The Underwriting Process

Insurance providers determine the amount of risk an applicant poses through a process called underwriting.  The result of that process determines whether or not the application will be accepted and, if so, at what premium.

What customers provide

The amount of information needed to be provided by the customer varies greatly between different types of insurance.  Guaranteed no-medical term life insurance, for example, involves no medical exams nor medical or lifestyle questions.  These application can often be processed within a day.

Other types of no-medical term life insurance still require health questionnaires even though there is no medical exam.  These questionnaires can include:

  • Age
  • Past or current medical issues, including mental health issues
  • Family medical history
  • Information on high-risk occupations and hobbies
  • Weight
  • History of smoking
  • History of drug use
  • Medications

Many life insurance policies, however, do require a medical exam performed by a health professional specified by the insurance company.  The exam includes taking blood and urine specimens, measuring of pulse, blood pressure, height and weight, and sometimes additional workups such as an EKG stress test.  The doctor will also discuss your medical history.  This lengthens the process considerably, with applications often taking between four and six weeks for processing.

You may also have to provide financial information.

What Underwriters Examine

Besides information directly provided by the applicant, underwriters may gather a wide variety of other information from a variety of sources including:

  • Driving records
  • Criminal history
  • Real estate records
  • Prescription drug history
  • Medical records
  • Prior insurance purchases and applications

Underwriters also consider the amount of insurance you’re attempting to purchase.  Larger policies generally have more requirements because they pose much larger risks to the insurance company.

Privacy Issues

Insurance companies recognize they are gathering a great amount of private data about applicants.  Information such as medical and financial records are kept entirely confidential.

Ways of Speeding up the Process

While the underwriting process does take up a consider amount of time, there are things you can do to help speed things up.

  • Fill out forms completely and to the best of your knowledge. This will help the underwriter from having to ask questions about incomplete information later.
  • Provide full contact information for all doctors, past and present.
  • Encourage your doctor to provide all of the records the insurance company requests.

Results from the Underwriting Process

After an underwriter has evaluated all of the information, he places the applicant into one of the following categories:

  • Preferred: These are the lowest risk patients, generally young and in excellent health. They can receive discounts on their premiums.
  • Standard: This is the average risk level, and applicants in this category are charged the standard premium rates.
  • Rated: This is an above risk level, but still acceptable, albeit with a higher premium.
  • Postposed: This category is for those applications that need more information before the underwriter can accurately make a judgment.
  • Declined: The applicant’s circumstances make him too high a risk to be given coverage.

 As you can see, the underwriting is a lengthy and sometimes daunting task.  However, it is an important step in getting the most affordable coverage available. 

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