Underwriting is the process of assessing the level of risk that someone applying for insurance presents to the insurer so that the right premium can be set. When it comes to life insurance, the process of underwriting (and approval) can be completed within a day, but it can take weeks in some cases.
What types of risk factors are assessed?
An underwriter will evaluate your:
How does life insurance underwriting work?
Underwriting is essentially the process of working out how much risk a person presents in order to either accept or reject their life insurance application. Here's a brief summary of how it works:
1. When does underwriting occur?
This will depend on the nature of your policy. If your cover is:
- A policy bought outside of super. Most life insurance companies will require underwriting upon application. This can include a written questionnaire, and a follow up phone call from the underwriter
- Group policies and superannuation life insurance. Many superannuation and workplace insurance schemes do not require underwriting unless the insured want's to increase their level of cover.
2. What documents are generally required?
As a minimum the insurer will require an application form and a personal statement with details of your:
- Residency status
- Current occupation
- Financial status
- Pursuits or pastimes
- Medical history – both you and your family's
3. What types of medical documents are required?
- Details of medical history. This can include statements from your doctor about any current or historic conditions
- Information of any existing diseases or health disorder. This can include statements about the nature of condition and current treatments you are on.
- General questions about your family's medical history. This is done to assess any chance of suffering a hereditary disease.
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Fully underwritten life insurance: Pros and cons summarised
- It means you know upfront what you will and won't be covered for (In comparison to most off-the-shelf products which automatically exclude pre-existing conditions without notifying you)
- Confidence if you do need to make a claim
- It means you have the opportunity to assess your pre-existing conditions and get covered (but possibly at a higher rate).
- If you have a group policy with your superfund you might already be covered even if you have a pre-existing condition. Individually underwriting with a life insurer might exclude your condition
- The application process takes longer and you'll need to provide more information.
What risk factors impact the premium or whether the policy is accepted?
Here are some factors that underwriters typically look at:
- Your age: As far as life insurance cover is concerned, a person’s age is an important consideration. People who are in their thirties or younger typically present lower risk than older people and so may qualify for lower premium rates.
- Smoking Status: If the applicant is a smoker, premium rates can double. You could be eligible for a premium reduction if you've quit the habit for 12 months.
- Family medical history: If you have a long history of serious illness such as cancer or heart problems in your family, then your risk may be assessed as high by the underwriters. On the other hand, if you are in good health and you do not have a genetic history or predisposition to serious illnesses, then your life insurance application should be accepted at standard premium rates.
- Current health: If you are in good health you obviously stand to be assessed as a lower risk than someone who has some illness or who has undergone multiple surgeries in the past.
- Your job: How risky your occupation is can also have a significant impact on your life insurance premiums. If you're in a job where you need to tackle dangerous or risky situations on a regular basis, your risk factor will be considered higher by the underwriters. This could cause your life insurance premiums to increase.
How does medical underwriting work?
When your application is assessed by an underwriter, you may be asked to complete a medical examination depending on the information that you have provided. Your medical history from your doctor or other medical professional cannot be obtained without your permission and any information gathered will be treated in confidence.
Some medical conditions that will generally prompt an insurance underwriter to request a medical report from your doctor and/or medical examination include:
- Heart trouble and high blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Lung disorders
- Chronic indigestion
- Diabetes type I and II
- Malignant tumours or cancer
- Kidney, bladder, liver disorders and stones
- Mental illness
Do all insurers require medical exams?
No. If you want a simpler process to buy life insurance, you may want to consider getting cover through a direct life insurance provider. By going direct you may not need to go through medical underwriting – your cover could even be activated online or over the phone immediately.
Will direct life insurance suit me?
Direct life insurance is generally more suitable for applicants who have a straightforward medical history, and a clear understanding of what they require from their cover. With these policies, underwriting may be done in the event of a claim, so it's crucial you answer you are clear of the policy conditions and answer the medical questionnaire accurately to ensure your claim is paid.
Learn more about NobleOak' fully underwritten life insurance