When you apply for life insurance, the provider will work out the risk to them of offering you cover. This helps decide whether your application will be accepted and what your premiums would be.
Part of this involves reviewing your health and lifestyle, which can be done in a few ways – a full medical is just one of them.
Can you get life insurance with no medical?
It is possible to get life insurance without a medical. In fact, the majority of applicants aren’t asked to have one. Whether you will need one depends on your circumstances and the provider’s approach to certain risks.
If your health and lifestyle don’t ring any alarm bells – for example, because you’re on the younger side and are generally healthy – the provider might just rely on the information you’ve supplied and offer you insurance on standard terms. Or it may source any information it needs in other ways – through access to your medical records or a phone call with a nurse, for instance.
You won’t usually need a full medical exam in the following scenarios:
- The insurer doesn’t need to find out more about your health to make a decision about your application and premium.
- The insurer is satisfied with a medical report from your GP, or has the information it needs through other checks, such as a follow-up call with you.
- The type of life insurance you are applying for offers guaranteed acceptance, with no medical or health questions to answer. This is typically the case for over 50s life insurance, a type of whole of life cover, though you will be asked if you smoke.
It’s not just about your health, though. Your age, lifestyle and a large cover amount could also prompt an insurer to want to know more through a medical.
» MORE: How does smoking affect life insurance?
What health information will an insurer ask for?
You will be asked questions about your health and lifestyle when you apply for standard life insurance. Your answers help the insurer to work out if it can offer you cover, the terms of the agreement and the premium it will offer you. These questions will also help the insurer decide if it needs to find out more about your health.
When you apply, you will typically be asked about the following:
- your height and weight
- current or recent medical or mental health conditions
- medical conditions that run in the family
- how much alcohol you drink
- whether you smoke or have smoked in the last year (including nicotine substitutes)
- whether you take recreational drugs
- if you’ve been declined life insurance in the past
- recent or upcoming overseas travel that might pose health risks
During the application process, the insurer may need more information. This could take a few forms, including one or more of the following:
- a GP report or questionnaire
- a phone call with a nurse
- a mini screening with a nurse
- a full medical with a nurse
Make sure you answer every question you are asked accurately, even if being open about issues such as your weight and alcohol consumption might feel uncomfortable. If you give misleading information or withhold important details, the insurer could decline your application. Worse still, it could jeopardise a future claim.
» MORE: When might insurers decline a life insurance claim?
When do you need to have a medical for life insurance?
You might be asked to have a medical if the insurer thinks you could be a higher risk to insure. This may be because your current health and possibility of developing future health problems could affect your life expectancy and make a claim on your policy more likely.
Some of the reasons an insurer might ask you to have a full medical are:
- a health condition you have
- a family history of a health condition
- if you smoke or are a heavy drinker
- if you’re asking for a high cover amount
- if you’re an older applicant (unless you’re applying for over 50s cover)
Before this, a medical report from your GP may provide the information insurers require without the need for a medical to follow. Or the report might indicate to the insurer that a medical exam should be next.
Can an insurer access your health information?
Yes, but only with your consent. An insurer may ask for a medical report from a GP to find out more about your current and recent health. Insurers might only consider your health over the last five years, or sometimes they will want to look further back.
The report might include information about any medical conditions and treatment you’ve had, previous operations, test results, your weight and height, and whether you smoke.
You can ask to see the report first, if you’d like to. This option should be included in the consent form. This might come in handy if you aren’t offered cover for health reasons and would like to understand why.
If you don’t want the insurer to ask for a report, you can decline permission but you probably won’t be offered cover without this information. Insurers can also ask for this report for a period after your cover has started. If you don’t consent, your policy might be cancelled.
How a life insurance medical works
If you are asked to have a medical, it’s usually a straightforward appointment with a nurse or other healthcare professional. The insurer should cover the cost of this and arrange it at a time that suits you. It won’t usually take more than 20 to 30 minutes.
Depending on the insurer and your preference, the medical may be in your home, workplace or at a medical centre. It will usually consist of two parts:
- Questions: You may be asked about your diet and alcohol intake, how much you exercise and whether you smoke, and if any conditions run in the family.
- Physical checks: The nurse may take your blood pressure, check your pulse, weigh you and measure your height to work out your body mass index (BMI), and take a waist measurement. You may also have an electrocardiograph (ECG) test, a blood test, an HIV test, a smoker test or other urine test.
You might find it useful to have this health check and learn about any changes you could make to help improve your health. It could even help prevent future conditions if it picks something up you weren’t aware of. And if it finds nothing of concern, this could be a positive in terms of being offered life cover and the premium you’re asked to pay.
What if your health changes after your cover has started?
If you develop a health condition after your cover has started, you won’t usually need to tell the insurer. Your life insurance and premiums are based on your circumstances when you applied. If your health changes during the application process and before the policy start date, though, you must tell the insurer.
Life insurance providers can ask to access your health records after your death, with permission from loved ones or the executive of your estate. But this tends to only be if you die during the first 12 to 24 months of the start of a policy or if the insurer thinks it has grounds to look into the claim.
Can you be refused life insurance for health reasons?
An insurer can decline a life insurance application for medical reasons, such as a health condition. But there are other reasons why applications might not be successful, such as your age and lifestyle, or a few factors combined.
Depending on a health condition and its severity, it may be a case of being offered higher premiums rather than being turned down. If you have a mild condition – asthma, for example – you are managing well and are healthy apart from that, it may not affect your premium at all.
If you’re not sure why your application has been declined on health grounds, it’s worth getting in touch with the insurer to ask for more information. You can also ask your GP surgery if you can view your medical records if you haven’t seen them yet. Some insurers might share the information they have been sent about you if you ask within a specific window of time – six months, for example.
What can you do if you’re refused life insurance?
One insurer declining your application doesn’t necessarily mean another won’t be willing to offer you cover. A pre-existing condition or other health issue, such as a high BMI, doesn’t automatically rule you out of getting life insurance. However, it may make being accepted less straightforward and could increase your premium.
While past application refusals may be considered when you apply elsewhere – and multiple applications in a short space of time are best avoided – different providers have different criteria and approaches to risk.
You might want to use a broker to help you find cover and compare prices. Brokers can search a number of providers for the type of cover you need, while taking your health circumstances into account.
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