The cost of an insurance plan can vary greatly from one person to another based on physical characteristics like age, gender and weight. An insurance company may charge you more if you are overweight or obese if it thinks that your weight makes you riskier to insure. Weight doesn't affect all types of insurance, but it can affect the rates you face on health insurance and life insurance.
Insurance Rate Basics
Insurance companies base their rates on estimates of how costly you will be to insure. Any risk factor that suggests you might end up costing more to insure than the average person can be grounds for charging you a higher rate. For instance, young people tend to pay more for auto insurance, since young drivers tend to get into accidents more often than older drivers. Obesity is associated with an increased likelihood of serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, so insurance companies may charge obese people more for plans that deal with physical health.
Being overweight or obese can have a major influence on health insurance costs. According to "USA Today", it costs about $1,400 more a year to treat an average obese patient than a person at a healthy weight. Insurance companies can charge overweight and obese people more for coverage to compensate for these higher average costs. If your body mass index is over 30, you could pay as much as 25 percent more for health insurance, and if your BMI is over 39, you could pay 50 percent more. Body mass index is a common measure of obesity that is based on your height and weight. If you have insurance through work, your company generally can't charge you more for health insurance based on a health factor like weight unless it offers you an alternative way to avoid higher rates, such as by participating in a health-coaching program or taking nutrition classes.
Life insurance provides benefits to your loved ones if you die while you have coverage. The cost of life insurance is based on the likelihood that you'll pass away within the term of the plan. As a result, young, healthy people tend to pay less for life insurance than older people and those with health problems. Obese customers can end up paying more for life insurance, since they tend to be at an increased risk of facing serious health problems.
Health Insurance Discounts
Some health insurance companies offer incentives for people who make an effort to stay healthy or lose weight. For instance, an insurer may offer a discount if you can provide proof that you have a health club membership or that you are a member of a weight loss program like Weight Watchers. If you get insurance through work, you might be eligible for a discount on health insurance if you take part in employee wellness programs.
- MSN Money: Obese? You May Pay More for Insurance
- USA Today: Obamacare Requires Most Insurers to Tackle Obesity
- Bankrate.com: Wellness Programs Lower Insurance Premiums
- WBUR: Can My Company’s Wellness Program Really Ask Me To Do That?
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Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.