A "table rating" is a ranking system life insurance companies use when they review policy applications for people who have experienced health problems. Generally, the higher the table rating you receive, the more your policy will cost. Companies may assign numerical or alphabetical ratings.

Some insurers are more lenient than others regarding medical conditions. If your medical records show you have a family history of heart trouble and you have high cholesterol, you may be given a table rating of 2 by one insurance company and a rating of 4 by another. Not only do table ratings vary from one company to another, their impact on premiums does, too.

Life insurance premiums and table ratings

While many life insurance companies incrementally increase your premiums above the standard cost by 25 percent for a table 1 rating and by 50 percent for a table 2 rating, some companies charge much less. An insurance policy that costs $1,000 per year at a standard rate for an applicant without a table rating could cost $1,250 for an applicant with a table 1 rating or $1,500 for someone with a table 2 rating, depending on the company.

Not only does the amount of the premium increase vary among companies, but so do the ratings. While one company may give an applicant a table 2 rating for something like obesity, another company could give the same applicant a 4 rating. Table ratings can be based on both medical and non-medical factors that impact your mortality rate.

Getting the best life insurance rates

While you may not be able to eliminate negative information from your insurance file, you can request a reevaluation of your table rating if you think it is incorrect. You also can apply for a rate reduction or a new rating, usually within two years. If you have lost weight, get your diabetes under control or stop flying small private airplanes, your insurance company may be willing to reduce your rating and lower your premiums.

Since insurance companies vary in how they assign table ratings, you should shop around for the least expensive policy.