How Life Insurance Underwriting Works

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Contributor, Benzinga
January 19, 2022

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Getting a life insurance policy can be a process. By familiarizing yourself with the underwriting process beforehand, you can make shopping for life insurance easier because you’ll know what to expect. 

Get started now with Benzinga’s overview to help you understand the process.

What is Underwriting?

Underwriting is a process that happens after you apply for a life insurance policy. During the underwriting process, the insurer will review your application and confirm your eligibility for the policy as well as the rate of your policy. 

Who Handles Life Insurance Underwriting?

The insurance company will handle the underwriting process. The underwriter will work on behalf of the insurance company to evaluate your life insurance application and determine your eligibility. 

If you work with an insurance broker, they should be able to keep you updated on the status of your application throughout the underwriting process.

What Does the Life Insurance Underwriting Process Look Like?

There are several steps in the underwriting process for a life insurance policy. Here’s a breakdown of the steps followed by most insurance providers.

MIB Check 

The first thing that an underwriter will do is check with the MIB Group’s database. The MIB group helps insurers gather information about a person’s risk and eligibility for life insurance, as well as other insurance products such as disability and health insurance. 

The MIB Group’s information is gathered from health and life insurance applications, so if you’ve ever applied for a health insurance policy, it likely already has information about you. This information may include medical history data, hazardous hobbies and your driving record.

The underwriter will use MIB data to help verify that the information in your life insurance application matches the information that you’ve previously submitted when applying for other insurance products. If the information is inconsistent, the underwriter and the insurance company may look deeper into your medical history to confirm details.

Application Quality Check 

The insurer will likely call you for a 15- to 30-minute telephone interview. During this call, the insurer will go through your application with you to ensure that it has all of the required information to perform the underwriting process. You may be asked questions about your medical history and background during this call. 

Medical Exam 

If the life insurance policy that you applied for requires a medical exam, that will be the next step. The medical exam is performed by a medical technician and paid for by the insurer. It’s similar to a routine check-up with your doctor — the medical technician will check your blood pressure and record your height and weight. 

You’ll also undergo a blood test to check for medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease and a urine test to check for drug use. The results of your medical exam are sent to the underwriter and will be used to determine your eligibility for life insurance coverage.

An important thing to remember here is that you can reuse the results of your medical exam to apply for a different life insurance policy. You’re not obligated to purchase a life insurance policy from the insurer that paid for your medical exam.

Attending Physician Statement 

If your medical exam raises concerns, the underwriter can order an Attending Physician Statement (APS). In the statement, your doctor will summarize your health history and provide details about the underlying cause (if known) of the insurer’s concerns.

Prescription Check 

As part of your medical history, the insurer may want to know about all of the prescriptions you’ve been given over the past few years. Prescription checks aren’t always required but can be used as another way to confirm the information that you provided on your application.

Motor Vehicle Report 

Insurers and underwriters are also interested in your motor vehicle report (MVR). This report has information about your driving history and goes back as far as 7 years. If you’ve had any traffic citations like a speeding ticket, an accident report or a DUI conviction, this will show up on your MVR. The MVR will mostly influence your insurance premium — if you have a clean driving record, you’ll likely receive a lower premium than someone with a concerning report. However, if you have something concerning like a recent DUI on your record, the insurer may deny your application for a life insurance policy.

Actuarial Tables 

Actuarial tables are statistical analyses of your life expectancy. These tables are carefully calculated based on the mortality rates of certain populations throughout their lifetime. Factors such as your family history, medical diagnoses and occupation can determine where you fall on an actuarial table. 

Underwriters will take a look at the mortality table to gain a statistical baseline to predict when you’re most likely to die. This may sound morbid, but life insurers need this information to determine the risk of insuring you. Underwriters will also look at a build, which uses your body mass index (BMI) to determine your health. This table is also used to predict your life expectancy. 

Credit History 

Once the underwriter has completed all of the above steps to determine eligibility for policies and premiums, they may perform a credit check. This may help you get a more affordable premium for your life insurance policy. 

Confirming the Final Rating 

Finally, the underwriting process will come to a close with the final rating. This is when the insurer confirms the premiums and allows the policy to be put into effect. 

How Can You Improve a Life Insurance Application?

There are a few things you can do to try to get the best rates on a good life insurance policy. The easiest thing you can do is research insurers. You’ll want to find one with good financial strength ratings and get quotes if you can to find the insurers that offer the most affordable policies. 

The other thing you can do is to work on factors that will influence your policy. This will take more time, but it can help you in the long run. 

Prepare for the Medical Exam

While you can’t change your health history, there are some things you can do to improve the outcome of your medical exam. It’s a good idea to abstain from alcohol for a few days before the exam and skip coffee the morning of your exam. 

You should also drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your exam to ensure that you’re properly hydrated. Taking it easy the day before your exam and getting a good night’s sleep can help keep your pulse and blood pressure down. 

On the day of your exam, you should wear lightweight clothing to ensure that you get an accurate weight measurement. You’ll also want to ask whether you need to fast leading up to your medical exam, as some blood tests may require that. 

Physical Health 

Eating healthy and regular exercise can improve key indicators of your health, including blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It can also improve your BMI, which is heavily considered during the underwriting process.

Work with Your Doctor 

If you have medical conditions, make sure you’re communicating with your doctor and following their advice. Underwriters will be aware of your medical conditions, and if your doctor confirms that you’re taking steps to manage them, this can help your application.

Work on Your Credit 

To help you get the best premium possible, you can take steps to improve your credit before applying for life insurance.

Ask for Reconsideration 

If you’ve submitted a previous life insurance application but have since made changes, you can ask your insurer to review your updated records. Updated medical records and a new medical exam may help you qualify for a lower premium.

Work with an Agent 

If you’re using an insurance agent, you can ask for their advice about what they believe will help.

Compare Life Insurance

Whether you’re ready to apply for life insurance now or you’re gathering information to use in the future, it’s a good idea to be aware of the top life insurance providers. 

Use these providers to start your research for the best life insurance coverage.

When Should I Apply for Life Insurance?

To qualify for the best premiums, it’s a good idea to apply for life insurance when you’re young and healthy. Keep in mind that the underwriting process generally takes around 6 weeks, so you won’t receive coverage immediately after applying. 

Now that you know what to expect, you can begin looking for coverage at any time. 

Frequently Asked Questions


What do insurance underwriters look for?


Insurance underwriters first want to make sure that the information on your application is correct. They look for factors that will determine whether you qualify for a life insurance policy, including your health status and driving record. They’ll also look for factors that can determine the amount of coverage and the premiums that you qualify for.


Is insurance underwriting a dying career?


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “employment of insurance underwriters is projected to decline 2% from 2020 to 2030.” However, job openings are still anticipated to replace insurance underwriters who transfer to different careers or retire.


Benzinga crafted a specific methodology to rank life insurance. To see a comprehensive breakdown of our methodology, please visit our Life Insurance Methodology page.