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If your health improves, so might your life insurance rates

Your health plays a major factor in your ability to get good life insurance quotes.

If your medical exam shows that you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or some other ailment that makes you a "higher risk," it will boost your premium. And a life insurance company may consider lowering your rates in the future if you take effective steps to improve your health.

However, an insurer will not guarantee you lower premiums if it sees the possibility of serious health problems in your future.

"General practice" but no guarantee

good life insurance ratesIn your insurer’s eyes, the healthier you are, the less risk you represent. When you buy a life insurance policy,  companies will have specific requirements for a premium reduction – like suitable cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Christopher Graham, underwriting director for Hartford Life, says companies also reward good health in order to keep customers from shopping around for another policy. "It makes good business sense," he says.

Life insurance companies stop short of putting a provision in your contract that promises your premium will go down if your health improves. Michael Snowdon, a faculty member at the College for Financial Planning in Colorado, says insurance companies prefer not to put such promises in writing because it could lead to lawsuits.

"It comes down to a little skittishness on their part for anything that is going to force their hand," says Snowdon. "If you re-qualify on a medical basis for a lower rate, they're happy to give it you. But it's easy to function that way without all of the language in a contract."

Your improved health can't be a "flash in the pan"

To qualify for a re-evaluation for lower life insurance rates, insurance companies require medical proof from your doctor. It must show that you've been improving your health for a specific period of time. For example, if you initially had high blood pressure, but have managed to lower it, an insurance company might look at all of your blood pressure readings for the past year to determine whether you warrant a premium reduction.

For more severe health problems, such as cancer and heart disease, the time period for showing improved health can be longer. Earning a premium reduction after suffering a serious condition such as cancer is possible, but a company may require that the cancer be in remission for a long time — such as five to 10 years — before reducing your insurance bill.

There are some ailments for which it’s unlikely you will ever get a reduction. Graham of Hartford Life cites heart-wall damage as a condition that will not improve, thus making it nearly impossible to get a reduction.

In many cases, the insurer will require you to undergo its own medical tests (collecting blood and urine samples, for example) to verify the information from your doctor. It's possible that while checking for improvement for one medical condition another serious problem is detected. Your rate would not increase in this case. For example, if you lowered your cholesterol but the blood test showed you had developed diabetes, your premium would not increase.

Also, there is generally no limit as to how many times you can ask the company to revisit your health and lower premiums accordingly. "It's pretty much a no-lose situation for someone to reapply," says Snowdon of the College of Financial Planning. "As long as the premiums are paid, the life insurance is yours. They can't go back and re-underwrite to charge you a higher rate."

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