Which Health Class Am I? (Life Insurance Health Class Ratings)


Last Updated: 04/26/2018


One of the most common questions we hear at our life insurance agency is, “Which health class am I?”

If you’ve ever shopped for life insurance, you have probably seen at least one website offering a free life insurance quote online – but how do you know if your health is considered Preferred Best, Preferred, Standard Plus, Standard, or Substandard? Without this information, it’s difficult to get an accurate quote.

In this article, we’ll explain the different health or “risk” classes used by life insurance companies, and how the insurance companies determine an applicant’s level of risk.

Quick Article Guide:

  1. How Do Life Insurance Companies Determine My Risk Class?
  2. Which Health Class Do I Actually Qualify For?
  3. Why Work with an Independent Agent?
  4. Can a 50-Year-Old to Qualify for “Preferred Best” Rates (#1 Risk Class)?
  5. How Does Someone Qualify for “Preferred” Rates (#2 Risk Class)?
  6. How Does Someone Qualify for “Standard Plus” Rates (#3 Risk Class)?
  7. How Does Someone Qualify for “Standard” Rates (#4 Risk Class)?
  8. What Would Cause My Life Insurance to be “Table-Rated” or “Substandard?”
  9. How We Can Help

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Coverage Amount

$500,000

  • $25,000
  • $50,000
  • $100,000
  • $200,000
  • $250,000
  • $300,000
  • $400,000
  • $500,000
  • $600,000
  • $700,000
  • $750,000
  • $800,000
  • $900,000
  • $1,000,000
  • $1,500,000
  • $2,000,000
  • $3,000,000
  • $4,000,000
  • $5,000,000
  • $10,000,000+

Term Length

20 Years

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  • 20 Years
  • 25 Years
  • 30 Years
  • 20-Year Return of Premium
  • 30-Year Return of Premium
  • Lifetime

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How Do Life Insurance Companies Determine My Risk Class?

Life insurance underwriters use a “risk scale” of 12-16 different rate categories, which is a much wider spectrum than the four or five rate categories you usually see online. These categories are used to assess your health and your lifestyle mortality risk, or less politely put – the risk to the insurance company of paying your death claim. Life insurance companies determine this “risk” by studying mortality statistics that are based on a population group’s occupation, age, and health.

Essentially, life insurers are looking at the risk of insuring someone for the number of years they’re asking to be insured for. This is why they consider factors like family history, instead of only considering your present health issues like a doctor typically does. The risk class you are approved for ultimately determines your final rates, or the cost of your life insurance policy once your application is underwritten and approved.

What you see online can be misleading if you have serious health issues. The reason is that online quote engines only display the top four risk categories: Preferred Best, Preferred, Standard Plus, and Standard. After we reach our 50’s, the top category, “Preferred Best” or “Preferred Plus,” is only achieved by 5-8% of the population. By this time, most of us begun showing some “wear and tear”, and we no longer fit in our skinny jeans.

Which Health Class Do I Actually Qualify For?

When determining your rate class, life insurance companies rely on their underwriters to determine your overall risk. An underwriter is a person who has been trained by the insurance company to assess your mortality risk over time.

Some of the factors an underwriter will consider when approving an application include:

  • Your height in comparison to your weight, also known as your “build”
  • Your history of health treatments and surgeries
  • Any current/past medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Hazardous occupations or hobbies

Our agency offers affordable no-exam life insurance, but most policies with a death benefit of more than $500,000 require an exam for approval. The insurance company you apply with will help you schedule for a nurse/phlebotomist to your home, free of charge. The nurse will collect a small blood and urine sample, check your blood pressure, and measure your height and weight.

This mini-health check is free, even if you decide not to buy the life insurance policy. Some companies will also automatically send you a free copy of your lab report to save you a trip to the doctor’s office. Please see our article, “What do Life Insurance Companies Test For?” for more information.

Insider’s Tips: Each life insurance company has its own unique set of guidelines and niches. Therefore, some insurers may be better for a specific; health issue, lifestyle concern, or unfavorable family health history than others. This is why it is so important to work with an independent agency that can shop dozens of companies to help you get the best rates.

Why Work with an Independent Agent Instead of a Local Agent?

Working with an experienced and independent life insurance agent that specializes in pre-qualification underwriting will help you save time and money.

When shopping for life insurance, an independent agent should ask you some questions about your health and lifestyle. The reason these questions are important is because they allow your agent to work as a “matchmaker” between you and the insurance companies. This ensures that you’re applying with the best insurer available for your specific health and lifestyle.

