Life Insurance Health Ratings & How They Affect Price

Life insurance companies like to group people into neat little boxes. They charge each little box different rates for their life insurance policies. They call these boxes life insurance health ratings. You can also find them as life insurance rate classes or life insurance risk class.
Your health, your parents, your siblings, and your lifestyle all contribute. The sum of these parts is your life insurance health rating.

What is a Life Insurance Health Rating?

Actuaries are highly educated mathematicians (statisticians) who look at groups of people. They analyze lifestyle versus life span. They look at how different illnesses affect lifespan. Even things like how your driving record affects your lifespan.
The compilation of all this data results in mortality tables. Each life insurance company has their own set.
When you apply for life insurance and they ask you an overwhelming number of questions about your health, it is to compare you to these mortality tables. How you compare against historical lifespan data is the rate class they assign you.
The good news is because each life insurance company has a different set of mortality tables, you aren’t stuck with any particular life insurance health rating.
For example, most life insurance companies will automatically decline you if they find any THC during the drug test. Yet a handful of 420 friendly companies don’t care. Which means you can just apply with the marijuana friendly companies and skip over the stodgy ones. Easy.

Why Do Life Insurance Companies Use Health Ratings?

life insurance risk class
The nature of any type of insurance is to spread the risk. Only some people will die in a given span of 10 years. So everybody who contributes to the pot to make the safety net more affordable for everyone. The families of the people who passed on get the death benefit funded by the people who lived. Rather than a few families getting stuck in a nightmare financial scenario on top of their grief.
Health ratings make spreading the risk a little fairer to the people who are less at risk of dying. If a person has several DUIs, they will pay more than someone who always takes an Uber.
In short, the people who are more at risk pay more. Yet it is still less than what they would need to have saved up if they didn’t have life insurance at all.

Life Insurance Health Ratings and Their Differences

While the names vary between companies, they are roughly the following:
  • Preferred Plus
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard
Then there are smoking categories:
  • Preferred Smoker
  • Standard Smoker
Smoker ratings are similar to their their shared name counterparts with the addition of tobacco. (Or sometimes marijuana.)

Preferred Plus

Honestly, this one is uncommon. You have to be a textbook specimen of health. Not only you, but your siblings and parents as well. You must also have a great driving record, a non-hazardous job, and do not participate in any hazardous activities.


This health rating is a little more realistic for many people. Yet still somewhat strict. Your health must be good, but you can have one concerning factor. If you meet all the qualifications on the following list but one, you may qualify for preferred.
  • No serious medical history
  • No family history of death before 60 (accidents excepted)
  • No family history of cancer
  • BMI of 25 or lower, but not too low
  • Great blood pressure
  • Great heart rate
  • No drug use
  • Alcohol consumption less than 3 times per week
  • No adverse driving record
  • No hobbies such as scuba diving, rock climbing, motored vehicle racing, or hang gliding
  • Your job is perfectly safe (i.e. you aren’t a miner, lumberjack or work on an oil rig)
If you can qualify for all of those except one, you’re doing great. You have pretty good odds of outliving most people. Which means your life insurance will be much cheaper.

Standard Plus

Not every life insurance company has this rate class. Although many do for the people who don’t quite qualify for preferred, but are healthier than standard.
On the list above, a few of the qualifications can be a little off. High BMI as well as high blood pressure are common reasons for people to merit Standard Plus instead of Preferred.
Our recreational marijuana users (3x per week or less) often end up with a Standard Plus rate.  This is much better than paying smoker rates, which will happen if you apply with the wrong life insurance company.


Most of the country would qualify for standard if everyone applied for life insurance. It’s not a bad thing. Standard means that you will probably live to right around the average age of death. Probably your late 70s. There is a chance that you might pass on earlier, but no more than most people.
If you feel you are in average health, use this on the Instant Quotes tool to the left to see what your rates might be. If you are up front with your insurance agent about your height, weight and any medical issues he/she will go the extra mile to find a company who will offer the best rating.

The Tobacco Classes

These are the same rate classes except the person smokes tobacco. Many of the 420 friendly life insurance companies will still require that the person applying pays smoker rates.
The good news is not every company does this. If you smoke marijuana 3 times a week or less, look at the standard plus nonsmoker rates for Prudential. If you smoke tobacco, you will always be looking at a smoker rate class.

Life Insurance Table Ratings

If you have a serious medical condition, you might be looking at table ratings. Something like Table A or Table 1. Naturally, each company has slightly different criteria for each table or even whether they use letters or numbers.
Each number or letter added to your rating means you are looking at an additional 25% premium. So for example, if you are Table A, you will have an extra 25% on top of the Standard rates. If you are Table E, you will have an extra 125% on top of Standard rates.
Tables rates are usually reserved for medical conditions that will negatively impact your lifespan. Cancer is one. Even if it is in remission. Multiple sclerosis is a big one. Even conditions such as ADHD can impact your rates.

Life Insurance Table Ratings Chart

Table Letter% IncreaseStandard PremiumTable Premium


You can see how this starts to stack up pretty fast. Use this table in order to get a general idea of how the tables ratings work.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to list the appropriate table rating for every ailment. Particularly since they vary by insurance company. If you are concerned, then it’s wise talk with your life insurance agent. They should be able to guide to toward the company friendliest to your situation.

How to Boost Your Heath Ratings

life insurance ratings
Did you know that asking for a Policy Review after major life changes can reduce your rates?

