It is often difficult to obtain major medical insurance for the overweight and obese. Policies are available, but costs may be high and coverage may be short-term.
Weight Is a Widespread Problem
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, over one-third of American adults were obese in 2008, with 32.3 percent of adult men and 35.5 percent of woman weighing more than the standard weight range for their height. These overweight people cross all age groups, are distributed across all fifty states and are representative of all races.
Frequently the terms overweight and obese are used interchangeably; however, the medical and insurance professions use a variety of guidelines to define obesity. The guidelines range from simple charts to complex calculations of body density. In general however, the two most accepted guidelines are height charts and the BMI:
- Height charts provide weight ranges which are considered healthy for specific heights. Individuals who fall outside of these weight ranges are considered underweight, overweight or obese. For example, the chart used by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention considers a 5-foot 9-inch tall person to have a healthy weight if he or she weighs between 125 and 168 pounds. The same person would be considered overweight if they weighed between 169 and 202 pounds and obese if they weighed 203 pounds or more.
- BMI, the Body Mass Index, is a mathematical formula which considers the ratio between the height and weight of an individual. Individuals with a BMI of 25 or more are frequently considered overweight or obese.
Insurance Challenges for the Overweight and Obese
Traditionally overweight people have had trouble getting affordable major medical insurance coverage at standard rates. Insurance companies have been known to charge higher premiums to overweight people to offset what insurance companies feel might be the likelihood of greater medical expenses for heavier patients suffering from expensive medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Some insurance companies even refuse to provide insurance to overweight people, stating that their weight is a pre-existing condition which could lead to expensive medical problems.
Finding Major Medical Insurance for the Overweight and Obese
Reasonably priced major medical insurance is available for the overweight individual; however, it frequently takes more research and negotiation than it would take to find the same type of insurance for an individual who falls in the "healthy" weight section of the height chart. The key is to do your research and be willing to try various alternatives.
No Weight Restriction Insurance
Several insurance companies offer plans that do not pre-screen an applicant's weight. These insurance plans may also be willing to accept individuals with pre-existing conditions and may have a guaranteed acceptance procedure.
These insurance companies may not offer their products in all states, so you might want to work with an insurance broker who can help you identify and evaluate the major medical plans offered in your state.
Here are a few companies which offer comprehensive major medical plans at standard rates and do not pre-screen for weight:
- Secure 3x12 STM is a short-term major medical insurance policy that provides continuous coverage for three years, after which you need to reapply for another three years. They offer several forms of coverage including a higher deductible policy which can help reduce the overall price of the insurance.
- American Health Shield and Simple Short Term Medical are short-term major medical insurance policies that provide affordable protection. Both policies are group insurance plans which are offered to members of the Association of United Internet Consumers, a benefits association with a monthly membership fee of $2. The downside to these two plans is that they require re-enrollment and pre-existing conditions may not be covered.
Typically an overweight individual who obtains group insurance, such as through an employer, can receive the same benefits and costs as an individual who is not overweight. A group insurance plan is also usually offered to all employees regardless of any pre-existing medical conditions. As long as you stay in the group your rates will stay the same as the rest of the individuals in the group. Your rates can be increased, however, if you are no longer employed by the same employer and you choose to switch to an individual policy through the same insurer.
Group plans are offered through employers as well as through professional associations. Sometimes it makes good financial sense to join a professional association and pay their dues in order to qualify for group major medical insurance plans which are offered to their membership.
Don't Give Up
You can find major medical insurance for the overweight and obese. It may take a little research and you may have to re-apply every few years; however, having major medical insurance can make the difference between a small medical bill and a very large medical expense in the event of a major medical issue.