Underwriting, explained.

Essentially, it’s how life insurance companies decide whether to approve or deny your application.

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How underwriting works
After you submit an application, underwriting begins. Underwriting is the process life insurance companies use to determine whether they’re able to offer life insurance coverage to applicants, and the premiums they charge.

The carrier will determine your risk level, based on individual factors that make you “risky.” The carrier is “at risk” with every applicant because they are contractually obligated to pay a death benefit if you die while coverage is in force. Some applicants present more risk, and some present less. Your risk class is used to determine how much it will cost the carrier to insure you. Using their established underwriting guidelines, actuarial science, historical mortality data, and your unique risk factors, the carrier determines the premium rate necessary to issue your policy.

There are a variety of factors (which can vary by state) underwriters consider when determining your level of risk, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Lifestyle choices like tobacco and alcohol use
  • Personal health situation and medical history
  • Family health history
  • Driving record
  • Criminal record
  • Previous and concurrent applications for life insurance
  • Financial position
  • Foreign travel
  • Occupation
  • Hobbies
Could my life insurance application be denied?

Each life insurance company may have a different approach to weighing risk factors and evaluating risk. This is why your quote (and final price) can vary from one life insurance company to another. Insurance companies can deny you coverage if they believe you present too much risk, but because each company’s underwriting process varies, their decision-making process will too.

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How long does underwriting take?

Traditionally, underwriting could be a complicated process, and you might wait months before receiving a decision. It could also involve hours of phone calls, faxing your medical records, and lengthy medical exams. However, thanks to advanced technologies like algorithmic underwriting, the process is becoming more people-friendly. Ethos has simplified underwriting, using new technology and predictive modeling to speed things up and get back to you faster. With Ethos most people don’t need a medical exam, and most applicants receive a decision within a couple days or weeks.

You can help underwriting go smoothly by:

  • Answering every question on your application with as much detail and accuracy as possible
  • Completing any follow-up questions in a timely manner
  • Completing any medical exams at your earliest convenience
  • Contacting your doctor or medical facility to expedite the release of any requested medical records
Can I influence the cost of my premium?

While some risk factors (like family medical history) are out of your control, there are actions you can take to influence your rate. Since the cost of your premium is highly dependent on your health and lifestyle choices, having healthy habits can help decrease the cost of your premium. For example, with balanced eating and regular exercise you can help maintain a healthy BMI. And if you smoke, quitting smoking can also help you decrease your life insurance rate.

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