Category Archives: Insurance

The Life Insurance Approval Process: How Long Does it Take?

The thought of applying and getting approved for life insurance initially seems like a daunting task. But today, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Magnificent technological strides in life insurance industry
have been made, allowing companies to create quick life insurance quotes specifically tailored to customers in minutes.

How long does it take for life insurance to be improved?

Depending on the type of life insurance policy you are purchasing, and a number of other factors, a life insurance policy can be completely filled out and approved within 24 hours, or could take a few weeks or even months.

What is the process for being approved for life insurance?

In order to be approved, many insurance policies must go through a process called underwriting, in which rates are determined based on the assessed risk of each individual.

What is underwriting?

Underwriting is the process by which insurance companies assess risk of an individual in order to determine premium rates. This is based on statistical analysis of multiple factors that are used to determine risk of the insured.

This being said,

what is the role of an underwriter in an insurance company?

How long is the life insurance underwriting process?

As I stated above, the underwriting process can be as quick as 24 hours or take up to a couple of months.

This really all depends on a lot of factors involving your profile and your needs in a policy. Follow along as I dive deeper into the underwriting process, the various types of underwriting, what to expect in the process, and how long the underwriting process can take.

What factors are considered in underwriting process?

Before an underwriting decision is made, underwriters need to account for all elements that determine your overall risk.  If we look back to our underwriter definition, it becomes easy to understand why underwriting is one of the longest parts of the life insurance approval process, because so much must be taken into account.

There are quite a few factors that are taken into consideration during the life insurance underwriting process:

  • Health history, family health history, age, gender, height, weight
  • The purpose of the insurance policy (estate planning, final expenses, business, or individual life insurance)
  • Marital status, children (if any)
  • If the applicant has life insurance already, and how much coverage
  • If the applicant plans on buying additional coverage from a third party
  • Occupation (more dangerous jobs are higher risk)
  • Income
  • Smoking habits, alcohol, hobbies, lifestyle
  • International travel

Each one of these questions regarding your health, history, and lifestyle helps insurance underwriters to determine the overall risk profile you have to the insurance company.  The higher risk you are in their eyes, the higher your premiums will likely be.

For instance, if you work on skyscrapers, cleaning the windows on the outside, 800 feet above the ground each day, you are probably a much higher risk than say someone who works at the DMV, behind a desk all day.

How long does it take for an underwriter to make an underwriting decision?

Depending on the type of life insurance coverage you are looking for, there are a number of different types of underwriting you can go through in the application process.  Each one of these types of underwriting takes longer or shorter based on the amount of information that the insurance company needs in order to properly assess your risk and premium.

The main types of underwriting in the life insurance application process are:

Guaranteed issue

Guaranteed Issue life insurance is insurance that is offered to any eligible applicant without regards to their health status.  More often than not, this is for people who are in terminal or very poor health. On average, guaranteed issue policies are usually small in face value, often below $50,000.

In this type of underwriting process, there is no medical exam, and no health questions, making the process very fast, but making the rates equally expensive as a result.

Usually, the application process can take as little as a few minutes, but can take up to a few weeks in some instances.

Simplified issue

Simplified issue is the next step up from Guaranteed issue.  In this type of life insurance underwriting, applicants are asked brief questions regarding their health, but are still not required to take a medical examination.

Because this means anyone qualifies for coverage, just like with guaranteed issue, it means that rates are also expected to be fairly high.  The reason for this is that without proper knowledge of your health history, insurance companies assume the risk that you could die before your policy is through, leading them to have to pay out your policy.  As a result, premiums for these types of policies are higher to reflect the higher risk taken on by the insurer.

For simplified issue, the process usually takes less than a week from application to approval, but can take longer depending on the company.

No Medical Exam Life Insurance

In no medical exam underwriting, as the name implies, no medical examination is required.  However, there is more information the insurer requires about your background and financial history.

