Insurance company reconsiders BMI stance in light of criticism

Ben Hamilton
March 27th, 2023

PFA Pension will no longer turn down interest from potential customers solely based on their ‘severely obese’ classification

BMI of over 35 marked in dark orange (image: Laurens van Lieshout)

A DR story about a woman with a BMI of over 35 – who vowed to take legal action when she was turned down for both life and loss of working ability insurance – has clearly had a major effect, as the insurer PFA Pension has promised it will no longer base decisions on the score of a BMI alone

“The debate has made an impression on us, and therefore we have sat down and reconsidered whether this was the right practice,” confirmed Ole Krogh Petersen, the CEO of  PFA Pension.

“We will look individually at the customer’s overall health conditions, so that it is not just the BMI that will be decisive. If you are otherwise perfectly healthy, and the only thing you have is an elevated BMI, then we think it is fair enough that you can also take out insurance.”

However, Petersen cautions that “very, very few” people with a BMI of over 35 won’t have extenuating health circumstances.

Three companies singled out
A Body Mass Index of over 35 places somebody in the severely obese category, but critics of the index claim it does not properly take into account different body shapes and densities: for example a bodybuilder.

Among those to criticise the insurance companies’ policy, which experts have confirmed is legal, are doctors, politicians, the Forbrugerrådet Tænk think-tank, and human rights institute Institut for Menneskerettigheder.

According to their so-called ‘freedom of agreement’, the companies are not obliged to offer all potential customers insurance and are free to make their own assessment of a citizen’s health and risk.

AP Pension and Danica Pension have also been singled out for criticism. AP Pension has informed DR that it might change the way it operates, but Danica Pension declined to comment.

Other factors will be considered
PFA Pension previously informed Mona Ebdrup, a 32-year-old mother who “cycles every day, practises yoga, eats healthily and has virtually no sick days”, that she was “severely overweight, so cannot be allowed to take out life insurance with us”, in light of her BMI of 37.5.

PFA Pension reasons that it will still consider the index, but also other factors in the future.

“BMI and severe overweight are still a very big risk factor, so of course BMI will still be a factor – it’s just not the only thing we will look at,” concluded Petersen. 

Around 4 percent of adult Danes have a BMI of over 35, according to Nationalt Center for Overvægt.


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