What You Need to Know About Underwriting Class

The cost of your life insurance policy – also known as your life insurance premium – is influenced by a number of different factors, but none more so than your underwriting class. Also referred to as health class, underwriting class is the category that the insurance company assigns to you based on your health and level of risk – i.e., how likely you are to die during the life of the policy.

Before assigning an underwriting class to you, the life insurance company reviews medical as well as non-medical information from your application, mini-medical exam, and lab results. The medical information they take into consideration includes your height and weight, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and family health history. The non-medical information includes your occupation, driving record, and recreational activities (such as flying a small aircraft or scuba diving).

While the names of specific underwriting classes may differ from company to company, the six primary ones are Preferred Plus, Preferred Non-Smoker, Standard Plus, Standard Non-Smoker, Preferred Smoker, and Standard Smoker. The following definitions will help you understand what these underwriting classes are, and how they can affect the price of your life insurance policy.

Preferred Plus

Sometimes referred to as Super Preferred or Preferred Best, this category is for those with excellent health, a very good height and weight profile, and no family history of medical risks like heart disease or cancer. Preferred Plus applicants have the lowest life insurance premiums of any underwriting class.

Preferred Non-Smoker

This classification is for those in very good health, although there may be a few minor medical risks such as higher-than-normal cholesterol or blood pressure levels. A Preferred Non-Smoker will pay less than someone in the Standard Plus category, but more than someone in the Preferred Plus underwriting class.

Standard Plus

If you are in good health but have medical issues such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, then you might be in the Standard Plus underwriting class. A Standard Plus applicant will pay a lower premium than someone in the Standard Non-Smoker underwriting class.

Standard Non-Smoker

Standard Non-Smokers are in average health and have a normal life expectancy. They may be slightly overweight or have a family history of heart disease or cancer. A Standard Non-Smoker applicant will usually have a higher premium than someone in the Standard Plus underwriting class.

Preferred Smoker

This category is for smokers who would otherwise fall into the Preferred underwriting class. Most Preferred Smokers pay less than Standard Smokers, but more than Preferred Non-Smokers.

Standard Smoker

This category applies to smokers who would otherwise fall into the Standard Non-Smoker underwriting class. A Standard Smoker may pay more than a Standard Non-Smoker for the same type of policy. For more information about how smoking can affect your underwriting class and life insurance premiums, read A Short Guide to Life Insurance for Smokers.

Some applicants don’t fall into any of these underwriting classes because of a medical condition, occupational hazard, lifestyle, or criminal record. Can they still get life insurance? Possibly. Many life insurance companies are willing to give these types of applicants a “table rating” in lieu of a typical underwriting classification.

Table ratings are usually in the form of numbers or letters that correspond to how much of a risk the applicant poses to the life insurance company. While obtaining life insurance coverage is still possible with a table rating, you’ll pay a higher premium than you would with a typical underwriting classification.

For example, an applicant with a table rating of A can expect to pay the Standard Non-Smoker rate plus an additional 25 percent. Meanwhile, someone with a table rating of G can expect to pay the Standard Non-Smoker rate plus an additional 175 percent. For more information about table ratings and whether they might apply to you, speak to your life insurance agent.

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