What is a Health Class?
A life insurance health class, also called a rating, is a category into which a life insurance applicant is placed based on their current health, medical history, family health history, and other factors. The better your health class, the less you’ll pay for a life insurance policy.
Health classes in life insurance
You might hear health classes called a variety of things, including risk classes, rate classes, or underwriting classes. The main takeaway, though, is that each life insurance provider has specific categories that they assign to people.
They use these classes to determine the risk level associated with insuring you and, consequently, how much to charge you for your life insurance policy.
As their name suggests, health classes hinge largely on your health. But this doesn’t just look at how you’re feeling today. It also takes into account both your personal and family medical history. If you’re healthy overall but you have a family history of a serious medical condition, for example, it can drop you down a health class.
To give themselves a comprehensive idea of the risk you present, insurance actuaries look at a variety of factors when determining your classification. Those include, but aren’t necessarily limited to:
- Your age
- Your gender
- Medications you’re currently taking
- Your body mass index (BMI)
- Any present or past health conditions, like high blood pressure
- Your occupation (high-risk ones mean a lower health class)
- Your driving record (similarly, a history of risky driving can land you in a lower class)
- Your tobacco, drug, and alcohol use
To gather all of this data, life insurers use multiple tools. For starters, they’ll usually have life insurance applicants fill out a medical questionnaire. They also look you up in the MIB Group database and get a copy of your motor vehicle record. Finally, they usually require a medical exam with a physician they’ve approved.
Different life insurance health classes
Different insurers call them different things, but the health classes are generally as follows:
- Preferred plus / super preferred / preferred best: This means you’re in the top tier, indicating that you’re healthy with nothing that concerns the insurer. As a result, you’ll get the most affordable coverage possible for your current age and the size of death benefit you want.
- Preferred: A preferred health rating means you might have some minor areas of concern, like slightly elevated blood pressure, but you seem relatively low-risk to the insurer. You’ll pay a little more than someone with a preferred plus rating, but you’ll still get a cheaper-than-average policy.
- Standard plus: With this classification, you’re a little healthier and lower-risk than the average person, so you’ll pay a little less for your life insurance policy. You might be designated a standard plus rating if you have a diagnosed health condition but your doctor can show that you’re managing it with medication and/or lifestyle changes, for example.
- Standard: The standard health class is the most common designation. You’re of average health and will pay average rates for your life insurance coverage.
The above all applies if you don’t use tobacco. If you do, your life insurance will cost a lot more. Still, though, you might be able to secure a preferred tobacco — rather than a standard tobacco — health class, which will make your policy more affordable. To get into the preferred tobacco classification, you’ll need to be healthy and low-risk besides your tobacco use.
If you quit smoking, vaping, chewing, etc., you can usually move from a tobacco health class into a non-tobacco one in a few years.