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Cut your risk, cut your insurance rates

Q: My wife told her life insurer she had lost weight, and the company slashed her rate by nearly $200 a year. Can I do the same if my health has improved, and does this work with other types of insurance? -- J.K., Baltimore, Md.

A: Life, disability and long-term-care companies often reduce their rates if you become less risky to them -- but only if you ask and usually only if you can show proof of a long-term change.

Your best bet is with term life insurance. Insurers will often reduce your rate if your health improves, rather than risk losing you to another insurer. If you lose weight, stop smoking, or lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, or if you've been cancer-free for several years since buying the policy, ask for a reduction.

You usually need to provide proof that the change isn't a blip. Most insurers will reduce your premium if you keep the weight off for one full year, says Byron Udell, CEO of AccuQuote. Some insurers give you a break if you stop smoking for one year, but others wait until two or three years have passed.

Get a weigh-in at the doctor or a urine test to show you're nicotine-free right away to start the clock ticking, says John Ryan, of Ryan Insurance Strategy Consultants, Greenwood Village, Colo.

Long-term-care insurers may also lower your rate if your health improves. Disability companies do the same and may trim premiums if you switch to a less-risky job. You can appeal a muscular/skeletal exclusion (which won't cover any disability related to a bad neck or spine) after you've been symptom-free for three years, says Ryan.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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