High cholesterol can be sneaky dangerous for your health.
It can also hurt your chances of getting quality life insurance.
A high cholesterol ratio tells life insurance underwriters you’re more likely to get heart disease, have a heart attack, or have a stroke.
If this happened and you died, your insurer could end up paying your policy’s death benefit a lot sooner than they expected.
So underwriters respond to high cholesterol by either rejecting your application or charging higher premiums.
For a consumer, this trend can create a frustrating Catch-22: Your high cholesterol may mean you’re eager to have coverage in place, yet your high cholesterol is also the reason you can’t access the best coverage at the best rates.
Applying For Coverage With High Cholesterol: Your Insurance Company’s View
I’ll share some strategies below to help insurance shoppers with high cholesterol.
First, though, let’s take a look at how insurance companies look at your cholesterol readings and how your readings fit into the bigger picture of the life insurance underwriting process.
Not Always High vs. Low
We think about cholesterol as high or low, and for good reason: That’s usually how our doctors talk about it.
Insurance companies tend to be more interested in your cholesterol ratio, though.
We have two main kinds of cholesterol:
- Good cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) can actually help preserve your arteries.
- Bad cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) tends to block arteries and strain your heart.
If the good kind of cholesterol drives up your readings, that’s not so bad, and your ratio of HDL vs. LDL will communicate the news to insurance underwriters.
Your ratio will normally be expressed as a low number.
For instance, a 2 is really good, whereas a score of 6 means you could use some work.
To find your ratio, divide your LDL number by your HDL number.
Different Rate Classifications
Cholesterol, of course, isn’t the only factor underwriters consider.
Here are some more considerations:
- Blood pressure
- Body mass index
- Resting pulse
- Family health history
- Driving record
- Credit score
- Other criteria (depending on your insurance company and your state’s regulations)
So unless cholesterol is your only area of concern, you need to consider several issues to improve your rate classification and access the best life insurance rates.
For now, though, we’ll stick with the topic at hand: high cholesterol.
Some Strategies to Make Finding Coverage Easier
Many people don’t know about their high cholesterol until they apply for life insurance and take a medical exam.
This means you and your life insurance company learn about your high cholesterol simultaneously.
At that point, you have a decision to make: continue the insurance application process and pay more than you’d expected, or pump the brakes and consider other options.
You can avoid this dilemma by scheduling your own medical exam, including a standard lab panel, before applying for insurance.
This way you can see where you stand before your insurance company finds out.
No matter how you discovered your high cholesterol, use the strategies below to come up with your plan for getting the perfect coverage!
Strategy 1: Lower Your Cholesterol
I’m not a doctor, and I’ve never even played one on TV, but I think this is worth mentioning right out of the gate.
If high cholesterol is the primary barrier between you and affordable, medically underwritten coverage that can protect your family for decades, you could solve the problem by lowering your cholesterol.
Here are some practical tips for lowering your cholesterol:
- Cut back on the red meat, fried foods, etc., and eat more vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean meats.
- Start exercising.
- Give it some time. A year from now, if you stick to your plan, you could feel better and have a lower cholesterol reading.
- Have your doctor prescribe medication to help your cholesterol. There are plenty of medications for managing high cholesterol.
I know, I know — this plan might not work.
Maybe you can’t wait a year before getting coverage…
Or high cholesterol runs in your family and there’s not enough broccoli in the world to help.
Pro Tip: While depending on medication may not look as attractive to underwriters, showing you’ve gotten a health problem under control works to your advantage.
Getting fit is one of the best tips for getting affordable life insurance.
And it’s not just your rates that will improve; you’ll be bettering your overall health.
Talk to a doctor to make a plan for your specific health needs.
Strategy 2: Insist on Medical Record Updates
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol but have gotten the problem under control, make sure your doctor’s office updates your medical records.
More and more insurance companies rely on electronic medical records, and if yours are out of date, you might not be getting credit for your improving health.
Pro Tip: If you’re young and pretty healthy other than the high cholesterol reading (and if you need a lot of coverage to protect your family’s financial future) this may be the strategy for you.
Read on for strategies not involving treadmills.
Strategy 3: Lower Your Standards for Coverage
Wouldn’t it be nice if insurance underwriters simply never found out about your high cholesterol?
It turns out that’s not a far-fetched idea.
Many life insurance companies offer no-exam life insurance policies, and they perform just the way you think.
You apply for coverage, answer a questionnaire about your health, and more often than not, get approved for coverage, often within a day or two.
Sound too good to be true?
It’s not, but (you knew this was coming, right?) there’s a catch, a few catches actually:
- Less coverage: Coverage amounts for no-exam policies tend to be significantly lower than medically underwritten (with exam) coverage. You can find medically underwritten coverage up to $2 million; no-exam coverage usually caps out around $250,000 to $350,000.
- Higher premiums: Despite the lower coverage amounts, premiums will be much higher for no-exam coverage. Medically underwritten term coverage offers some of the lowest rates out there. No-exam premiums live on the other end of the price spectrum.
