Life Insurance - A Weighty Issue

By: Michael Challiner
As a nation, we are getting bigger. By 2025, according to the latest government statistics, around 33% of girls and 25% of boys will be classifiable as clinically obese. ‘Obese’ is defined as overweight to the probable detriment of a person’s health. In fact the rate at which UK children are getting fatter is set to increase, becoming the worst in the world even above the USA.

An estimated ?4 billion a year is lost through obesity and related conditions through time off work. Add in disability pay and lost taxes, and the figure is said to top ?20 billion.

It is generally more likely for an obese person to need to see their family doctor, or visit an out patients’ clinic, than their slimmer neighbour. They also need treatment more often. The National Health Service estimates that ?15 billion a year must be spent on these patients, and this figure is set to rise as the new heavier generation matures.

Insurers are following this progress with a beady eye. Many applications for insurance now include a ‘weigh on the day’ clause that specifies customer weight on the same day the form is filled in. They will no longer accept the last known weight, because it’s simply too tempting to subtract a pound or two for the desert you promise not to eat tomorrow! Heavier customers may be given a higher rate, or even refused certain policies.

One of the UK’s main insurers gave us this example. Consider a fit, healthy man of 40, weighing about 12 stone at 5ft 10ins. He wishes to find a life insurance policy lasting 20 years for ?100,000 worth of cover. All well and good. But if you supersize our Mr. Average to 18 stone, even if he is still in excellent health, his premium will rise by more than 50%.

If he was asked to undergo a medical prior to taking up the policy, and one or two health issues were raised, this would be quite common for someone in his circumstances. Sadly, it would be equally common for his premium to rise yet again, or for the policy to be refused.

Our poor client would most probably be denied critical illness cover altogether. Problems such as raised cholesterol or high blood pressure, while not exclusively related to a high weight, most certainly go hand in hand with a high premium or in this case, almost certain refusal.

For women over 16 stone, the insurance situation is not much better.

They face an increase of 33% on the cost for someone of “normal" weight. Once more, ill health or significantly higher weight further increase the cost of a policy, or even the ability to get cover at all.

So neither gender has it easy when it comes to insurance for heavier clients. The insurance companies naturally feel a need to increase their costs in line with their risks, but for those at risk of suffering from health problems life insurance becomes even more important.

There is undoubtedly an issue of increased costs facing the overweight customer looking for insurance. The extra cost and weight go hand in hand. So what can be done to help the situation?In fact, it’s especially important to get good Life Insurance in this situation. If finding this insurance is a problem due to higher weight or possible ill health due to the condition, a good insurance broker is your key to a suitable policy. There is the issue of increased cost to consider. But think about it this way: your new policy at your current weight can always be updated if your weight drops. You’ll enjoy the reduced costs too as your premiums will get lower.

Not only that, but these changes will probably affect your premium costs for Life and Travel Insurance too, as well as Critical Illness Cover.

There is a more insidious problem facing the overweight when it comes to the NHS. Patients defined as obese are entitled to treatment in the same way as everyone else, yet many people feel that they will not be given an equal chance. In a recent survey of 70,000 hospital doctors, almost 50% were reported as saying that overweight patients should not be given a replacement hip or other such surgery. Treatment with free anti-obesity drugs might seem a good solution, but it has been judged undesirable by a third of these doctors. Some family GPs do little to help the situation. Their message is that the overweight patient is just someone who should get off their couch and do something about it, without offering any real help, support or information about useful changes. Thankfully this is by no means everyone’s attitude! Many other family practitioners do offer a lot of encouragement, advice and help to their lucky patients, but it can be a bit of a lottery.

If you find working in a group of like-minded people useful, you could try one of the many slimming clubs on offer. Some people find them very motivating. They enjoy sharing their experiences with others, and if this approach is for you then the results can be excellent. Some clubs combine diet with an exercise programme, and exercise has long been known to be useful in increasing fitness as well as weight loss.

People who have discovered a suitable programme of exercise and diet, along with a considerable application of willpower and determination, often find that achieving and maintaining their ideal weight is possible and practical. Others however have opted for more extreme measures to get into that elusive perfect height-weight zone.

These people have chosen to have an operation called a gastric bypass, a serious matter – and it costs the NHS about ?12,000 a time. All operations, including this one, have their risks. Five hours under the knife is certainly not something to be done on a whim! But those who have taken this route say that the results are impressive enough to warrant taking the chance. Additionally, there are possible benefits to be gained for obesity-related conditions that are avoided, such as some types of diabetes, that add up to a much higher bill for the NHS as well as causing patients problems. Indeed one lady who had the operation reduced by 12 stone and, as her impressive “Before" and “After" photos show, she’s well on the way to her target weight and enjoying her new lifestyle.

Once you reach a lower weight, insurance companies will be more than happy to give you a policy. So make sure that you have a good set of insurance to see you though to that day – and don’t forget to update them as your weight changes! Remember, as you lose weight, you gain in savings on premium costs. Look though your local insurance companies, but don’t forget that there are many great deals available online – find yourself an Internet broker, and they’ll be able to find you specialist and up-to-date help with all the latest offers!

Life Insurance
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