Life Insurance Medical Exams: What to Expect

Insurance, Life Insurance

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.

» MORE: Options for buying life insurance with no medical exam

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
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • HIV and other immune disorders
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Elevated 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, nicotine gum or patches
  • Marijuana use (insurers vary widely in their pricing for pot smokers; some will give smoking rates to marijuana users)
  • Early signs of Alzheimer’s or other memory impairments in older applicants

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

» COMPARE: NerdWallet’s life insurance comparison tool

How to get the best results

A few days before the exam: Start eating healthy 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 a written health history, including diagnoses, treatment dates and your doctors’ names.
  • Get a good night’s sleep

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:

  • A strenuous workout
  • Drinking a lot of caffeine
  • A salty or high-fat breakfast
  • Using nicotine within an hour of the exam