation. Obviously…if you have a greater chance of dying, you’ll have to pay more for life insurance.
- Extreme or Dangerous Hobbies. Ditto.
- Driving Record. If you have several tickets, it will appear to any insurance company that you are careless/reckless and they will bill you for it.
- Credit History. Having a poor credit history will typically not get you denied but the presence of something like bankruptcy will certainly influence the price you pay.
- Being Declined Previously. Insurance companies are typically leery of approving something that they feel other companies found too risky to insure.
- Drug/Heavy Alcohol Use. Checkmark for unhealthy and dangerous behaviours affecting your life insurance. Nicotine is the most commonly abused drug that will greatly affect your life insurance so, if you smoke/vape, stop.
What should I do if I was denied life insurance coverage because of my weight?
If you were denied life insurance because of your weight, talk to an agent. They can recommend companies and policies that you are more likely to be accepted for. Be sure to talk to an independent agent as they can get you a life insurance quote from dozens of companies as opposed to a captive agent that can only sell you products from the company they work for.
What happens if I lie on a life insurance questionnaire?
While many people do lie on life insurance applications it’s a terrible idea for two reasons (besides your personal integrity):
- There is a database for liars. If you have lied on a past application (and got caught), any other company you apply to will be able to see this.
- If you lie and die, the insurance company may pay out at a lower rate or not at all. Lying breaks the contract you have meaning they may not have to pay at all, leaving your family with none of the life insurance money you lied to get and had to pay for.
Do I have to have a medical exam to get life insurance?
No! There are several “no questions asked” policy options available. However, because such policies are much riskier for the insuring company you can expect a much higher premium and/or a waiting period. For many obese people, “no-exam” life insurance policies are a good short-term option until you can get your weight and other factors under control.
Do insurance companies consider obesity a pre-existing condition?
Yes. This doesn’t mean that they will treat you a specific way if you are morbidly obese though. They may or may not still approve you for a policy.
How much life insurance do I need?
A good starting point is to get 10-12x your annual salary in life insurance coverage. So if you make $80,000 per year, look for a policy that provides $800,000-$1,200,000 in coverage. This can vary based on your age, size of household etc. Also, since higher dollar policies carry higher monthly premiums you should be sure to talk to an agent to get the most value for your dollar.
5 Companies to Look At
I’ve tried to make it abundantly clear by now, but life insurance quotes can vary enough by the person and individual situation that they can sometimes feel random and arbitrary. However, these 5 companies are ones that I’ve heard good things about and, as a morbidly obese person, you probably have a better chance of getting approved.
*I don’t have personal experience with any of these companies and have not been paid to include them here. I include them in the interest of being helpful and giving you a place to start. You should do your own due diligence and probably work with a life insurance agent who is experienced with overweight and obese clients.
In the end, getting life insurance as an obese or morbidly obese person is not out of the question. It is very doable and there are options (not great options, but options) that nearly everyone can get approved for.