It is common for the insurance agent or company to require you to be submitted for a background check in order to see any criminal history.  Also, they check your DMV records to see accident history. Lastly, they will usually check prescription databases in order to get an idea of your medication history.

The premiums on policies with no exam underwriting are lower than those of simplified and guarantee issue, but still higher than those with more scrutiny in the application process.

Depending on the company, the third parties involved, and the medium through which you seek approval (online, phone, in person), this process can be done in as little as 24-48 hours, or can take up to 1-2 weeks.  

Fully underwritten

Full underwriting in the insurance application process takes longer than the accelerated underwriting choices listed above.

This type of underwriting is comprehensive, and is included in whole life and term life insurance policies alike.  It takes into account a long list of medical history from a medical examination, and combines it with background checks, prescription database information, DMV records, credit history and more.

In a fully underwritten life insurance application, a medical examination is required.  This is usually administered by a Primary Care Physician, and is essentially the same as a physical.  On top of this, urine and blood samples are usually taken in order to uncover health conditions, and the drug use/habits of applicants.

In some cases, where face values of policies are very high (usually in excess of $1,000,000), and/or the applicant has reached a higher age group (usually above 60), an EKG can also be a necessary part of the medical examination to ensure brain health.

If you are healthy and do not need insurance immediately, it is definitely the ideal type of underwriting for your application process.  The reason I say this is because if you are healthy, and willing to take a medical examination and undergo a background, credit, driving, and prescription check, and you know that all of your information will come back positive, you will undoubtedly receive a lower rate than an applicant who is not in similar health, with a similar background.

As far as time frame goes, it can be difficult to give an estimate for policies that undergo full underwriting.  The reason for this is because depending on the health conditions you have, Primary Care Physicians and Underwriters may have to go back and forth a few times until the insurance has all the relevant information needed to make a decision on your premium based on your risk profile.                  

If the process goes smoothly, and you are able to secure a medical examination within 3-5 days, the whole life insurance application process could take as little as 2-3-4 weeks and as much as 6-8 weeks.  In some cases, even less with technological advances allowing doctors to send over information almost instantly.

Can you get away from underwriting and medical exams/questions?

The short answer is yes, you can.

There is such thing as no medical exam life insurance policy, as I described above. As implied in the name, this type of insurance does not require a medical examination in order to open a policy.

As a result, however, the premiums are much higher for these types of policies.

This is largely due to the fact that insurance is entirely based on risk, and if they cannot properly assess your risk based on the results of a medical examination, they must protect themselves from the risk you may pose.

No medical examination life insurance policies usually run anywhere from 15 to 20% higher premiums than those with medical exams.

Other factors that can slow the underwriting process

During the underwriting process for a fully underwritten life insurance policy, there are a few factors that can slow down the underwriting process that you should be aware of:

The company you choose

The insurance carrier you choose often has a big impact on the time it takes for the underwriting and application process to be completed.  Often times, the larger the firm, the shorter the time frame to be approved. This is due to the fact that larger firms have more resources available to them to conduct their research, and more technologically advanced methods of calculating risks.

However, the large size of af company can also work against you in some cases. For instance, if an insurance carrier is so popular that they have hundreds or thousands of backlogged applicants awaiting underwriting, your application timeline could be extended as a result.  However, this is usually a pretty rare occurrence in the world we now live in, where everything happens instantly.

Additional health problems/conditions

Suppose you take your medical examination, and it uncovers that you have diabetes, cardiovascular issues, cancer, or some other form of unexpected health complication.  As you can imagine, this would raise concerns to an insurance company. As a result, they will want to take more caution when evaluating your risk profile.

This can often times result in additional medical examinations, health questions, and waiting periods.  Due to the varying level of danger any number of health complications can bring to your well being and therefore an insurance company’s bottom line, there is no telling how long the process can take in these cases.  Often times, these cases can result in a 1-3 month extension in the life insurance application process.

Face amount

Depending on the size of your life insurance policy, and the coverage you need in the event of your death, your policy can take a bit longer to review and approve.

