Life Insurance Medical Examinations | The bank rate
Ready to take out life insurance? Not so quickly, you may need to have a medical exam first to help the insurer estimate your life expectancy and determine your rate. This is because life insurance companies use a process called underwriting where they determine the potential risk of having to pay your life insurance policy. The longer you live, the less they will need to do this (especially if you have term life insurance) – so they see you as a better bet.
A life insurance medical exam is not necessarily required to purchase a policy. But if you’re generally in good health, this part of the underwriting process can usually help you get the most affordable premiums possible.
What is a life insurance medical examination?
A life insurance health exam is a simple physical exam. This is part of the underwriting process, or the process your insurer takes you through to determine your specific characteristics and risks. Using this information helps them determine how much they will charge you for your insurance policy.
Therefore, the life insurance physical exam is a step that you will likely need to take before you can get a life insurance policy. (This assumes the policy requires a medical exam. We’ll switch to life insurance without exam later.)
Instead of going to your doctor for this test, you can usually arrange to have the life insurance company send a technician to your home or office at a time that suits your schedule. The exam itself usually lasts about 30 minutes. There are two parts to this exam:
1. Medical questionnaire
The technician will ask you a series of health-related questions designed to give the life insurance company an idea of your condition. There are usually questions about the medications you are taking, how often you take them, and their dosages. Other questions may relate to doctors you have seen recently, their recommendations, and whether you have been hospitalized recently. It is vitally important to be honest when answering these questions, because if the insurer finds out that you have lied after the policy is issued, they may terminate your coverage. There should not be any discrepancies between your answers to these questions and the information you provided in your application.
2. Physical examination
The technician will give you a physical exam in which they will check your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure, and also take blood and urine samples. They will also check your driver’s license to verify your identity. If you’re older or claiming a large death benefit, they may also perform an ECG to measure the electrical activity of your heart. If you are a man over 50, you may also be asked to have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. In rare cases, you may also be asked for a saliva sample or an x-ray.
The technician will then use your height and weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI) and fluid samples to screen for a variety of possible health issues. These conditions may include:
- High blood pressure – This condition has often been referred to as the “silent killer”. Hypertension can shorten the lifespan of the insured in many cases.
- High cholesterol level – This condition can lead to heart disease because it makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through your veins. High cholesterol can be controlled with appropriate medication.
- Diabetes – Even type 2 diabetes can increase your life insurance premiums. Type 1 diabetes will most likely lower you by one or two rating classifications.
- HIV / AIDS – Being HIV positive is no longer the death penalty it used to be, but it is still a major health problem. Virtually all life insurance companies will test for this condition.
- Nicotine consumption – Using any form of tobacco can shorten the lifespan and lead to various health problems. A check in this box is sure to increase your policy premiums.
- Recreational drugs – If you use other drugs in addition to tobacco or alcohol, your coverage may be denied. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other hard drugs can lead to all kinds of health problems, which is why insurers always check this.
- High triglycerides – This indicator resembles high cholesterol in that it can indicate health problems down the road. Fortunately, as with high cholesterol, this condition can be treated with the right medications.
- Elevated liver enzymes – If you are a heavy drinker, your liver enzymes may be outside the normal range. Reducing or eliminating this habit can improve your underwriting classification.
All in all, the life insurance health exam should be a quick and convenient process for you. It allows your insurer to check for a wide range of health issues. This, in turn, helps them determine your life expectancy and, therefore, your premiums.
Why is the life insurance medical examination important?
Your life insurer relies directly on the results of your medical examination to determine your premiums. “Generally speaking, the healthiest 20% are rated ‘preferred plus’, the next 30% are ‘preferred’, the cutoff rate of 30% ‘select’ and the remaining 20% are ‘standard’, explains Geoffrey. Gordon, president of the Andrew G. Gordon insurance agency in Norwell, Massachusetts.
“Depending on your age, each step up from the norm will save you an average of 20% on your premium as a rule,” he adds.
Better health stats make a big difference
If you are obese or use tobacco, alcohol or drugs, you can say goodbye to “favorite plus”. At the same time, something as subtle as a slight elevation in blood pressure can increase your quote by 20 percent, Gordon says. Conversely, making seemingly minor changes to improve your health could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your insurance policy.
Can I take out life insurance without a medical examination?
Yes. With simplified issue life insurance or guaranteed issue life insurance, you can skip the medical examination part of the underwriting process. That said, your insurer relies on the physical to make sure they understand their risk in issuing you a policy. If you skip this step, you can expect to pay more for your health insurance.
There are a few exceptions. Smokers might actually save money by choosing a life insurance policy that doesn’t require a physical exam, for example, or the elderly might choose life insurance without exam after being refused a medical insurance policy. If you are generally in good health, you will get the cheapest life insurance by choosing a policy with a physical life insurance exam.
How to prepare for the life insurance health exam
Prepare to pass your life insurance physical exam to get the lowest possible premiums on your policy.
Your insurer will probably give you some guidelines before the medical exam. They will probably tell you to fast at least six hours before that, for example. Here are our top tips to help you get the best possible results from life insurance medical exams:
- Schedule your exam in the morning: Since you will likely need to fast before your exam, it may be helpful to schedule your physical exam for the first hour of the morning. If you normally do a workout in the morning, skip it on the day of your exam to make sure your blood pressure isn’t high.
- Drink: Hydrate yourself before your exam. This will make it easier for your technician to collect the necessary blood and urine samples.
- Wear short sleeves and light clothing: Because the Body Mass Index (BMI) is an indicator of your health, your insurer will probably want to know your weight. Treat yourself and wear clothes that won’t add extra pounds. Also, wear short sleeves to make it easier for your technician to collect your blood sample.
- Make changes in advance: If you wanted a boost in health progress, that’s it. The changes you make before your physical life insurance exam can literally save you money. Stop smoking, get into an exercise routine, and watch your food choices in the weeks and months leading up to your exam.
- Have your medical records and contacts handy: So that you can easily answer all of your technician’s questions, it can be helpful to have your medical records checked out to your computer or printed out for reference. Write down any family history of any medical conditions and procedures you have recently performed.
What Happens After the Life Insurance Medical Exam?
Your insurer will likely take a few weeks to process the results of your life insurance medical exam. They don’t look for all the little things that might be abnormal. Instead, they really look for the main indicators of shorter life expectancy.
Your insurer may order a follow-up exam if any of your lab tests give unexpected results. Do not worry. You and your insurer want the same thing: that you get life insurance (they want your premium money, after all). Continue to follow the steps in the process to move forward to the point where your insurer will issue your policy. Usually the entire underwriting process, even with repeated medical exams, shouldn’t take more than a few months.
If you find yourself being denied coverage for a health-related reason, remember that you can explore medical insurance without a test and get coverage that way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do they test for in a life insurance medical exam?
During a life insurance health exam, your insurer looks for common health problems that impact your longevity. You can expect to be screened for:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Recreational drugs
How to prepare for physical life insurance?
Heed your insurer’s instructions, then prepare the same way you would for a medical exam at your doctor’s office. Drink plenty of water and wear comfortable, light clothing. It is also helpful to review your personal and family history beforehand.
Do i need a life insurance health exam to get coverage?
Not necessarily. There are life insurance options that do not require a medical examination. That said, these policies are generally more expensive because they skip a step in the underwriting process that insurers rely on to better understand your life expectancy.
Do I have to go to a doctor for my life insurance medical exam?
No. Many insurers want to make this process as convenient as possible. They have medical technicians who can come to you and perform your medical examination at a time and place of your choosing.