As life insurance companies have turned in the direction of more conservative underwriting of build (height, weight, bmi), the last 10 years has seen them really embrace weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese. That sure wasn’t always the case with gastric bypass and bariatric surgery life insurance underwriting being slow to acknowledge the weight loss as legitimate. It was almost as if they wanted to give themselves padding by using guidelines that required for the weight loss to be stable for 2-3 years before consideration. When that was added to the actual post surgery weight loss time of 6 months to a year and a half, even the most successful procedure wouldn’t net a person better life insurance rates or an approval versus a decline for 3-4 years.
I also think it’s worth sharing, even though it may not be shocking news, that life insurance underwriting over my time in the business has shown some biases that weren’t necessarily based on actuarial data. Like much of the country, life insurance underwriting regarded the obesity and weight loss surgery as kind of socially wrong. I believe there was truly a mindset that people who were morbidly obese got themselves into that situation and instead of just getting a grip they turn to a doctor to just fix it. The easy way out? It really wasn’t until the last 5-10 years that public opinion and life insurance underwriting have begrudgingly set aside that prejudice and recognized that morbid obesity is life threatening. They have accepted that it isn’t always that person’s fault for becoming overweight and that traditional weight loss methods, at least on this side of Biggest Loser, aren’t very effective for morbid obesity and that medical prudence really leads to taking whatever measures are necessary to take that strain off of your body.
So the life insurance underwriting view of bariatric surgery, whether gastric bypass or lap band has evolved to accept shorter periods of stability. In some cases people reach their target weight within 4-6 months and as long as there are no complications in the next 6 months (1 year from surgery), the case can be underwritten at the new weight. This puts weight loss surgery almost on equal life insurance ground as diet and exercise in that with traditional weight loss, companies have always given only half credit for weight loss within the last year. Since all of the weight from surgery will have been lost within the last year credit will be given for half of the weight loss. So if someone 6′ weighed 400# and lost 150# from surgery, they would get credit for 75# one year post surgery. That takes them from a weight where they wouldn’t be approved for traditional life insurance to a weight where they can be approved affordable life insurance. As long as weight remains stable at a year and a half a person can get full credit for weight loss which in the case above would get them to standard rates.
Bottom line. It is nothing short of a life saving revelation when someone finally understands that obesity is a health issue, really a health crisis. A health crisis demands treatment and quickly and that’s where weight loss surgery and life insurance underwriting’s new view of it come in. If you have any questions or have been turned down for life insurance because of your weight loss surgery, know that all companies and all agents aren’t created equally. Call or email me directly. My name is Ed Hinerman. Let’s talk.