As you can imagine, the larger the policy, the more eyes are going to be taking a look at it in order to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.  Usually, the magic number is $2,000,000. Any policy larger than this can be expected to have additional people besides just the underwriter and agent involved in the process.  This is just to make sure that from the insurance company’s standpoint, they are doing everything they can to mitigate their own risk and secure you the best premium for the level of coverage you need.

As a result of this, the underwriting process can take a few more weeks than usual.

Type of life insurance policy

Depending on the type of life insurance policy you are looking to open, there may be a longer waiting time and processing time associated with it.

A solid example of this are whole life insurance and indexed universal life.  Both of these policies can take longer in the underwriting process because they are policies that cover someone for life.  Inherently, this presents a whole new set of risks for an insurance company, and as a result, they do their due diligence in order to ensure they secure the best premiums for applicants while still protecting themselves based on your risk profile.

Your age

As I briefly touched on earlier, your age can be a big factor in the underwriting process. The older you are, the more health problems you can potentially have, and sadly, the reality is, the more likely you are to die.  As a result, people over the age of 50-60 can usually expect the underwriting process to be a bit longer than those who are younger.

Usually, as long as no additional health concerns are discovered through your medical examination, your age can result in just a few additional questions and tests from your PCP, and lead to a week or two being added to the approval process.

How do underwriters get your information, and what are they looking for?

Naturally, with all this talk of background checks, driving records, health examinations, and medical history, you must have a bit of concern regarding how insurance companies access this information, and what they do with it afterwards.  Don’t worry, you are not alone. These questions are asked very frequently.

It is important to understand that insurance agencies keep your information 100% confidential.  They do not share or report your personal information anywhere other than in their own internal records.

Also, they secure their data from very reliable, trustworthy, and high authority sources that are responsible for keeping this type of information up to date and secure.  Some of the commonly accessed reports by life insurance companies in the application process are:

5 reports used in the underwriting process

Motor Vehicle Report

As you could have probably guessed, this information comes from the DMV.  Mostly, it is used to determine your car accident history. The more accident prone you are while driving, the more of a risk you are in the eyes of an insurer.  Applicants with frequent accidents in their past can expect higher insurance premiums as a result.

Prescription Database

Usually, the prescription databases that insurance companies access during the underwriting process are state regulated at the state level through PDMPs, which stands for Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.  Each state has their own PDMP, with the lone exception of Missouri at the moment, which is currently in the process of approving one.

MIB Report

The Medical Information Bureau (MIB Group) is a non-profit entity in the United States and Canada that collects and validates medical information on people within their areas of operation.  

Most insurance agencies work directly with the MIB to ensure that the information applicants give in the application process is valid and corresponds with their data.  This helps underwriters to do their job more quickly, and protects insurance agencies from fraudulent applications.

Background Check

Background checks can be conducted by numerous third party sources.  For the most part, insurance companies are looking to see if you have any criminal history.  Depending on what history you have, you may be more of a risk in their eyes.

Credit Check

This is mainly done in order to ensure that you in fact have the resources and financial history to appropriately pay your premiums on time.  At the end of the day, an insurance company does not want to insure someone who is not going to pay their premium.

How Long Does it Take to Be Approved for Life Insurance – Takeaway

To sum things up, the time it takes to be approved for life insurance varies on a number of different factors.  Depending on your age, the policy you are looking for, the type of underwriting you want, the existing health conditions you have, the company you choose, and other uncontrollable factors, the time it takes to be approved for life insurance can vary from less than 24 hours to a few months or more.

For those in a rush and in poor shape who need coverage quick, no medical exam life insurance may be the best option, but it comes with a hefty price as a result of the higher risk taken on by the company insuring you.

However, for those who are in no rush to get coverage, your best bet is to wait out the process, and try to be as helpful as possible when giving your information to your agent.  While the process may seem lengthy at times, there have been major strides made in the last 20 years to improve the life insurance application and approval processes. It is also important to remember that the underwriters job is to ensure that you get the best premium possible for the coverage you need.  So while it may seem they can take long at time, they are working for you, not against you.

