How I Dealt With the ‘Fat Tax’ on Life Insurance As a Plus-Sized Person


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  • Despite being healthy, I’m in a higher risk category for life insurance because of my BMI. 
  • I worked with an insurance broker, and selected less coverage to keep it affordable.
  • Now, I wish I had more — but some life insurance is better than none.

A little more than five years ago, I became the primary breadwinner in my household.

I also had a second child. That meant that suddenly, life insurance went from something I knew I should get some day, to something that I needed immediately. If anything were to happen to me, I wanted to know that my husband and daughters would be taken care of.

Still, I had a big concern, quite literally. I’m a plus-sized person, and I knew that could make getting life insurance more difficult or more expensive. I’m extremely privileged to be very healthy, so it’s rare that I have to face the fatphobia in our medical system head-on. But there was no way around it when getting life insurance.

Here’s how I handled the stigma of being a big person, and found a policy that worked for my budget.

I decided to put my emotions aside

I went into purchasing life insurance with my eyes wide open. I know that life insurance companies use weight and height to calculate your body mass index, or BMI. Your BMI affects your premium, despite being a poor and problematic predictor of health outcomes.

That enraged me, personally. As a fit, active person and healthcare journalist, I could feel myself wanting to pull the research and argue my case. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to change the system or my premiums.

So, I made a conscious choice to work within the system that I have. I set down the emotional work of railing against the injustice of it. I know the truth of my health, and I gave myself permission to not try to prove that to anyone.

I decided to be upfront and work with an agent

With that mindset — knowing I would be charged more — I decided to be up front. I contacted an insurance agent. When he asked about any health concerns I told him I didn’t have any, but I was overweight.

He didn’t miss a beat. Instead, he explained without judgment that I would pay more. Then, he suggested certain companies that were more open to working with people with higher BMIs.

I applied to three of these companies. After comparing rates, I chose the one that offered me the smallest “fat tax.” I was still paying more than a thin person would, but the difference was smaller than it would be at other companies.

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I chose a smaller term policy

It was important to me that life insurance be affordable, but also effective if the worst should happen. Balancing those two things was tough.

Ultimately, I decided on a 25-year term policy that was enough to pay off our mortgage and cover about a year of essential expenses. That’s less than the experts say I need, but at the time, the monthly premium fit into my budget, and I decided that some insurance was better than nothing.

I wish I had bought slightly more insurance

Five years after buying my policy, I wish I had opted for more coverage. I now own a bigger house, with a bigger mortgage. My expenses have grown, and so has my disposable income, so I would now be comfortable paying a higher premium each month.

Still, I’m glad I purchased insurance when I did. In general, weight is just going to increase with age, and premiums get higher for everyone as they get older. Although buying insurance as a fat person can be intimidating, the best time to do it is now, even if you’re getting a smaller policy that might be ideal.

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