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What is life insurance underwriting and how does it work?


When you purchase a life insurance policy, you’ll need to go through an underwriting process before you can be accepted. The underwriting process is where your insurance provider evaluates your level of risk and sets the price of your policy.

They are able to do this by collecting information regarding your age, health, lifestyle, hobbies, as well as your family medical history. Every insurance provider has a different way of examining the risk, but mostly the same information is provided.

Step 1 – Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire

In order for your insurance broker to process your life insurance application into the underwriting stage, they will need some information regarding your health and lifestyle.

This questionnaire will include questions regarding your age, smoking status, alcohol intake, exercise routines, current health and any hobbies. They will also want to know about your occupation, driving history and family medical history. If anything flags up, then there may be other health-related questions surrounding this.

It’s important to provide as much information as you can at this point. This is so that the underwriter can use this information to determine your risk. Any further questions may delay your life insurance application.

Step 2 – Completing the Application

Your insurance broker can complete the application on your behalf once they have gathered all the information. Each answer must be provided with the correct details, so it can be a little repetitive.

If a person is relatively fit and healthy then the application will normally go through straight away. But this cannot be guaranteed. It will also depend on the amount of cover, term length. It is up to the insurance providers discretion.  If there are minor conditions noted, or the individual is a smoker, then the application may come through as ‘rated’.

A ‘rated’ policy will mean that the price has gone up from standard cover. This price is determined by the condition and severity. However, your insurance advisor will be able to provide you with advice regarding this before they process the application.

Step 3 – The underwriting process

Once the application has been completed it will go straight to the underwriter. At this stage, the underwriter inspects the product and assesses the risk for the individual. Once they have analysed the information, they will arrive at a premium amount.

If there are no issues and the individual is relatively fit and healthy, the application can be processed. It won’t be long after this that your insurance policy will be put in place.

If the underwriter needs further information, there may be different routes that the customer will need to go down.


  • GP Report

If you previously had or have a medical condition you may have to wait for a GP report. Your insurance provider will write to your GP to get confirmation of the illness, when it was and how long it was for. They will also confirm any medication that you take.

This is normally to get a better understanding of the condition and how well it is managed or to obtain any further information that has not been provided by the questionnaire.

  • Nurse Screening

A nurse screening is mainly like a normal health MOT check. They will test things such as your BMI, measurements, blood pressure and pulse. In some cases, they will take a urine specimen too or blood to check for glucose and protein levels.

A nurse screening may be required if you haven’t been tested for a while when it comes to blood pressure, cholesterol or if you’ve recently quit smoking. An EKG may be requested too, depending on how you’ve answered your questionnaire.

A nurse screening is more commonly conducted when larger amounts of insurance are requested, or if the individual insured is older in age.

Why do I have to do a medical?

If you are fit and healthy with no previous medical conditions, it is unlikely you will be asked to provide further information. However, if any conditions crop up in your application, such as a high BMI or high blood pressure, it’s important your insurance provider obtains all the facts.

With more information, they are able to accurately assess your case. It’s not them trying to catch you out, but more protect their business and assess the case properly.

The difference in insurance providers

An underwriter will assess each policy individually and every insurance provider may have different criteria set in stone.

For example, one insurer may have a higher underwriting limit than another. Some insurance providers won’t do medical screening unless the policy is over £500,000 whereas some providers will for £425.000 and above.

Typically, it will depend on your health, the amount of cover, age and smoking status. Some insurance may decline cover, whereas others are more specialised and can offer rates when a customer has a medical condition.

Go through a broker to compare policies

The best way to obtain your life insurance more quickly, and avoid some of the hassle, will be to go to an insurance advisor. They can help compare the situation with different providers and find the right solutions to meet your individual circumstances. It is important to be aware that for larger amounts of cover, it is likely that you will need to provide some additional information.

Whilst it means there may be a wait before your life insurance can go on, typically we can help you to book your appointments and ensure that you get seen as quickly as possible. Whilst we can help organized appointments, we are not able to determine the time it will take to obtain medical records from your GP or health care provider.


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