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Final Expense Insurance from Mutual of Omaha

Currently one of the most recognized life insurance companies, Mutual of Omaha has dramatically increased its footprint since its founding in 1909. The company has dynamic name recognition and meets its customers’ expectations by offering outstanding rates on a variety of products and outstanding customer service and claims service. They are especially recognized for their Final Expense Insurance.

final expense insurance from Mutual of Omaha

The company operates across the United States using four subsidiary companies to administer and market its financial products:

As a dominant U.S. life insurer, Mutual of Omaha continues to post excellent ratings that have been awarded by the most well-known rating services:


Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance Products


Mutual of Omaha logo

Mutual of Omaha offers a complete list of life insurance products for customers and agents. They will typically be able to offer insurance solutions for virtually any financial scenario and at the same time, their products are competitively priced in order to meet the budget of middle Americans.

Term Life Insurance


Considered a temporary life insurance solution, term insurance is typically used to replace lost income for young to middle-aged adults and families. The company offers significant death benefits which enable individuals, families,  or small businesses to insure against lost income, current and future debts, mortgage protection, and living expenses. The company offers term life insurance using two distinct products.

Term Life Direct

The Term Life Direct product is designed to provide life insurance coverage up to age 80. It is available for individuals between the ages of 30 and 74-years old. The company offers death benefits that range from $20,000 (minimum) to $100,000 (maximum) with no medical exam required. Mutual of Omaha offers several riders for applicants to broaden their coverage and in some cases, offer living benefits. Riders are an ideal solution for the insured to customize their coverage to meet their individual needs.

Term Life Answers

Mutual’s Term Life Answers is the solution for applicants needing a higher death benefit. This policy is fully underwritten and offers some of the most affordable insurance rates that can be found in the marketplace.

Both products are available in 10, 15, 20, and 30 year term periods and both products can be converted to permanent insurance coverage without proof of insurability.


Universal Life Insurance


Mutual of Omaha’s Universal Life products are considered permanent life insurance that includes a cash value component. The cash account within the policy is credited each month with a portion of the premium payment and then earns interest based on the performance of the company’s investments. Universal life insurance is the only flexible insurance product available and gives the policyholders options that other policy types do not offer.

Guaranteed Universal LifeThis insurance product is considered permanent insurance since it can be structured to provide coverage for the life of the insured. Available face amounts range from $100,000 to $1 million and above and the company offers several riders to enhance the coverage of the policy.

Income Advantage Universal LifeThis is an Indexed Universal Life policy that was developed to accrue cash value dependent on the performance of a market index rather than the performance of the carrier.

AccumUL PlusMutual’s AccumUL Plus is a great product to use for college funding and retirement planning strategies. The company offers additional riders that can help personalize the policy to meet the specific needs of the policyholder.


Whole Life and Final Expense Insurance


Mutual of Omaha’s whole life insurance selection is designed to meet the needs of the policyholder with substantial guarantees and provides the accumulation of cash value.

The primary benefits provided by whole life insurance are a lifetime death benefit, non-cancellable policy if premiums are paid, level periodic premiums that will never go up, and the accumulation of cash value over time that can be accessed through policy loans or withdrawals.

Whole Life Express®Mutual of Omaha’s Whole Life Express policy is a typical whole life policy with face amount options of $20,000 to $50,000. This coverage is available for applicants between the ages of 18 and 85-years old. The policy is considered “simplified underwriting” which means that no medical exam is required. Whole Life Express can be used as a Final Expense Insurance policy for individuals who qualify.


Living Promise Level Benefit PlanMutual of Omaha’s level benefit policy is a perfect solution for applicants who want to purchase Final Expense Insurance. Coverage is available for individuals who are 45 to 85-years old with face amounts from $2,000 to $40,000. The policy comes with the Accelerated Death Benefit rider built in at no additional charge.