While walking into local insurance office like a Farmers or State Farm office may seem convenient, its important to note that these big name insurers force their agents to be “captive”. In the insurance industry, “captive” does not mean that your agent is being held for ransom, but it does prevent them from selling life insurance for any company other than the company they work for.

Unfortunately, these companies specialize primarily in home and auto insurance, and they cannot offer as much leniency with health issues as the companies that specialize in life insurance only. In fact, the “A+” rated companies we represent are typically 30% to 40% less expensive than most big-box home and auto providers, even for people in excellent health.

For instance, one of the top-rated companies we represent, Transamerica, is extremely lenient with applicants who have respiratory or circulatory ailments. Whereas, Prudential is one of the only companies in America that will offer a non-smoke rates to an applicant that chews or smoke cigars. While Banner Life/William Penn, another one of the 60+ companies we represent, offers more leniency for well-controlled type-II diabetics than any other company in the industry.

Our agents are extremely experienced with life insurance underwriting, and have access to each company’s underwriting guidelines. With more than 60 A-rated insurance companies at our disposal, we’re able to shop the market to find the best match available for our clients. Many large call center agencies only work with 6-8 companies, leaving you with fewer choices, and less options to save.

Can a 50-Year Old to Qualify for “Preferred Best” Rates (#1 Risk Class)?

preferred-best

If you are less than 15 pounds overweight, a non-smoker, and have no serious health issues, you have a good chance of qualifying for a preferred best rate with some of the companies we represent.

As we mentioned earlier, every life company has unique underwriting guidelines. As an example, companies like Principal, Prudential, and American General actually provide their applicants with a larger weight allowance as they get older.

Many life insurance companies actually overlook preventative medications for issues like elevated blood pressure, hypothyroidism, and cholesterol. In addition, some providers will even overlook an occasional cigar, mild depression, well-controlled anxiety, or even a family history of cancer.

Again, this why you want to work with an expert who has access to multiple companies—life insurance is not a “one size fits all” purchase. While one company will overlook a given health issue, another company may try to charge you double for the same minor health ailment.

Sample Guidelines for “Preferred Best” Risk Class (Undisclosed Provider)

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 136/86
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medications: Above 120, or less than 300
  • Cholesterol Ratio: Must be 5.0 or less; to calculate this number, divide your total cholesterol number by your HDL number
  • Family History: Family history is overlooked as long as there is no evidence of hereditary cancer
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last 3 years; one cigar per month is acceptable, but you must test negative for nicotine at the time of the exam.

Here’s how some of this “A+” rated company’s guidelines compare to a company like State Farm:

 State FarmBanner
CholesterolTotal Cholesterol must be under 175Total cholesterol must be under 300
Blood PressureMust be under 115/70Must be under 136/86
Family historyNo family history of cancer or heart diseaseFamily history of cancer is okay as long as there is no evidence of cancer being hereditary
Traffic Violations No moving violations in the last 24 months, and no history of a DUI/DWI everUp to 2 moving violations in the last 3 years, or DUI/DWI more than 5 years ago
Height/Weight Allowances5'10" 50-year-old male:
Up to 191 pounds
5'10" 50-year-old male:
Up to 196 pounds
Vigorous ExerciseRequired for "preferred best" approvalMay be used for underwriting credits to improve rate class

How Does Someone Qualify for “Preferred” Life Insurance Rates (#2 Risk Class)?

If you are fewer than 20-30 pounds overweight, and have no serious health issues, you could have a good chance of qualifying as a “Preferred” risk, the #2 category.

Just about all companies will overlook medications for blood pressure, thyroid, and cholesterol and still offer you a Preferred rate, as long as you are compliant with your doctor’s recommendations for follow-ups and your medications are controlling the issue.

In addition, some companies will also overlook an occasional cigar, and in most cases, all family history. Some companies offer Preferred rates for someone with well-controlled anxiety and depression. Call us at: 855-902-6494 and we’ll provide a free, no-obligation underwriting assessment, right over the phone.

Sample Guidelines for “Preferred” Risk Class (Undisclosed Provider)

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 146/90
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medications: Above 120, or less than 300
  • Cholesterol Ratio: Must be 5.5 or less
  • Family History: No cardiovascular disease in either parent or sibling before age 60
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last 2 years; one cigar per month is acceptable, but you must test negative for nicotine at the time of the exam.

