"These things can make a difference for people, not just in getting coverage but in the price you'll get," says Evans.
Want to drop 30% from your life insurance premium? Kick the cigarettes.
"Smoking can add up to 30% to the cost of your life, disability and health insurance premiums," says Johnson.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. If you take illegal drugs, you're not going to find an insurance company that wants to take you, says Johnson.
"If (a person) has a recent history of drug use, they're not going to be able to get insurance," he says.
If you're a recovering alcoholic, "You're probably going to be able to get coverage, but it could be a higher premium," says Johnson. Emphasize, with medical records to back you, how long you've been sober. The insurance company could see a relapse as a risk to them, so the more you can show how unlikely that is, the better for your rates.
Prepare for your exams. In some cases, the insurance company will require either a physical or a short exam by a paraprofessional, which can include taking your vital signs and drawing some blood.
To get the most accurate reading, schedule it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. (Obviously, if you have a condition that makes that tricky, talk to your doctor first.) Give up vigorous exercise like that three-mile run 24 hours in advance. Get a good night's sleep. And some experts recommend forgoing your morning coffee, or even water.Follow up on the details of your medical records. Do your records contain a recommendation for a test that you never got? The insurance company could see that as a bad sign, says Herz. "Have the doctor note in your records that you didn't need it after all -- or get it done," he says. Otherwise the company is likely to think that you could have some undiagnosed problem.
Think about your future. If you're healthy now and considering buying term life insurance, make sure that it's renewable and convertible, says Evans. "What that means is that you can convert to permanent coverage without a physical. That would be worth paying extra for," he says.
Keep trying and keep asking questionsTry to get coverage even if you've had health problems. Work with a professional you trust and have him quietly look into what kind of ratings you would get, says Herz. Bear in mind that a number of conditions aren't the black marks they used to be.
"A person who had open-heart surgery used to be declined," says Herz. "Now they can get regular rates."
Ditto for folks who are using medications to control conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
"I've seen people who have cancer, heart (problems), all sorts of things, get insurance because they were able to get a favorable prognosis," says Evans.Ask why. If you are declined or end up with rates higher than you were expecting, find out why. Talk with your agent and ask how to get a copy of your records from the Medical Information Bureau, says Evans.
Don't give up. "Don't consider a (lower health ranking) or decline in the past as indicative of future events," says Herz. It could be that last time around your agent didn't work hard enough for you, or it could be that today, with new drugs and treatments, your condition wouldn't pose as much of a risk, he says.
And time does heal -- even in the insurance business. "Sometimes, the further you get from (an event)," says Herz, "the better off you are."
This article was reported and written by Dana Dratch for Bankrate.com.
Updated Aug. 20, 2008