Life Insurance

Family Health History and Your Insurance Rates

family sitting together on couch
If medical conditions run in your family history, life insurance eligibility could be a topic of concern for you. Some of the best questions to ask about life insurance involve how your rates get calculated—understanding this can help you find the best policy, and Ethos is here to help demystify the process.

Just as applicants and customers often want to know if their family histories will impact their rates, insurers want to know if an applicant's family history will make the individual riskier to insure. 

Many insurance providers use a tiered health classification system that denotes rates based on policyholders' relative health and health risks. While the age and health of the policyholder are the most critical variables in this classification, in life insurance, family medical history is also considered. Family histories often don't impact rates as much as current health and age, but it all depends on the family history details and whether it shifts the applicant's health classification. 

How does family history affect life insurance?

Life insurance is a product built around estimated health risks, and any variable that can impact a policyholder's health is of interest to the insurer. Since some health conditions can be hereditary, life insurance medical history questions are important for calculating life insurance rates. The impacts on life insurance vary and depend on a few different factors. These factors include the insurance company and policy type, the severity of hereditary conditions, and the type of conditions. 

Why is family history important in medical underwriting?

Insurance underwriters play a pivotal role in the creation of a life insurance policy. Underwriters crunch the numbers and analyze the data gathered in life insurance applications and medical exams. They use specialized software and proprietary evaluation systems to determine eligibility for coverage. 

Underwriters establish whether an applicant is approved, how much coverage they get, and at what rates. In life insurance underwriting, family history can affect these variables. Check your price to learn about your coverage and rate eligibility. 

What health conditions affect life insurance?

It's impossible to understand what affects life insurance rates without discussing health conditions. Health conditions can have a significant impact on life insurance rates and eligibility. The severity of these conditions plays a primary role in that impact. Relevant health conditions are those with a high chance of reducing your future health or increasing the risk to your life. Typical examples are high blood pressure or cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and epilepsy. 

Many health conditions can negatively impact life insurance rates and eligibility, though to what degree varies by insurer. For instance, getting life insurance with a family history of cancer will often be more expensive. Still, these health complications don't always mean a person can't find affordable policies. There are also life insurance options for people with pre-existing conditions.

Life insurance and pre-existing conditions
Even if you have a pre-existing condition, you can still get life insurance—there are options out there.

Life insurance health classifications

Life insurance companies use tiered risk classification systems to divide rates and coverage amounts into different categories. These categories tell the insurer how expensive it is to provide coverage for an applicant and what premiums to charge for that coverage. Life insurance risk classifications can vary by company, but a typical system uses five tiers. Life insurance family history questions also help determine these classifications.

  • Risk classification

    • Preferred plus

      • Fewer than 10% of life insurance applicants fit into this category. It requires near-perfect health, with no red flags in your family medical history, as well as a clean driving record and optimal height-to-weight ratio.
    • Preferred

      • This category is for those in excellent health but who also have some risk factors. 
    • Standard plus

      • These are people who are in good health but carry more risk factors than those in the preferred category. 
    • Standard

      • Most life insurance applicants tend to fit this category; it's defined by having average health and risk factors. 
    • Substandard

      • This classification is often the most complex and has the most significant differences among companies. Many use a separate tiered system for this classification that determines how much more than the average risk each qualifying applicant carries.

Can you get life insurance if you're in poor health?

This is one of the more common questions about life insurance. While poor health can be a barrier to life insurance, it's not absolute. Not all companies exclude to the same degree around pre-existing conditions. Of those who do, there are still often routes for finding affordable plans. In severe cases of bad health, it can be more difficult.

In many cases, individuals with poor health will still be able to obtain plans from a wide variety of companies. Still, the rates may be significantly higher than if the applicant was healthier. Some companies have policies to help customers with pre-existing conditions. 

Ethos Life offers guaranteed whole life insurance issued online to applicants aged 66 and 85, independent of health status.

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