Although a medical exam is not required for Mutual’s Level Benefit Plan, there are a number of health questions on the application that could disqualify an applicant if multiple questions are answered yes.


Living Promise Graded Benefit PlanMutual’s Graded Benefit Plan is intended for applicants who do not qualify for the Level Benefit Plan. Applicants aged 45 to 80-years old are eligible for coverage and the face amounts that are available are $2,000 to $20,000 except for WA where the face amounts are $5,000 to $40,000.

This plan has a graded death benefit which means there is a two year waiting period before the company will pay the full death benefit if the insured dies as a result of natural causes. During waiting period the company will pay 110% of all premiums paid by the policyholder to the beneficiary. If, however, the insured dies during the waiting period because of an accident, the full death benefit will be paid.

After the two year waiting period, the full death benefit will be paid for death resulting from all causes.


Agency Remarks


After many years representing Mutual of Omaha, the Life Insure agency has found this company to be one of our primary providers for Final Expense Insurance. Their product listing, competitive rates, and exceptional customer service make them our go-to insurance company for final expense insurance and other types of insurance solutions for our clients.


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Life Insurance for Smokers – What to Know

If you are one of the millions of smokers in the United States, affordable life insurance may seem like a difficulty commodity to come by.  While you certainly will experience a higher premium (often called a tobacco surcharge or have a tobacco rating) for your life insurance, this does not mean that all hope is lost for affordable life insurance for smokers.  With a bit of research, you can find affordable life insurance as a smoker.

Who is Classified as a Smoker

What classifies an individual as a smoker when it comes to life insurance? And how long do you have to be a non-smoker for life insurance applications?

Well, to be specific, this can be an ambiguous topic since insurance companies themselves are responsible for determining their own guidelines and classifications towards smokers. However, a vast majority of life insurance companies consider anyone who has smoked regularly within the last 12 months to be a smoker.

Some companies are even more stringent with their classification, considering smokers as anyone who has smoked regularly within the last 5 years.

When it comes to defining a regular user, things also get a little foggy.  Again, each company is allowed to create their own classifications and guidelines to how they rate life insurance premiums based on lifestyle, health conditions, demographics, and risk profile.  However, more often than not, this is someone who smokes on a daily, or weekly basis for an extended period of time.

What about if I smoke cigars once in a while?

If you are someone who will have the occasional celebratory cigar to relax or kickback, you more than likely have nothing to worry about.  However, even smoking once in a long while can have negative effects on your health, and therefore raise your level of risk to an insurer. For the occasional smoker, life insurance can usually come at a non-smoker rate, if you play your cards right.

So, that being said, can companies charge you more if you smoke?  Why do insurance companies charge higher premiums for smokers? And how much more expensive is life insurance for smokers when compared with non-smokers? 

Let’s take a look.

The Stats About Smoking

statistics about smoking in the US

First of all, let’s point out the facts.  Smoking is dangerous. Very dangerous. To put in perspective just how dangerous smoking is to human health, in 2016, 20% of all U.S. deaths were related to nicotine or tobacco related health problems.

Now, I am not saying this to lecture you on your life decisions and what you should be doing.  Smoking is your choice and I am not your mother. However, it is important to understand how the long-term negative health effects of smoking on the human body play a role in higher life insurance rate premiums for smokers.

If we take a deeper look, one person every 6 seconds in the United States dies from a tobacco related death.  

Regular tobacco users also experience much higher chances of being diagnosed with a number of deadly diseases and health complications that include but are not limited to:

  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • More…

These health complications can be deadly, and have been known to kill many smokers long before their average lifespan is achieved.  And deadly in the eyes of an insurance company spells out liability in big red letters.

When you stop to consider the fact that insurance companies determine the prices of their premiums based on the risk an individual faces of dying during the term of their policy, it becomes more clear why smokers experience higher life insurance premiums — put simply, they are a higher risk than non smokers.

While other factors come into play in the determination of premiums, your health and lifestyle certainly weigh heavily on your premium.

