What is life insurance underwriting?

Underwriting is the process life insurance companies use to determine whether they are able to offer life insurance coverage to applicants, and the premiums they charge. Factors like an applicant’s age, sex, health, lifestyle, and many other factors contribute to the life insurance company’s decision.

mother kissing her baby
How does it work?

Once you have applied for your policy, the underwriting process begins.

During the underwriting process, the carrier will place you in a risk class, based on your individual risk factors. 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. 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. 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 while maintaining the insurance risk of your policy.

There are a variety of factors considered during underwriting that help carriers determine your level of risk (and can vary by state), 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
  • Avocations
How long does it take?
Underwriting has traditionally been a complicated process that could take months, but companies like Ethos use data and technology to streamline the process, making it much quicker for the majority of applicants.

Once you submit an application, your information, including your health and driving history, will be reviewed. While some applications can be processed instantly or in just a few days, others may take a week or two. Based on your unique situation, you may be asked to answer follow-up questions, undergo a medical exam and/or give permission for specific medical records to be shared. However, the majority of our applicants do not need a medical exam.

You can help expedite the underwriting process by taking the time to answer questions in the application completely and accurately when you apply. Be sure to list all of your prescription information, medical history, as well as information regarding other insurance coverage you currently have or have applied for.

You can also help keep your application moving forward by answering any follow-up questions in a timely manner.

If a medical exam is needed, it will be at no cost to you. We will work with you to schedule your exam on a day and time that works best for you, but the underwriting process will be on hold until your exam has been completed. If you need an exam, please schedule it sooner than later so your offer for coverage won’t be delayed.

If additional medical records are required, asking your doctor or medical facility for these to be expedited will also help to speed up the underwriting process.

Look for emails from Ethos and ExamOne (A Quest Diagnostics Company) and respond to those as quickly as you can.

Quick Recap - How can you help keep the application moving towards approval?

  • Complete the application with sufficient detail and accuracy
    • Prescription information
    • Medical history
    • Currently issued or applied for life insurance information
  • Respond to follow-up questions (if any) at your earliest convenience
  • Schedule and complete your medical exam (if any) as soon as possible
  • Contact your doctor or medical facility to expedite the issuing of any additional medical records required
Close up of a woman holding her baby girl at home
Estimate calculator
Do you use nicotine products?
How is your health?
We use cookies to improve your experience on our site and collect data and personal information, all as described more fully in our privacy policy. By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies and our privacy policy.