BMI may cost you higher insurance premiums

With his Popeye forearms and washboard abs, Thomas Lacombe looks a picture of health.

Yet a tool widely used by government agencies, weight loss companies and insurers for gauging healthy weight suggests Mr Lacombe, a personal trainer and model, is fat.

“I’m not in the healthy weight bracket,” he said. “I’m literally overweight.”

Thomas Lacombe, a personal trainer and former model, has a BMI of 27.2, which puts him in the overweight range. Photo: Janie Barrett

Mr Lacombe is 189 centimetres tall and weighs 97 kilograms, giving him a Body Mass Index of 27.2 – well outside the healthy weight range of 20-25, according to insurance company Bupa’s BMI calculator.

“That measurement right now doesn’t really make sense,” Mr Lacombe said.

The Bupa website cautions against using BMI – calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared – as a diagnostic tool.

It also suggests BMI can be an inaccurate measure of healthy weight for pregnant women, children, older people, athletes and “very muscular” people such as Mr Lacombe: “It may also need to be adjusted for some ethnic groups, including people of Asian, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.”

A Bupa spokesman said: “It is true that certain populations will not get an accurate picture of the healthiness of their weight in comparison with their height.”

The accuracy of BMI has been questioned, yet insurers may charge higher premiums for life insurance on the basis of a heightened BMI.

“Life insurance is the only one that includes BMI as a part of the assessment process,” Bupa’s spokesman said. Allianz Australia spokesman Nicholas Scofield said: “BMI is used in a similar way to other health risk factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.”

Mr Scofield said BMI was not used in a “rigid manner” for pricing. “Someone needs to be fairly overweight before it affects their premium,” he said. “However, past a certain point, the clear link with health outcomes makes BMI a credible metric for underwriting and pricing.”

Originally Published by The Sydney Morning Herald