Life insurance is an important financial tool for most consumers. A good policy will allow your beneficiaries to meet their financial obligations after you are gone. You will also benefit by knowing that your loved ones will not struggle. Peace of mind is an important part of a healthy life.
If you’ve applied for a life insurance policy, chances are you will need to take a medical exam to confirm your current state of health. Carriers use the various tests and information to determine how much they risk financially by insuring your life. The better your health, the lower the risk to the insurer and the lower the annual premium you will pay for coverage.
These exams are much the same as your yearly physical. The entire life insurance medical exam should last around 20 to 30 minutes and includes an interview, blood draw, urine sample, height and weight measurement and blood pressure and pulse measurement
Before buying life insurance, you need to understand the exam process, including what the life insurance company is looking for, how to prepare for the exam and what to do if you’re denied coverage after an exam.
Once you’ve completed the application for life insurance, the insurer will schedule your exam and send a medical examiner to your home, place of work or an approved medical facility to conduct the exam at a date and time of your choosing.
At the start of the exam, they will ask you to confirm your identity and provide a current driver’s license or passport. The medical professional will then ask you a list of standard questions. Insurers design these interview questions to confirm the answers on your application and give them a clear picture of your overall health. Expect to answer questions like these:
Do you smoke? If so, how many cigarettes or cigars do you smoke in an average week? Month?
Do you drink? If so, how many drinks in an average week? Month?
Any history of (heart disease, mental illness, stroke, cancer) in your family?
Do you take any prescription medication? Which ones?
Are you pregnant?
Any history of drug use?
Do you exercise? If so, how much?
In all cases, be truthful in your answers.
You should be completely honest in answering these questions. Lying on the application or in the interview has serious consequences. Depending on the severity of the lie, you can be denied coverage. If it is a small lie, such as underestimating your weight by 30 lbs, it may not keep you from getting coverage, but you will pay much more for your policy. Or, if the company discovers the deceit later, such as when you die, the life insurance company can deny your beneficiaries’ claims on the policy.
Some medical tests can confirm the information you shared during this interview, and the underwriters for the policy also do a thorough investigation. If the experts determine you were lying, they can also enter that information on the Management Information Base (MIB) so that no other company will issue life insurance to you. Lying in this situation is common but can really cost you.
During the exam, you will be provided a sterile container to collect a urine sample. Depending on the life insurance company and their security policy, they may ask you to empty your pockets before entering the restroom, or the medical examiner may do a visual inspection of the restroom prior to you entering. An ounce or two of urine is all you need to provide before returning the container to the examiner.
The examiner will seal and label the sample and send it to the lab where it will be tested for abnormal levels of sugars, proteins, acidity, and concentration that can point to diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease. The urine test also detects nicotine and drug use. In fact, it is the most common test for marijuana use and opioids like heroin, codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.
If glucose is present in the urine, it can be a symptom of diabetes, and of potential pregnancy in women. Too much protein can be a sign of possible kidney disease.
Some life insurance policies allow for occasional marijuana use, so a positive test doesn’t mean you’ll be denied coverage. Instead, you will probably have to pay higher rates just as tobacco users do. Be sure to disclose your cannabis use during the application process and make sure it’s acceptable to the carrier.
Every life insurance medical exam includes a blood test that reveals key information about the state of your health. The medical examiner will draw blood and have it tested for the following:
HIV and AIDS
Hemoglobin AIC and glucose levels
Creatinine, hemoglobin and protein levels to screen for kidney disease
Cholesterol - including LDL, HDL and triglycerides to screen for heart disease
Your cholesterol level is extremely important to insurance carriers as it’s a measure of overall heart and vascular health. While it’s true that high cholesterol is bad and low cholesterol is good, you need t understand two particular types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL.
High-Density Lipoproteins, or HDLs: Considered good cholesterol and are found in fruits, grains, nuts, oils, and fish.
Low-Density Lipoproteins, or LDLs: Considered bad cholesterol and are found in red meat, dairy, fried and processed food that can clog arteries and lead to high blood pressure.
The negative effects of LDLs, such as clogged arteries, high blood pressure and stroke, can be offset by the presence of HDLs. The ratio of HDL to LDL in your blood is a common life insurance test, as is cholesterol to HDL, as it can warn of future heart disease.
