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Life insurance wellness programs: Good health, big rewards?

For years, you've been saving money on auto insurance by being a safe driver. But what if you could save money on your current life insurance policy by improving your health?

Thanks to programs by life insurance companies, you may be able to do just that. spoke with life insurance experts about some of these new programs and how consumers can take advantage of them.

Examples of life insurance wellness programs

In April, John Hancock, a financial and insurance services company, announced a new healthy-living program where policyholders save money on life insurance by adopting healthier lifestyles.

"Customers who take full advantage of this program (can) save up to 10 to 15 percent on their annual life insurance premiums," says Brooks Tingle, senior vice president of strategy and marketing at John Hancock Insurance.

John Hancock's wellness program is run in partnership with Vitality, a global financial services firm that offers wellness programs to employers.

Once your policy is issued, you'll take an online Vitality Health Review survey to see how your health compares to others your age. Vitality then sends you personalized health goals for the year along with a free Fitbit, a popular fitness-tracking wristband, so you can easily track your progress.

You earn points for actions such as getting an annual health screening, exercising, getting a flu shot and taking online health courses.

The more points you accumulate, the higher your status level and the more you can save on your life insurance premium. Status levels include bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Aviva USA, launched a similar wellness program in 2007 called Wellness for Life. Accordia Life, part of Global Atlantic Financial Group, purchased Aviva’s life insurance operations in 2013 and has continued the Wellness for Life Program.

“Accordia's Wellness for Life program is able to save you up to 10 percent (on your premium),” says Michael Martin, a financial advisor with Legacy Financial Partners, based out of West Palm Beach, Florida.

To get the discount, you have to be weighed by your doctor every two years and keep your weight within 20 pounds of the weight you held when buying the policy.

"The Wellness for Life program is a rider that must be elected when applying for coverage and costs a one-time fee of $100 during the first policy year," says Christopher Huntley, independent insurance agent at Huntley Wealth.

Huntley also points out that the Wellness for Life program is only available for some of Accordia's permanent life (also known as whole life), insurance policies and not for any of their term life policies.

Permanent life insurance policies tend to be more expensive because you’re locking in a rate for the rest of your life, not just for the next 5, 10 or 20 years like term life policies.

Will we see more of these programs in the future?

While some experts are optimistic these healthy-living programs will become a standard offering among life insurance companies, others have doubts. 

"I don't expect the programs to take off until research data catches up to show how the increased costs of the programs pays much larger dividends down the road," says Justin Follmer, investment adviser at Coastal Wealth Advisors.

Huntley disagrees. "I expect more carriers to pick up on wellness programs as smartphone apps and accessories continue to provide more ways insurance companies can easily track good health choices," he says.

Correlation between health and life insurance rates

While the future of these programs is uncertain, there's a definite correlation between your health and how much you pay for life insurance when you first sign up.

Peter Huminski, president of Thorium Wealth Management, cites a real-life example where he helped two clients, both 46 years old, attain $1 million, 20-year-term life insurance policies. He says, "One was in great shape, ate healthy, and rarely drank and never smoked. His life insurance premium was $1,100 a year."

The other 46-year-old man was "significantly overweight and was beginning to show signs of diabetes and other health issues related to his weight." This client's premium was $4,000 a year -- nearly four times higher than the healthy client.

Pros and cons of life insurance wellness programs

Several life insurance agents and financial advisers say they believe these programs will help encourage policyholders to adopt healthy lifestyles.

But some were more skeptical about the effectiveness of such programs.

"One con to these programs is how they are structured," says Jason Fisher, an insurance agent and owner of, an independent consumer education site for life insurance. "You have to buy the policy first, get healthier, then get the reduction," Fisher says.

In other words, it's hard to tell if you're getting the best rate because you have to wait to see how much you will save until after you improve your health.

However, a benefit to such programs is that they encourage policyholders to lead healthier lives by providing financial incentives. Plus, some of these programs provide access to tools and educational resources to help policyholders improve their health.  

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