Life Insurance Medical Exams: Why They’re So Important

Insurance, Life Insurance
Life Insurance Medical Exams: Why They're So Important

When you’re applying for life insurance, you’ll likely be asked to take a life insurance medical exam. This is an exam conducted by a professional hired by the insurance company; you can’t have your own doctor perform it.

The exam is not something to take lightly; the insurer will use the results to determine the final premium and even decide whether to sell you a policy.

If you don’t like the idea of taking a life insurance medical exam, there are policies that don’t require a medical exam. However, these “guaranteed issue” or “simplified issue” policies are usually significantly more expensive than “fully underwritten” life insurance, which takes your health and other factors into account. Even if you have a couple of health issues, buying life insurance that requires a medical exam will likely be less expensive than a no-exam policy.

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Taking the exam

After you submit your application, the life insurance company will hire a paramedical professional to arrange the exam. You’ll get to choose the place and time — whether it’s in your home, in your office or at another location.

You won’t need to undress for the exam, but do wear a short-sleeve shirt for the blood work.

The paramedical professional will generally start by asking you all the same personal and family health questions that were on your application. That might seem redundant, but the insurer wants to double-check your application information.

The exam itself will typically include:

  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Oral fluid (saliva) sample
  • Urine sample
  • Blood work
  • Possibly an electrocardiogram (EKG) or treadmill EKG — sometimes required 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

What they’re looking for

The insurer will look at your body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure readings. The other tests are meant to look for:

  • HIV and other immune disorders
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Elevated sugar levels
  • Prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can indicate prostate cancer
  • Liver and kidney functions
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • Nicotine use (cotinine), whether from cigarettes, e-cigarettes, nicotine gum or patches
  • Marijuana use (insurers vary widely in their pricing for pot smokers; some will give smoking rates to marijuana users)
  • Cocaine and other illegal drugs
  • Early signs of Alzheimer’s or other memory impairments in older applicants

The life insurance exam will take about 30 minutes and is free to you.

You can request exam results, and they’ll be sent to your doctor. If your exam uncovers a new health problem, your doctor will contact you.

Amy Danise is an editor covering insurance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @AmyDanise


Photo via iStock.