What to Expect During a Life Insurance Medical Exam

A life insurance exam involves a blood test and urine sample and may include a paramedical exam, X-ray or EKG, depending on the insurance company’s guidelines, your age and the coverage amount applied for. Insurance companies use the medical exam to assess your mortality risk, or life expectancy, to determine eligibility, rate class and pricing.

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Last Updated: 10/28/2022
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A life insurance medical exam involves a urine sample, blood test and exam. Depending on your age, coverage level and the insurer’s underwriting guidelines, the exam may include an X-ray or EKG. The insurance company uses the test results to determine your rate class and pricing, which comes from assessing your health status and life expectancy.

Most life policies require a life insurance exam, but certain policies, like guaranteed acceptance and simplified issue life insurance, do not. Guaranteed acceptance life insurance doesn’t require an exam or health questions. Simplified issue life insurance asks health questions on the application but doesn’t require a medical exam.

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Key Takeaways

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The life insurance medical exam typically consists of a blood pressure reading, height and weight measurements, pulse, blood draw and urine sample.

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Companies look for current and future health indicators to determine life expectancy and check for conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure or cholesterol.

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Although most life insurance policies require a medical exam as part of the application process, some don’t, like guaranteed acceptance or simplified issue life insurance.

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What Is a Medical Exam & Why Do Life Insurance Companies Require It?

A medical exam for life insurance evaluates your current health and determines your life expectancy. The insurance health screening takes from 15 to 45 minutes to complete. Usually, the insurer is who pays for a life insurance medical exam.

Life insurance companies require medical exams to assess your risk class, which they use to determine if you qualify for coverage and the rates you’ll pay. There are several life insurance rating classifications. The healthier you are, the cheaper your premium can be. The chart below details each rating class and what insurers generally look for in each class. These guidelines will differ by the insurer, as they don’t all follow the same criteria for rating purposes.

Life Insurance Health Classifications and Criteria
  • Rating
    Criteria
  • Preferred Plus

    Reserved for those in excellent health, which can include:

    • No risky hobbies, sports or job
    • Normal height and weight ratio
    • Non-smoker
    • Clean driving history
    • Positive family health history, such as no cancer or heart disease in an immediate family member under age 60
  • Preferred

    Preferred means you’re still in optimal health but may have:

    • Slightly out of ideal height and weight ratio
    • Slightly elevated cholesterol or blood pressure levels
    • Using tobacco within five years
    • Minor moving violation in last three years
  • Standard Plus

    You’re in great health but might have:

    • Tobacco usage in the last three years
    • Well-controlled high blood pressure or cholesterol with medication
    • Cancer history more than 10 years ago
    • A DUI/DWI more than three years ago
  • Standard

    The average rating most people receive can include the following:

    • Overweight
    • One immediate family member with heart disease or cancer under age 60
    • Personal history of high cholesterol or blood pressure
  • Substandard

    A rating for those with recent health issues or complicated health history, such as:

    • Heart attack
    • Obesity
    • Stroke within one year
    • Diabetes
    • Mental illness, like bipolar disorder
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ARE MEDICAL EXAMS REQUIRED FOR LIFE INSURANCE?

Certain things will automatically disqualify you for the preferred plus rating, like being obese or having alcohol, drugs or tobacco detected in the life insurance blood test or urine sample. Being disqualified for the preferred plus rating means you will pay higher premiums in a lower classification. If you’re a smoker, you could still get a preferred tobacco rating with some companies. We highlight the best life insurance companies for smokers to help you get the best coverage rate.

What Do Life Insurance Companies Test for During a Medical Exam?

A life insurance health exam includes a physical exam that measures your height, weight, pulse and blood pressure. Life insurance companies use body mass index (BMI), urine samples and blood samples to test for several health indicators, including:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Prescribed medications
  • Illegal drug usage
  • Liver conditions
  • Kidney conditions
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Enzyme levels
  • Tobacco usage
  • Hemoglobin and glucose levels
  • AIDS or HIV
  • STDs

Common Health Exams for Life Insurance

There are a number of conditions that are tested for during a health exam for life insurance. These are described below.

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MEDICAL QUESTIONNAIRE

The life insurance application also has a health questionnaire unless you apply for guaranteed acceptance coverage. These questions help the life insurer determine risk classification. Expect questions about your personal health history, such as the last time you used tobacco, whether you are taking any medications and if you have been diagnosed or treated for anything by a medical professional. You will also have to list any prior surgeries or medical procedures. Your family’s health history will also come into play, particularly if a close family member has a history of diabetes, cancer, stroke or heart disease.

