Life Insurance Medical Exams: What to Expect

Buying life insurance? Here's what to expect from a life insurance medical exam — and how to get the best results.
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Written by Georgia Rose
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Reviewed by Tony Steuer
Life insurance expert
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Edited by Lisa Green
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When you’re applying for life insurance, you’ll likely be asked to take a life insurance medical exam. Don’t take it lightly: The insurer will use the results to determine the final premium and even decide whether to sell you a policy.

Taking a life insurance medical exam

After you submit your life insurance application, the insurer will hire a paramedical professional to arrange the exam. Your own doctor can’t perform it, but you’ll get to choose the place and time. You won’t need to undress, but wear a short-sleeve shirt for the bloodwork.

During the exam, the paramedical professional will generally start by asking you the same personal and family health questions that were on your application to double-check your information. The life insurance exam will take about 30 minutes and is paid for by the insurer.

The physical part of the exam typically includes:

  • Height and weight.

  • Blood pressure.

  • Oral fluid (saliva) sample.

  • Urine sample.

  • Bloodwork.

  • Possibly an electrocardiogram or treadmill EKG, depending on your age and the policy amount you requested.

  • Cognitive and mobility testing for older applicants.

  • Your signature for the release of your medical records.

Life insurance medical exams: What insurers are looking for

Insurance companies usually look for the following during a medical exam:

  • Body mass index (BMI).

  • Blood pressure.

  • HIV and other immune disorders.

  • Cholesterol levels.

  • Elevated blood sugar levels.

  • Liver and kidney functions.

  • Diabetes.

  • Hepatitis.

  • Cocaine and other illegal drugs.

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can indicate prostate cancer.

  • Nicotine use (cotinine), whether from cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum or patches.

  • Marijuana use (companies vary widely in their pricing of life insurance for marijuana smokers; some will give smoking rates to marijuana users).

  • Early signs of Alzheimer’s or other memory impairments in older applicants.

You can request a copy of your medical exam results once the life insurance underwriting process is complete. Typically, requests must be made in writing, though if you worked with a life insurance broker or agent, they may be able to do some of the legwork for you.

It’s worth getting a copy of the results so that you can share them with your regular medical provider.

How to get the best results

A few days before the exam: Start eating balanced, healthy meals for the sake of your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

The night before the exam:

  • Avoid alcohol.

  • Collect paperwork you may need to avoid a last-minute search in the morning. Have your picture ID, a list of the medicines you take (with dosages and frequency), and a written health history, including diagnoses, treatment dates and your doctors’ names and contact information.

  • Get a good night’s sleep.

  • If your exam is in the morning, aim to eat your last meal at least eight hours before. Fasting can help you achieve optimal results.

The morning of the exam: The best thing to do immediately before your appointment is to sit calmly and drink water. Avoid actions that will raise the test measurements, including:

  • Doing a strenuous workout.

  • Drinking a lot of caffeine.

  • Eating a salty or high-fat breakfast.

  • Using nicotine within an hour of the exam.

During the exam, be as honest and upfront as possible. Provide your complete medical history to the best of your knowledge, and make sure the technician lists the details of any doctors or hospitals you’ve visited in the past accurately. The insurance company will probably require those reports, so this will save you some back-and-forth.

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