by Chris Funnell
When you apply for a life insurance policy, you know that you’ll be evaluated based on your age, lifestyle, and medical conditions. Insurers prefer that their policy holders be healthy, and have a low-risk lifestyle. Medical conditions are usually evaluated on a case by case basis because there are several degrees to a disease, and how you manage your condition plays a major role in your premiums. How do insurers evaluate smokers then?
Here are some tips for buying life insurance if you’re a smoker.
A smoker will pay higher premiums than a non-smoker because of the health risks of smoking. It doesn’t matter to the Insurer if you smoke one cigarette a month, or if you use the nicotine patch, or even e-cigarettes … all these activities will place you in the ‘smoker’ category for the purposes of life insurance. The exception is occasional cigar smoking, which some insurers consider a non-smoker.
What can make a difference to your premiums is how much you smoke, and how long you have been a smoker. A less expensive ‘preferred’ smoker rate may be available to those who aren’t heavy smokers.
When you’re completing a life insurance application, you will be asked if you’ve smoked within the last 12 months. It may be tempting to mislead on that question to end up with cheaper premiums. However, the consequence of this lie will be disastrous if, in the event of your death, the insurer discovers that you were a smoker when you applied. Then your beneficiaries would end up with nothing. What’s more, you paid premiums for nothing.
Most smokers want to quit smoking. If you stop smoking for 12 consecutive months and want to lower your premiums, then you can request a re-evaluation to a non-smoker health class. You’ll need to re-do the urine test, and sign a non-smoker declaration form stating you’ve been free from smoking for 12 months. Your insurer will ask for an updated medical history, and they will factor in any changes in your health before reclassifying your policy to the non-smoker rate.
Though most insurers have similar guidelines when it comes to smokers, it still pays to shop around and compare to get the best deal.
Some insurers offer ‘smoker incentive’ programs to reclassify you when you’re a 12-month non-smoker. Some allow occasional cigar smokers to get a non-smoker rate – each company has their own definition of ‘occasional’. And some insurers can offer a lower preferred smoker rate for those that meet certain preferred criteria. Different insurers have different criteria for evaluating smokers, and it pays to shop around to find the best company for your situation.