How Does Someone Qualify for “Standard Plus” Life Insurance Rates (#3 Risk Class)?

standard-plus

Standard Plus rates (#3 risk class) can be available to someone who is as much as 50 pounds overweight, as long as there are no other serious health issues. This is also the lowest rate category available to someone under the age of 70 with well-controlled diabetes.

With a few companies, standard plus rates are also available to daily cigar smokers, e-cigarettes smokers, and tobacco chewers, but non-cigarette smokers. In some cases, this rate class may be also be available to some cancer survivors who are five years past their last treatment.

Sample Guidelines for “Standard Plus” Risk Class (Undisclosed Provider)

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 152/92
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medication: Above 120, or less than 300
  • Cholesterol Ratio: Must be 7.0 or less
  • Family History: Usually not considered at this rate class
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last year; unlimited use of cigars, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes. (This is not standard with all carriers; contact us for a list of the companies that offer this option.)

How Does Someone Qualify for “Standard” Life Insurance Rates (#4 Risk Class)?

standard

Standard rates (meaning average mortality risk compared for your age/health group) can be available to someone who is more than 50 pounds overweight, as long as there are no serious health issues. This is also the lowest rate category available to qualifying cancer survivors who are more two or more years past the end of their last treatment.

Standard rates are also common for someone with well-controlled diabetes (under 7.0 A1C) who was diagnosed in their 40’s. Remember, you don’t have to figure out these rate classes all by yourself. Our agents can provide you with a free, no-obligation underwriting assessment and accurate quotes right over the phone.

Sample Guidelines for “Standard” Risk Class (Undisclosed Provider)

  • Blood Pressure limit, with or without medication: 156/94
  • Total Cholesterol, with or without medication: Above 120, or less than 300
  • Cholesterol Ratio: Must be 8.0 or less
  • Family History: Not considered at this rate class
  • Tobacco Use: No cigarettes in the last year; unlimited use of cigars, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes. (Again, this not standard across the board. We can tell you which carriers offer this option.)

What Would Cause My Life Insurance to be “Table-Rated” or “Substandard”?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete or even in average (“Standard”) health to protect your family with life insurance.

Being more than 60 pounds overweight doesn’t prevent you from qualifying for $100,000 or more of life insurance at a reasonable cost, nor does having a history of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stents, stroke, brain aneurysm, multiple medications, or other serious health issues.

We also surprise a lot of people with approvals at “Standard” or better rates even when they believe that they’re “too fat” or prescribed multiple medications. Like any industry, you should always work with an experienced insider who knows the tricks of the trade to get the coverage and the best rates.

If you feel you may fall into a substandard category, having an independent life insurance agent to shop the market for you is essential. “Substandard risk” life insurance rates aren’t typically available through online pricing agents. In addition, applying with the right company will minimize the chance of having your application declined.

Life insurance companies share life insurance applications and their outcomes via the Medical Information Bureau or MIB. Getting declined for coverage by applying with the wrong company can make it harder to get an approval in the future.

How We Can Help You Find the Best Insurance Policy Available

If you have questions, or if you would like a free, no-obligation quote, give us a call today. We can be reached toll-free at: 855-902-6494, and one our experts will be able to determine your best options in just a few minutes. We’ll also send you cost comparisons from top-rated insurers based on your age, health, and lifestyle.

tla can help

Term Life Advice works with more than 60 top-rated insurance carriers including “A+” rated: Transamerica, Prudential, Protective Life, United of Omaha, Lincoln, Nationwide, and Legal & General. Our owner-operated agency has more than 50 years of collective experience, and we’ve helped thousands of people just like you!

If you’re not ready to talk to an agent now, you can also request a complimentary life insurance quotes online below. By filling in a few blanks, you’ll be able to instantly compare actual rates from more than a dozen top-rated companies in under a minute.


Search from over 60 providers

Get your free life insurance quote in less than a minute

Coverage Amount

$500,000

  • $25,000
  • $50,000
  • $100,000
  • $200,000
  • $250,000
  • $300,000
  • $400,000
  • $500,000
  • $600,000
  • $700,000
  • $750,000
  • $800,000
  • $900,000
  • $1,000,000
  • $1,500,000
  • $2,000,000
  • $3,000,000
  • $4,000,000
  • $5,000,000
  • $10,000,000+

Term Length

20 Years

  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
  • 20 Years
  • 25 Years
  • 30 Years
  • 20-Year Return of Premium
  • 30-Year Return of Premium
  • Lifetime

or (855) 902-6494

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