So How Does Smoking Affect My Life Insurance Rates?

how much does smoking affect my life insurance rates?
With this knowledge, the question now is not “Do you pay more for life insurance as a smoker?” but, “How much more do you pay for life insurance as a smoker?”.

As I mentioned earlier, tobacco users or smokers of any kind are a higher insurable risk than those who do not use tobacco products.  As a result, they are faced with a tobacco surcharge or tobacco rating, which is a higher premium rate in order to account for their higher risk profile.

On average, across the United States, smokers pay a 15-20% higher premium than non-smokers.  It is important for smokers to know that this rate however cannot legally be any higher than 50% of what non-smokers pay.  This is a federally mandated law under the Affordable Care Act.

If you experience rates that are more than 50% higher than that of what a non-smoker has who has similar demographics, occupational hazard, and lifestyle (aside from smoking), then you should probably think about calling an agent immediately and getting to the bottom of things.  

Depending on the insurance company, life insurance rates for smokers can be drastically different between firms.  One important thing to do before deciding on a policy is to compare rates from a variety of providers in order to determine what the best bang for your buck is.  After all, protecting your loved ones and making sure they are cared for financially in the event of your untimely death is a very serious matter that deserves some thought.


Compare the best life insurance rates for smokers here

We compare dozens of options for you, to find the best price and coverage for you in minutes.


What About Vaping, E-Cigs, Smokeless Tobacco, etc..?

Most insurance companies consider any form of smoking or tobacco/nicotine usage under the umbrella of smoking.  This means that even if you do not smoke cigarettes, but readily partake in the usage of vapes, e-cigs, smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco, nicotine patches and gum, or any other tobacco and nicotine product, you also fall under the umbrella of a regular user.

While the need for a tobacco surcharge for these alternatives to cigarettes may seem outrageous, equally harmful carcinogens can be identified in these products, which can lead to equally harmful medical complications.

Why do these smoking alternatives still add a tobacco rating onto your life insurance policy?

To start, vaping and e-cigs are fairly new on the market, and as a result, have little statistical evidence to prove that they are a “safe” alternative to cigarettes.  To an insurance company that literally bases their entire revenue structure and business model around statistics and probability, this is a less than favorable leg for you to stand on, despite what your opinions on e-cigs and vaping may be.  

Are you a non smoker if you vape?

am i considered a smoker if i vape?

Many people often ask,  “is vaping considered smoking for insurance purposes”, and the short answer is yes.

Vape liquids contain hazardous metals, carcinogens, formaldehyde, silicate particles and vapors that expand from their room temperature liquid form under high heat and pressure into a gaseous form, creating those billowing clouds of smoke. Once inside your lungs, the gas desperately looks for a way to escape and expand, and as a result, actually finds its way into your lung tissue faster than smoke from a cigarette.

Atop that, these forms of smoking have been known to cause respiratory and circulatory problems such as popcorn lung, arrhythmia, weakened immune system, and all other health problems associated with smoking.   

Are you a non smoker if you use smokeless tobacco?

Chewing tobacco may not affect your lungs, but it still damages your body through the nicotine it contains.  Long term usage can cause mouth, jaw, tongue, throat and stomach cancer, dental problems, receding gum line, rotten teeth, and more.  To an insurance company, that spells risk.

What about nicotine patches and gum?

As far as nicotine patches and nicotine gum go, they are also considered under the umbrella of smoking by most insurance companies due to their nicotine content.  While this may seem discouraging as someone who may be trying to quit smoking or tobacco use, there are some companies that offer a lowering of your premium once you have proven you have quit for good.  To do this, you must retake your medical exams.

What if I recently quit smoking and want to apply for a life insurance policy?

Again, most insurers are looking for you to be smoke free for a period of 12 months before considering you a non-smoker.  In order to avoid a tobacco surcharge on your insurance, the best thing you can do is wait the 12 month period out and then apply.

What if I was a smoker, but then quit after I signed my life insurance policy?

