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Understanding Life Insurance Health Ratings and Table Ratings

Reviewed By: Rob Pinner

Rob PinnerRob Pinner is the founder and CEO of Pinner Financial Services servicing all 50 states. Rob started his insurance career in 2002. Full Bio >

Checked By: Holly Mitchell

Holly Mitchell’s background in life insurance insurance goes back to 1985 when she worked for her father who was a New York Life agent. Holly has a marketing degree from Auburn University and has had a life insurance license since 2008. In addition to advising life insurance for customers all around the country, Holly is our website fact checker.
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Last Updated: April 4th, 2019

Life Insurance Health RatingsEveryone who applies for life insurance is assessed for coverage. Insurers provide coverage and premium rates in accordance with an applicant’s risk level. To that end, insurance companies typically place applicants in categories relative to their risk which involves their health as well as lifestyle choices.

Smoking, for example, as a behavior associated with health risks, will impact which category an applicant will be assigned. Sometimes a person, due to health issues or lifestyle factors, may not fit into standard categories and will, instead, be assigned a table rating.

While obtaining a policy is still quite possible, table ratings are associated with higher premium rates.

Life Insurance Applicants and Basic Classifications

Upon completing a medical exam, your insurer will look at your test results as well as other factors such as family health history and lifestyle choices and fit you into a classification or category.

Though the word choice might differ, most applicants seeking life policies like a term policy, for instance, will fall into categories such as preferred select, preferred, standard plus, and standard.

Moreover, smokers have their own classifications such as preferred smoker and standard smoker.

What Do Basic Classifications Mean?

Preferred Select

Sometimes referred to as preferred elite, super preferred, or preferred plus, this category is associated with excellent health, a normal weight and height profile, and no other factors that might suggest increased health risk such as the death of a family member due to heart disease before age 60, for example.


This category is associated with excellent health, though there may be a few minor issues like a slightly elevated cholesterol level, for instance.

Standard Plus

While associated with optimum health, there may be some factors that prevent the applicant from falling into a preferred category like high blood pressure or being overweight.


This category is associated with average health as well as a normal life expectancy.

Minor health issues may be present or, perhaps, weight is not optimum. Factors such as these coupled with the death of a parent due to disease before age 60 could also be relative to this category.

Preferred Smoker

This category is for a person who would otherwise fall into the regular preferred category but smokes.

Some insurers will place an occasional smoker in this category such as someone who smokes cigars only from time to time.

Standard Smoker

A smoker who is in otherwise standard health will be placed into this category. Since some providers offer non-smoker rates, someone in this category is apt to pay more than a non-smoker for the same type of policy.

What Happens When an Applicant Doesn’t Fall into a Category?

Many applicants do not fall into these categories yet are still eligible for coverage.

Their health issues or lifestyles may prevent them from falling into a standard classification, but they can still be rated in accordance with their coverage risks. Insurers call this further classification system table rating system.

Instead of preferred or standard categories, an applicant might be given a table rating with a number or letter to designate their rating. Depending on that rating, the applicant will pay an additional percentage if approved for a life insurance policy.

Understanding Table Ratings

Table ratings allow an insurer to further assess an applicant in accordance with their risk level. The rating allows the insurer to provide coverage but at an increased rate depending on that applicant’s table rating.

For example, an applicant that has a table rate of A can typically expect to pay the standard rate plus an additional 25%. Someone with a table rate of G can expect to pay the standard rate plus an additional 175%.

Usually, table rates are issued for applicants that have definite health conditions. If the condition is deemed stable, the insurer will provide coverage and charge the rate associated with that applicant’s table rating.

Determining Your Table Rating

Your insurer will assign table ratings in accordance with their findings. If you have had a heart attack in the last five years or have a condition like diabetes, you’ll have a table rating.

Of course, these conditions must be deemed stable. An insurer can refuse to provide life insurance at any rate at their discretion.

For instance, if you’ve suffered a heart attack in the past month, you’ll likely be turned down for a policy until enough time has lapsed for your heart condition to be deemed under control.

Table Ratings and Life Insurance

Table ratings carry a higher rate, of course, but they do help insurers assess risk. Moreover, they also allow someone with a health condition to obtain life insurance which can be immensely important to the applicant and their families.

If you are assigned a table rating, your insurer can discuss how that determination was made and why the rate is priced as it is. These table ratings are mostly standard throughout the industry. However, some life insurance providers are well-known for providing coverage to people with existing health conditions and may have more optimum rates and different coverage criteria than other providers.

Obtaining Coverage

If you are turned down for life insurance by one company, you may still qualify for coverage from another. The key is to work with insurers who have extensive experience employing table ratings. Also, health is not the only determining factor.

Table ratings can be assigned for other reasons like a criminal background or history of DUIs. Again, investigate all of your options when seeking coverage; though one company may deny you another may be happy to insure you even if at an increased premium rate.

Call us today to get a life insurance quote at 800-574-0245 or use our instant quote tool on this page to compare life insurance rates.

Doug Mitchell, CLU

Doug Mitchell, CLU

Doug Mitchell, CLU holds a BA degree in Finance from Auburn University as well as having obtained a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation from The American College in Bryn Mahr, PA. Doug has spent close to 30 years in the life insurance and financial planning industry and has held licenses to sell securities, long-term care insurance, health. Some other notable items about Doug: Top of the Table Million Dollar Round Table member (MDRT). (MDRT is a global, independent association of the world’s leading life insurance advisors) | Premier Partner with Lincoln Financial and Cabinet Member | Served two years as President of the Auburn/Opelika Association of Financial Advisors | Life Millionaire status at Horace Mann Insurance Company and was awarded the Life Agent of the Year Award | New York Life, Executive Council Member | Currently serves as President of Ogletree Financial, a life insurance General Agency. | Doug is also a financial blogger addressing the topics of life insurance, annuities and retirement income planning.

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