When you purchase a life insurance policy, your provider will assign you a certain rate classification. These classifications are essentially estimations of your risk level based on several different health factors. Your classification will determine, among other things, whether or not you’ll have to pay more for your insurance due to factors like being overweight, smoking or chewing tobacco, unhealthy drinking habits, a dangerous job, risky hobbies, or a serious medical condition.
Your classification can make a huge impact on the amount of premium you have to pay each month, leaving many wondering if there is anything they can do to change their classification after signing up for a policy. Fortunately the answer, in many cases, is yes. If you think that you are considerably healthier now than when you took out your policy, it is indeed possible to ask your health insurance provider for a reevaluation under certain circumstances. Let’s have a look at some of the factors that may or may not affect your life insurance classification.
First, the bad news. There are certain medical conditions that you simply can’t do anything about. For instance, if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, or a chronic heart condition, you most likely won’t be eligible for an improved classification as these conditions are unlikely to go away or improve significantly enough to warrant a reevaluation.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an occasional cigar smoker, or a pack-a-day cigarette smoker, insurance companies don’t really see a difference between the two, and tobacco use can seriously affect your rates. Smokers often pay up to 200% more per month than non-smokers, so quitting smoking is one of the most effective things you can do to significantly improve your premiums—not to mention your health.
If it’s been a year or two since you quit smoking, you can ask for a reevaluation. Your insurance company will most likely want to do a health exam to check for nicotine, and they might request information about lung function/overall health from your last physical examination. But if everything checks out and you qualify as a non-smoker, you could potentially move up to a better classification (and a better monthly rate).
Smoking isn’t the only bad habit that can earn you a poor rate classification. Drug use and excessive drinking will also have an effect on your life insurance risk assessment, and it might even get you denied coverage altogether. But if you decide to cut back, or quit outright, you might be eligible for a reevaluation after some time has passed.
Build is a very common factor in determining insurance classifications and most insurance companies use a height/weight chart to determine if/how your particular build will impact your overall risk. Because being overweight comes with some potentially serious health consequences, it can also cause a significant increase in your insurance premiums. But, if you make some changes to your lifestyle that cause you to lose weight and keep it off for at least one year, you could be looking at a slimmer you, and a slimmer monthly premium.
High risk jobs and dangerous hobbies can also seriously impact your life insurance rate classification. If you’re an electrician, a coal miner, or someone who gets a thrill from jumping out of airplanes or swimming with great white sharks, you can probably count on a lower classification and a higher monthly premium. However, if you switch professions, or decide to trade in your parachute for a more grounded hobby (have you considered collecting stamps?) your insurance provider might be willing to revisit your risk class.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do to improve your rate classification even after your insurance policy is in place, so you shouldn’t let your initial classification deter you from purchasing a plan that could potentially be a crucial safety net for your family. In most cases, changing your classification just requires a bit of diligence and patience. Your insurance provider will be more than happy to work with you if you’ve managed to improve your health, but they need to be sure that your lifestyle changes are more than just a passing phase. So if you’re trying to make a change regarding any of the scenarios listed above, stick with it for a year or two and before you know it, both you and your wallet will be in much better shape.
About Richard Reich
In my 20+ years as an independent life and disability insurance broker, I have personally assisted thousands of clients with their life and disability insurance needs. As a national broker, I am licensed to write life and disability insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.