Obviously, in the world of life insurance, waiting this year may not be an option for people.  If this the case for you, the next best thing you can do is apply for a life insurance policy as a smoker.  After a certain period of time (usually a year or two), most insurance companies will allow you to retake your medical exam in order to prove you are in better health and are no longer smoking.  Be sure to ask your insurance agent about this option before making a decision on a policy, as it can save you big money in the long run on a term policy.

Questions You Will Be Asked By Insurance Agents

what kind of questions will my doctor ask in a medical examination for life insurance?

When looking for a new life insurance provider, you will always be asked about your medical history.  Additionally, you will be asked to provide medical records from the past, and take a medical examination in order to assess your health so the insurance company can properly give you a premium that mirrors your risk of death during the given time period of your policy term.

While there is such thing as no medical exam life insurance, the premiums are inherently high due to the large risk profile each policyholder poses to the insurer.  Even with a tobacco surcharge, your life insurance premium will be much lower with a medical exam than in a no medical exam policy.

During the process of assessing your risk profile, most insurance agents will likely ask a list of questions related to your smoking history.  Some questions you can expect to be asked are:

  • How long have/did you smoked for?
  • How many cigarettes do/did you smoke a day?
  • Are you a current user?
  • When did you quit?

Based on your answers to these questions, the company can then use this new knowledge about your past smoking habits to assess your risk profile.  The truth will come out in your medical examinations anyways, so there is really no sense in lying. While lying in the insurance application process is not considered fraud, it can cause you to be declined coverage, and become a questionable candidate for a multitude of other companies.  

Put simply, lying about smoking on health insurance applications is just not worth it.

Medical tests that confirm smoking

what tests prove that you smoke cigarettes

So I’m sure by now there are a few smokers who are still saying to themselves, “Yeah right, give me a break.  How do insurance companies find out if you smoke anyways?

Well sir or madam, it’s 2018, and you best believe insurance companies have the money and the resources to make sure you aren’t lying about your smoking habits on that application.

For long term smokers, the good news is, the most common forms of testing rarely detect any signals of smoking beyond 1-4 months.  While most insurers require you to be smoke free for 12 months or more in order to not be considered for a non-smoker policy, this does leave somewhat of an advantageous gap for recent quitters.

The main suspect that insurance companies are looking for when testing to see if people are smokers is nicotine.  Some of the most common methods used by insurance agencies to test for smoking history are:

Urine test

This is the most common method of testing.  Usually, it is difficult to detect nicotine within urine after about a week of no smoking.  Personally, I recommend at least waiting a month after smoking before taking a life insurance medical exam.  However, even the heaviest smokers can rarely test positive in a urine test if they have gone 7 days or more without smoking.

Saliva test

This is the second most common test for smoking on a medical exam.  This test extends a bit further back from urine tests, and usually can be used to detect smoking within the past month or so.  Usually, due to the fact that our bodies produce new saliva about every month, it is difficult to trace much further back than that with a saliva test.  

Additionally, there are a few foods that can cause a false positive for nicotine on a medical exam.  In the event of this happening, the insurance company usually will fall back on an additional urine test to prove or disprove their findings in the saliva test.

Blood test

This type of test is much less common than the two listed above.  It is generally more expensive than urine and saliva tests, and can equally test in a false positive due to some environmental factors and chemicals in some common foods.  Because of this inaccuracy and high cost, it is not often used for detecting nicotine in life insurance medical exams.

If it is used, the results of a blood test can usually tell someone’s smoking history for the last month or so, but not much further back than that.  In the event of a false positive, a urine test is the fallback to prove or disprove the findings of the blood test.

Hair test

This is the least common type of health insurance smoking test.  It also happens to be the most expensive, and the most accurate. Outside of a few circumstances, where occupational hazards may require you to get a very high insurance premium, it is unlikely that you will be administered a hair test for tobacco or nicotine.  

If this is to happen, the results are viewed with a much higher level of accuracy than the other tests, and the test can also trace much further back in your history – depending on the length of your hair.  If you have hair that is very long, chances are it took you years to grow. If you smoked regularly within that time period, your hair will tell the story.