This test measures the number of white and red blood cells in your blood. Too many or too few white or red blood cells can indicate potential health problems, including blood cancer. Should your CBC be outside the normal range, the insurer may have some additional questions for you. You should immediately discuss any troubling results with your physician.
Life insurance companies also test your blood for other indications, including triglycerides since high levels can lead to serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and liver disease. They will also look at your hemoglobin level since this iron-containing protein is necessary for good health. Low levels of hemoglobin can cause anemia, while high hemoglobin levels can also be a danger signal.
Blood tests can also identify tumor markers that can be found in the bloodstream and indicate the presence of some cancers.
The medical professional conducting your exam will your measure height and weight. This information combined with your gender determines your total body mass index or BMI, which is a measure of your body’s fat, muscle, and bone. This score is used to determine if you are the proper weight for your height.
Each insurance carrier sets its own BMI guidelines and the acceptable ranges for men and women, which you can find in the company’s height and weight chart. Where you fall on the chart helps determine your life insurance premium. The ratings include: preferred best, preferred, standard plus, and standard rates - the highest in terms of cost.
High blood pressure does not always present symptoms, which is why a health practitioner takes it at every doctor’s appointment. It’s also why BP is part of a life insurance medical exam. High blood pressure can contribute to heart disease, stroke, eye problems, or chronic kidney disease.
Left untreated or uncontrolled, high blood pressure will continue to damage arteries and blood vessels and possibly result in a heart attack or stroke. Potential insurers need this information to make an informed decision about your policy.
The company may require you to have an EKG, or electrocardiogram, when applying for life insurance, especially if you are over the age of 50. For this test, you will be need to lie down while the examiner places several electrodes on and around your chest. These electrodes are hooked up to the EKG machine where your heartbeat is recorded.
The rate and rhythm of your heartbeat and can identify several health issues including potential heart damage, irregular heartbeat, clogged or blocked arteries and heart failure.
The preparation for the exam begins the night before when you will need to fast (no food or drink other than water) for eight to twelve hours. You should get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water as this clears your system of toxins, which can skew your results.
Certain factors can negatively impact a life insurance blood test exam and should be avoided leading up to your exam:
Alcohol - These beverages can negatively affect your blood sugar and fat levels.
Coffee - Even a cup can affect your digestion and skew the results of your blood test.
Smoking - Smoking can also have a negative impact on your test.
Chewing Gum - Even sugar-free chewing gum can speed up your digestion and make your blood test inaccurate.
Exercise - This usually healthy activity before an exam can affect your digestion as well as elevate your blood pressure.
Companies may approve you for life insurance even if you aren’t in perfect health, but you will pay a higher premium rate. If you find yourself in this situation, there are ways to lower your rate over time, including taking part in any wellness program provided by insurance carriers. These programs reward you for healthy living with discounts on premiums. So getting more exercise, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and using weight-loss programs can all benefit your health and save you money.
A recent hospital visit does not always disqualify you from life insurance coverage, but, again, you could pay more for coverage. Many life insurance carriers require a certain amount of time to pass after a hospital visit to qualify for their best rates. This provision is to ensure that you aren’t dealing with a serious or chronic ailment. You can either wait and reapply after the period has ended, which the companies will disclose, or accept the high premium so you have coverage and then replace the policy once the period has passed.
Should life insurance carriers deny you insurance because of a health issue, you do have some options to help secure coverage.
First, request a copy of the complete medical report from the life insurance company so you can understand the issues that led to the denial and what you can do about them These reports are detailed, and the life insurance company has clear standards for a denial. From the report, determine the health concerns you need to address. Maybe you need to lose weight or lower your blood pressure before the company will offer you coverage.
Many employers offer life insurance to certain employees as a part of their compensation package. Should an outside carrier deny you coverage, you may be able to increase the amount of your work-sponsored coverage without a medical exam. Speak with your human resources team to see if this is an option for you.
Finally, if you’ve chosen to work directly with a particular life insurance carrier and been denied coverage, you will benefit from working with PolicyScout. We can help you find carriers and policies that will work for you and your personal situation.
Get ready before you take a life insurance medical exam. You now know what to expect, how to prepare, what to avoid and what to do afterward.
If you’re new to life insurance and need some guidance on the policies that will work for you and your family, please visit our Life Insurance Hub and let us help you find the right carrier and insurance to give you the protection you need and deserve.