Tips on How to Prepare for a Life Insurance Medical Exam

Preparing yourself for the life insurance physical exam can help the testing day go smoothly. Use these MoneyGeek tips to prepare yourself for the life insurance medical exam so you can get the best possible rating class with the cheapest premiums.

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    Have your medical history ready

    The examiner may have you fill out a questionnaire or verify your medical history as written on the application. Come prepared with a copy of your life insurance application questionnaire and all of the following:

    • A list of your medical conditions, including details on diagnosis and treatment dates, treatment results and other pertinent information
    • Your doctor’s names, addresses and phone numbers from the last five years
    • Names and dosages of medications
    • Dates and details of any recent surgeries
    • Names and dosages of supplements you’re taking.
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    Bring your personal documents

    The examiner needs to verify you are the same person being insured. Bring a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport to verify your name, date of birth and address.

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    Eat mindfully

    Be mindful of your diet the week leading up to your life insurance test. Avoid processed foods containing high amounts of salt, sugar, cholesterol and fat. Instead, focus on eating fruits, vegetables and lean meat sources.

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    Avoid over-the-counter medications unless necessary

    Antihistamines, decongestants and certain vitamins or supplements can affect glucose levels and blood pressure readings. Avoid taking them the week prior to your exam unless absolutely necessary.

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    Drink plenty of water

    Increasing your water intake the week before your scheduled physical exam can help flush toxins, which can affect the blood and urine samples you provide on the day of the exam. The increased hydration will also make your blood draw easier.

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    Check your menstrual cycle

    Women should consider their menstrual cycle when scheduling a life insurance medical exam. If you’re in the middle of your period, it could affect the urine sample you provide.

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    Abstain from alcohol

    Avoiding alcohol for at least 24 hours prior to the exam, up to a week prior, can help you stay hydrated and avoid high blood pressure readings and high liver enzyme levels.

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    Avoid strenuous exercise

    Strenuous activity within 24 hours of the medical exam can have a negative impact on your blood pressure and cholesterol readings. Opt for less intense exercise leading up to your physical for best results.

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    Get a good night’s sleep

    Sleeping for at least seven to eight hours the night before your exam will help optimize your vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse.

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    Fast from food or drink

    Although your life insurer may not require it, fasting for 12 hours prior to the exam can help your glucose and cholesterol levels.

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    Avoid caffeine

    Caffeine can spike your blood pressure and pulse readings, which can affect your rating classification. Avoiding caffeine for at least 2 hours prior to the exam can limit anxiety and jitters, which will keep your pulse and blood pressure in your normal range.

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    Wear appropriate clothing

    Lightweight clothing will help the examiner get an accurate reading when checking your weight. Wearing a short sleeve shirt makes it easier for them to draw your blood.

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    Drink a cup of water

    Drinking a glass of water just before your exam can help with getting a urine sample and make it easier to draw blood for testing.

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    Schedule the exam in the morning

    Since fasting is recommended for best results, scheduling your exam in the morning can make it easier to achieve this goal, as you’ll be sleeping for much of the fasting time. You can reward yourself with your favorite breakfast afterward for doing the work to get the best life insurance exam results.

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ARE MEDICAL EXAMS REQUIRED FOR LIFE INSURANCE?

Medical exams are typically required for life insurance unless you apply for simplified issue coverage or guaranteed acceptance life insurance. Both policy types allow you to forego the medical exam, but you’ll have to answer health questions on the simplified issue life insurance application. Without a medical exam to help determine risk classification, you’ll likely pay a higher rate for these policies.

What Happens After the Life Insurance Medical Exam?

After the life insurance medical exam, the lab results are sent to your insurer’s underwriting department. The results typically take between 7 to 14 days, especially if ExamOne does your life insurance testing. The insurance company will use the results to determine the next steps.

POSSIBLE RESULTS AFTER THE MEDICAL EXAM

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Acceptance

If you're accepted, the insurance company will probably take another week or so to finish the process. They will send you an approval, which includes your rating class and premium for the coverage you applied for.

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Follow-Up

You may be asked to do a follow-up, which could include getting an attending physician’s statement or going back for another exam. Depending on the insurer's instruction and reasoning for follow-up, you may need to complete another blood draw or urine sample.

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Rejection

After reviewing your application and medical exam results, the insurance carrier may reject your application and decline to offer you coverage. If this happens, you can apply for no-exam life insurance or guaranteed acceptance life insurance, depending on your health status.


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Frequently Asked Questions

A life insurance exam is a common part of the application process. Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the life insurance medical exam below.

About the Author


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Mark Fitzpatrick is a senior content manager with MoneyGeek specializing in insurance. Mark has years of experience analyzing the insurance market and creating original research and content. He graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts and Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Arts.


sources
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Diabetes Fast Facts." Accessed September 22, 2022.