How long does nicotine stay in your blood, saliva, hair, and urine for life insurance purposes?

It’s hard to tell.  

It is important to understand that each individual’s body is different, and therefore each person processes toxins differently.  For that reason, it can be difficult to give an exact estimate of how long it takes for your body to process nicotine, in order to be able to pass a medical examination as a former smoker.  All points above for the various testing methods are estimates based on aggregate data.

Life Insurance Options for Smokers

what are the cheapest life insurance options for smokers?

So, at this point, smokers may be asking, “what are my options for life insurance as a smoker?”.  Well, hope is not all lost. Despite the fact that you will almost certainly be charged more than your non-smoking peers for life insurance, you still have plenty of affordable options when it comes to life insurance policies.

As I mentioned earlier, to avoid the medical exam completely is one option with no medical exam life insurance.  However, these types of policies are often outrageously priced, and really only ideal for someone in terminal, or pretty rough physical health.

After doing some research, and comparing the rates of hundreds of companies for dozens of age groups and demographics, I have compiled a list of the Top 5 Affordable Life Insurance Providers for Smokers:

  • Banner Life
  • Pacific Life
  • AIG
  • Transamerica
  • SBLI

Just to outline how these insurers can help people from various different demographics, here is a list of some basic customer profiles, and what can be expected for rates in their case.

Let’s take Judy, a 40 year old mother of 2, who has been a smoker for 20 years.  She often smokes a pack a day, and her job as a teacher is considered a low risk occupation.  For our purposes, let’s also say that she has never smoked any other type of tobacco product, and does not have relatives who contracted heart or cardiovascular diseases before age 70.  Judy is also looking for $500,000 of coverage over a 20 year term. Our top 5 secured the following rates for her:



Okay, next let’s look at Jason.  Let’s say for the purposes of this example, Jason is a 48 year old man with 3 kids, and is an electrician.  He has smoked a pack a day for the last 15 years, and is looking for a 20 year term life insurance policy with $1,750,000 of coverage.  He currently makes $100,000 per year and has about 20 years left of working. His youngest child is 12 years old, he owes $140,000 on his mortgage and has another $40,000 in outstanding debt from loans.  Based on this, it is estimated that in the event of his death, his family would need $1,750,000 in order to pay off outstanding debts and make up for the loss of his income for the remainder of the 20 year time period he would still be working.  His quotes from our top 5 are as follows:



As I said, this list is based on my research of hundreds of competitors across multiple age, gender, and occupational ranges.  While I can’t promise they will always have the lowest life insurance premiums for smokers based on your specific situation, I am positive that these companies will be in the top 10 cheapest, and also some of the best service and coverage in the industry.

Wrapping it all up

Insurance companies base their premiums and policy protection almost entirely on statistics and risk analysis.  If you are a smoker, naturally, you are a higher risk to an insurance company due to the inherent health problems associated with long term smoking of cigarettes or usage of other tobacco products.  As a result, your life insurance premium will likely be higher than your non-smoker peers due to what is called a tobacco rating.

When it comes to what classifies an individual as a regular smoker, each company has their own definition.  When it comes to quitting however, most insurers hold fairly similar views that a 12 month period of no smoking is necessary before someone can be considered a non-smoker again.

If waiting out this period is a viable option for you and your family, it may be worth the wait because of the resulting lower premium.  However, it should be known that you still have a given level of health risks associated with you due to your past smoking history.

If this is not an option for you, or you simply do not wish to quit smoking, there are plenty of options for affordable life insurance for smokers out there.  While your rates will be higher, it is essential to know that the national average life insurance rate for smokers vs. non-smokers is about 15-20% higher, and cannot by federal law be any higher than 50% more.

It is essential for anyone, regardless of circumstances, to shop around before considering a life insurance policy to ensure they get the best rates and the best coverage.


Compare the best life insurance rates for smokers here

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