- Delayed access: Some no-exam policies won’t pay the full death benefit if you died during the first couple years you have the policy. Instead, they’d pay a percentage or would simply refund the premiums you’d already paid.
Truth be told, no-exam coverage just isn’t as robust as medically underwritten coverage.
How could it be?
Underwriters base premiums on risk.
Without a medical exam, they know very little about the risk your policy would create to the company’s bottom line.
So if you have growing kids and want to fund their college career or a spouse who would need to pay off the house if you died, no-exam coverage probably won’t be up to the task.
This no-exam strategy would be best for older applicants who need less coverage.
Pro Tip: Use the no-exam option to buy time: You could get a no-exam policy to have at least some coverage while you work on lowering your cholesterol so you can access better medically underwritten rates in a year or two.
Strategy 4: A Sweet Spot in the Middle
So far we’ve talked about lowering your cholesterol, and we’ve talked about paying more for less coverage with a no-exam policy.
Both these strategies will leave many people out in the cold.
Isn’t there some middle ground?
Some way to get quality coverage without joining a health club and waiting a year?
The short answer is yes, but doing so requires some patience and inside knowledge.
Many insurance companies place your application in a category to help set your premiums:
- Preferred Premium
Your cholesterol ratio is only one of dozens of factors that help determine your category.
If you can find an insurance company that tends to give applicants with higher cholesterol ratios more preferred rates, you could save a lot on premiums compared with a standard rate at another company.
The trouble is, these sweet spots can be moving targets as companies regularly change their underwriting criteria.
What works this year may not help an applicant next year.
Pro Tip: Work with an independent life insurance agent who can navigate these tight channels. Independent agents work with a variety of insurance companies, so they have a lot of inside information to guide you toward the right company at the right time.
Generally speaking, I’d recommend the following companies for applicants with a history of high cholesterol because, over the years, I’ve noticed applicants with high cholesterol have done well with these providers:
Banner Life — Banner Life is a great company for a variety of reasons.
I’d recommend them for most any life insurance applicant.
More favorable rates for people with higher cholesterol ratios is a nice bonus.
ING Reliastar — I like ING Reliastar’s approach because men and women have different criteria for cholesterol ratings.
Every little bit helps.
If you can squeeze into a better rating category, your bank account will thank you.
Prudential — Prudential is a rock-solid company which has been consistently less
picky about cholesterol ratios over the years.
Prudential is a great choice if you have any high-risk conditions which might hinder your access to affordable coverage with other popular providers.
Other Ways to Keep Life Insurance Costs Down
It’s easy to get hyper-focused on a problem area when shopping for life insurance.
While there’s nothing wrong with focusing on one area, such as your cholesterol ratio, remember: life insurance has dozens of moving parts, any of which could impact your premiums.
How Much Coverage You Need
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to overlook: The more coverage you buy, the more you’ll pay.
If $500,000 in coverage would help your family pay off the house and put aside some money for future living expenses, stick with that coverage amount.
Increasing coverage to $1 million could mean you’re paying for more peace of mind than you need.
Not sure how much coverage you need?
Most people think 5 to 10 times your annual income should be enough, assuming you have people who depend on you financially for the foreseeable future.
Giving Up Tobacco Products
Yes, cholesterol and blood pressure impact your premiums, but tobacco really clouds things up, posing the biggest threat to affordable premiums.
If you smoke, quitting, and making a long-term commitment to stay away from tobacco can save exponentially on your monthly premiums.
For a lot of people, quitting tobacco can lead to other health improvements, which will make your insurance rating even happier.
Term vs. Whole Coverage
Term life usually saves money because it lasts for only a specific period of time, usually ranging between 10 and 30 years.
When the policy expires you can reassess your needs and get a different policy, continue paying a higher rate, or do without coverage if you don’t need it.
A whole policy lasts the rest of your life, and your premiums also fund a cash account you can access later in life.
If you’re young and need a lot of coverage, keep things simple and save with a term policy.
Decide If You Even Need Coverage
What’s the most affordable life insurance?
That’s easy: The most affordable life insurance is not having to buy life insurance.
If you’re older, have a healthy financial portfolio, and feel confident your dependents could carry on just fine financially if you died, you may not need life insurance coverage.
That being said, life insurance is remarkably flexible.
You could use a policy to fund a scholarship in someone’s memory or get coverage simply to make sure your dependents have cash available while they liquify your assets.
Work with an estate planner or a financial advisor to make these plans, then make sure your family knows about them.
The Best Coverage is the Coverage Best for You
Your individual challenges — factors like high cholesterol, a dangerous occupation, or a tight monthly budget — can make getting quality life insurance coverage difficult.
Congratulations on sticking with it and looking for the best way to protect your family finances from the unexpected!
You must already know having the right life insurance coverage can make a tremendous difference for your family members.
If high cholesterol has prevented you from getting coverage, stick with it.
Try to control your cholesterol and look for other ways to save on premiums.
And don’t hesitate to ask for help!
Leave a comment below or find an independent agent in your area.