Some things are unavoidable. If you suffered a heart attack 5 years ago, you can’t change that. Although you can take steps to improve your health and look better to underwriters than someone who just kept on doing whatever they were doing.

Step 1: Apply with the right company.

An independent agent can help you here. There are two types of life insurance agents, captive agents and independent agents. Captive agents can only sell the products of a single life insurance company. They are bound by contract to that company. Independent agents can sell the products of many companies. Thus they can choose the company that is best for your unique situation.
Each company rates health classes a little differently. So someone who is a little overweight with Company A might look just fine to Company B. Your independent agent can shop the market for you.

Step 2: Ace the life insurance medical exam.

There are a bunch of tricks to boosting your results on the medical exam. Little things like eating super healthy for the week or two before the exam. Lots of leafy greens. Drinking lots of water will help clear all the gunk out of your system. Thereby improving the results of your blood work.
Even things like standing up super straight when they take your height. In addition, wearing lightweight clothing can shave off a few pounds when they weigh you too.

Step 3: Follow your doctor’s orders to the letter.

We see lots of people who get confused when they get less than ideal health ratings because they’re ignoring their doctor. This is especially common with sleep apnea. Doctors will recommend CPAP machines and the patients will not use them. Insurance companies do not like this. If you are ignoring some or all of what your doctor says, expect higher ratings. Alternatively, starting doing what they tell you.

Step 4: Do not volunteer information.

If neither the medical examiner nor the application ask about something, don’t share.
There is a chance that your volunteered information can hurt your rates. For example, if the application doesn’t ask about genetic testing, don’t say anything. Companies in the past have used the results of genetic tests to charge exorbitant rates due to predispositions.

Ways to Decrease Your Premiums on a Current Policy

Many agents will do an annual check in. This is a good time to see if you can get lower rates. Although keep in mind that as you age your rates will increase.
First, major life changes can result in a reasonable request for your life insurance company to review your policy. The industry term is “Policy Review.” For example if you lose weight and keep the weight off for a year, most companies will adjust your rates accordingly.
Other events like if you stop smoking or leave a hazardous profession will also count.
Other industry changes can benefit your bank account as well. 10 years ago no life insurance company would dream of insuring someone who smokes cannabis for fun. It wasn’t done. Now there are more 420 friendly companies every year. Even ones who will not charge smoker rates.
If you have had any life changes that could make you less of a risk, talk to your life insurance agent about it. He or she will then negotiate on your behalf in order to save you money.

How Pre-existing Conditions Affect Health Ratings

life insurance table ratings chart
Try asking about guaranteed issue products. You will have to survive for a few years before a 100% payout, but it’s better than the alternative.

Every ailment affects your life insurance rates differently. When you apply for life insurance and you are treating a condition with medical marijuana, the concerning factor is no longer the cannabis, it’s the condition. Every condition varies in severity.

Underwriters will assess use of cannabis to help with AIDS symptoms in a different manner than cannabis as a sleep aid for insomnia.
Whatever you are treating with medical marijuana, you will need to submit the doctors records for what you are treating. The underwriter will want to review the diagnoses herself.
But what about pre-existing conditions that I’m treating with other medicines?
Same thing here as with medical marijuana. The underwriter will request all the medical records relating to your condition. Perhaps even unrelated ones. They will look at the severity of the diagnoses, the treatment methods, and how you are responding to treatment.
Everything depends on what the ailment is.

What To Do If You’re Uninsurable

It’s the worst part of any insurance agent’s job to have a client rejected as uninsurable. The frustration and disappointment is heartrending. Especially because it’s usually the families that need it the most.

If you are uninsurable for health reasons…

Try looking for “guaranteed issue” products. Your agent should be able to find something that will cover you.
You might have to settle for graded premiums. Those are where you only get a specific percentage of the death benefit if you pass on within the first couple years of owning the policy. Then a higher percentage a couple years after that. Until you are around 3 or 5 years (depending on the company), then you will receive the full amount.
Many of these policies are expensive. Yet a few companies offer guaranteed issue products that are similar to traditional life insurance.

If you are uninsurable for hobby or work reasons…

Keep trying with different companies. An independent agent can help save you time and effort with this one. Independent agents are able to sell the products of many different companies. Whereas captive agents are only able to sell the products of one.

If you are uninsurable for lifestyle reasons (i.e. you smoke a lot of weed)…

Try one of these 420 friendly life insurance companies. The industry is always changing so there is likely to be something for you.
Alternatively, if you enjoy mushrooms on occasion or have a shocking number of DUIs, you might have to wait several years. For drugs beyond marijuana, take a break before applying for life insurance. Get everything out of your system. Never volunteer information the application doesn’t ask for.
If you have a lot of DUIs or are currently in bankruptcy, see if your agent can find something. If not, you may have to wait a few years for everything to resolve itself.

How Marcan Insurance Can Help

We specialize in finding affordable life insurance for medical marijuana patients and hobbyists alike. Because we are independent agents, we can help find the best company to suit your family’s needs. There are several marijuana friendly companies available. You can even get non-smoker rates if you follow these tips.
Have you been declined for coverage in the past or can’t qualify for coverage?  Contact us.  We have guaranteed issue policies that anyone (even you) can be approved for.
If you have any questions, please give us a call at (888) 987-8447. All calls are 100% confidential. (That’s protected by law.)