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  • Writer's picturejimmy ting

Wondering what excellent, good and average health really means when applying for Life Insurance?

The old joke is that in Lake Wobegon, every child is above average. (Which, you know, isn’t possible. But you get it.)

Well, in real life, no prospective Life Insurance policyholder is below average. That’s because, when you get a term life insurance quote, you can list your health as excellent, good or average, and your answer will be an important factor in the premium you are quoted.

But what does that mean in practical terms for your life insurance health classification? How should you rate your own health when shopping for life insurance to get an accurate quote?

What does Average really mean?

The first thing to understand about rating your own health for a life insurance quote is that it’s all relative. Your rating it in relation to the health of other Americans — and in general, Americans are not very healthy. (As a share of GDP, America spends around twice as much on healthcare as other wealthy nations, yet the population has lower life expectancy and far higher rates of obesity and chronic disease.)

Because the term refers to a domestic average, not a global one, ‘Average’ is somebody who is probably overweight, maybe they know they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol — those are things that are very common to our population. Some well-controlled diabetes would also be considered an ‘average’ health rating — those are very normal things we see. If that sounds familiar, you should probably research rates for someone in average health to get the most accurate possible quote for your life insurance policy.

And that’s what you want, so as to avoid sticker shock. Which reminds us: In a recent survey, 70% of Life Insurance applicants said their final offer either matched or was less expensive than their quote. Understanding your own health to determine the most accurate life insurance health rating is a good first step in finding the best rate for you.

What is considered Good health?

Someone in the ‘good’ category is pretty healthy but just a little bit below the very top. Maybe they are a little overweight, maybe blood pressure is good but cholesterol could be better. They maybe just have one or two things going on, whereas for average health there would be more factors — an ‘average’ person might have three things wrong instead of one or two, and those things would be more problematic.

In other words, a life insurance provider’s idea of “good” health is roughly in line with a regular person’s idea of the concept. So if that sounds like you, proceed accordingly when determining your life insurance classification.

Who is in Excellent health?

‘Excellent’ health in life insurance terms is not that far from ‘good'. Those in “excellent” health are “people working out everyday, in excellent shape, who watch what they eat. Someone a bit more normal would be ‘good.’” If you treat health almost like a hobby, choose “excellent” when getting a quote.

One quick note on this: If you’re in good health, and think you can get to excellent health with a little time and effort, good on you. But don’t wait for that to happen to apply for life insurance. Ultimately, your age is a critical factor in determining your rate class, and you’ll never be younger than you are today. Moreover, something could happen to you while you delay your application, leaving you without a life insurance policy at a time when your family would need one most.

What about Bad health?

No life insurance provider has a health category called “terrible,” as that wouldn’t be very customer friendly. But what happens to people whose health is below what a life insurance agency classifies as “average”? Below ‘average’ would be uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure — anything uncontrolled, really.

So how do you define an uncontrolled condition? It means you’re still following up with your doctor to figure out what meds work for you, maybe changing medication pretty often or the medication is not working for you. Usually it’s people who are in the middle of workups. Or maybe the customer is currently undergoing treatment for chronic health conditions like cancer or bowel disease that require multiple follow-ups per year.

Underwriters need to see stability to give a quote. Any time you have a brand new diagnosis or are in the middle of being diagnosed with something, we usually need you to wait six months to a year so we can really see if we have a final diagnosis of what your health conditions are and if there’s a plan for treatment that’s working well. So it might be the case that a person is not insurable now because of uncertainty, but could acquire coverage in six to 12 months.

If you think your health is below “average” and you’re applying online, you should select the “average” health class and answer all subsequent questions accurately. Most Life Insurance applicants fall under the regular rate classes, but if not, after they complete an exam and an underwriter reviews their case they will receive a final rate.

What to expect when you apply

When you visit our website and want to get a quote, we’ll show the top three health categories — those described above — which correlate to the top three rate classes, which are ‘ultra preferred,’ ‘select preferred’ and ‘standard.’ We also show tobacco rates, because tobacco users will pay more for life insurance than non-users.

To make it easier to assess your own health when you apply for life insurance, on the quote page where there’s an option for you to choose your health category, there’s a little description of each one. It is quite high-level, but it gives people some insight into how they should categorize themselves. Between the information in this article and the descriptions on the website, you should be able to make an informed choice about how to rate your health.

For more information about Life Insurance call JCT Insurance Agency at (626)354-2000 or email

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