Personal Finance

Everything You Need to Know About Life Insurance Medical Exams

The exam itself is easy. But what are they looking for? Do you have to take a medical exam? What happens if you fail the test?

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Your current health status and medical history have a significant impact on your life insurance. They can make the difference between favorable premiums or not getting a policy at all. Here’s everything you need to know about life insurance medical exams so you can ace the process.

What Is a Life Insurance Medical Exam?

Think of a life insurance medical exam like an annual checkup. The only difference is that it influences your ability to get life insurance coverage. It can help insurance providers verify information on your application and learn new information about your health condition.

Most insurance providers cover the cost of the medical exam for you. However, some people retake it to lower their premiums. If you take the medical exam a second time, you'll have to pay for the expenses out of pocket.

Why Do Life Insurance Companies Use Medical Exams?

People with fewer health issues typically receive lower premiums on their life insurance. A medical exam ensures that the information you put on your life insurance application matches reality. Doctors will take blood and urine samples to check for health issues. After the lab generates test results, the insurance company can verify the applicant's information and adjust the premiums accordingly.

Life insurance companies also want their clients to have proper coverage. That may require a full medical history from the applicant. The medical exam goes into more depth than a life insurance application, offering essential details that can raise or lower premiums.

For example, if your exam suggests that you'll live a long time, the insurance provider won't need to collect as much money from you. That's because you'll be around longer to make premium payments. However, if the test results indicate a shorter life expectancy, the insurance provider may increase your premiums.

Lastly, Life insurance companies use medical exams to understand your underlying medical conditions. That includes drug addiction, diabetes, HIV, chronic kidney disease, and cancer. Most of the time, insurance providers can't see these conditions with the naked eye and need a medical professional to confirm them. In some cases, an applicant might not know they have the condition.

How Does the Medical Exam Work?

Your underwriter will help you schedule a life insurance medical exam after you submit your life insurance application. That means finding a doctor who is in-network and with openings that fit your schedule. While most exams happen at a doctor's office, some medical technicians can come to your home or office.

The entire process takes 30 to 45 minutes. The first part involves a questionnaire about your lifestyle. Examiners want to know about your health history and social habits, such as smoking, drinking, and tobacco usage.

Some questions might include:

  • How much life insurance do you want to buy?
  • Do you smoke, drink, or use recreational drugs?
  • How frequently do you exercise?
  • Do you suffer from any conditions, such as anxiety or depression, and have you required hospitalization for them?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Does your family have a history of certain medical conditions?

The second part requires a physical exam. The examiner will measure your height and weight before taking your vitals. Make sure to drink enough water before your medical exam since you'll need to produce a urine and blood sample.

Some life insurance coverage requires an electrocardiogram or EKG. The machine measures the heart's electrical activity and can detect cardiovascular problems. Additionally, men over 50 may have to undergo a prostate exam before receiving life insurance rates.

What Do Doctors Look for on Medical Exams?

Your test results will dictate the appropriate amount of life insurance coverage the company will offer you, as well as the rate. Your premiums may go up or down, depending on the results. The healthier you are, the less you'll have to pay and vice versa.

Life insurance medical exams test for several conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure People with hypertension may sustain blood vessels or brain damage, though the condition is treatable with diet and exercise.
  • High cholesterol High levels of LDL and HDL in the blood can lead to an increased risk of heart failure or stroke.
  • Hyperglycemia The presence of excessive fructosamine or glucose in the blood may indicate diabetes.
  • Nicotine usage Smoking and tobacco usage leads to a laundry list of health conditions, such as lung cancer, mouth cancer, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Don't expect to get off easy if you vape instead of smoke tobacco, either.
  • Recreational drugs Insurance companies want to know if you take recreational drugs like LSD, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, painkillers, or antidepressants. While marijuana usage might lead to a slight uptick in your premium, it doesn't carry the same stigma that it did a few years ago, thanks to widespread legalization.
  • HIV/AIDS According to AIDS Map, people with HIV/AIDS have roughly the same lifespans as HIV-negative individuals. The difference is that people with the immunodeficiency virus tend to have fewer healthier years than their peers. This test will also look for the presence of hepatitis.
  • Kidney disease Unusual levels of creatinine, proteins, and hemoglobin can signal kidney disease, which may require a kidney transplant or dialysis in later life.

Fortunately, doctors don't need to run individual tests to look for these conditions. A urine or blood test can identify the presence or lack thereof of these ailments in fewer than 24 hours. The fast results minimize downtime between your medical exam and receiving your estimates.

How Do I Prepare for the Medical Exam?

Life insurance medical exams aren't "pass" or "fail." Instead, the results help gauge your overall health and the best coverage for your conditions. While healthy people may have lower premiums overall, you won't find a perfect correlation between medical records and premium costs.

It's in your best interest to have accurate coverage. You can ensure proper life insurance coverage by being upfront with your underwriter from the start. The insurance company does their homework, so if you are not truthful during the application, it will only delay the process as they rectify the discrepancy between your application and medical records.

Lying on your application can also lead to life insurance fraud. State and federal law enforcement agencies may even prosecute individuals responsible for concealing or misrepresenting information. More importantly, fraud can prevent your loved ones from receiving compensation in the event of your death.

Honesty isn't the only way to ace your exam. You can prepare your body 24 hours before the exam to ensure that you're in the best shape possible for testing. While year-round diet and exercise are ideal for your well-being, you can also benefit from the following:

  • Fasting before the exam Avoid eating a large meal six to eight hours before your medical exam. Otherwise, sugary or fatty foods can skew your blood sugar and cholesterol numbers. One way to avoid hunger pangs is to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning.
  • Drinking plenty of water Water serves as an essential fluid for mental and physical function. It can also flush toxins out of your body, ensuring that your blood test comes back as clean as possible.
  • Avoiding a killer workout Exercise should be a regular part of your routine but avoid that long run or hot box yoga session before your medical exam. Exercising can lead to dehydration and spike your blood pressure. In some cases, it can cause false positives on your test results.
  • Cleansing your system If you've considered overhauling your lifestyle and diet, now would be a good time to try it. Forgo that daily cup of coffee, alcohol, or sugary beverage and throw away your cigarettes or tobacco. While your health won't change dramatically in 24 hours, it can serve as a stepping-stone in the right direction.
  • Avoiding smoking Smoking won't do you any favors before a life insurance medical exam. Not only do the carcinogens lead to various adverse health outcomes, but signs of smoking can also linger in the body for up to three weeks. Additionally, most life insurance companies will look at your smoking habits over the last three years instead of the previous week or so.
  • Wearing lightweight clothing Lightweight clothing can make a difference during your weigh-in. It can save you a few pounds, lowering your body mass index (BMI). Loose-fitting attire also makes it easy for the examiner to perform blood tests.
  • Having your medical records handy I already touched on the importance of accurate life insurance applications. Make sure your paperwork is error-free by bringing a copy of your medical records to the exam. If your examiner has any questions about your family's medical history or previous diagnoses, you can have an answer within seconds.

Doing the right things before your medical exam is just as important as avoiding destructive activities. The last thing you want is to binge on fatty foods or alcohol in the hours before your exam and tank your results.

What Happens After the Exam?

The examiner will take a few days to develop your lab results. Once the insurance provider receives that information, they can accept or reject your application. If they greenlight your application, they will include a coverage quote.

You may have to go through a follow-up appointment if you have abnormal lab results. For instance, a doctor might find high levels of creatinine or protein in your urine. A follow-up exam can determine if you have a problem with your kidneys or the results were anomalous.

Don't expect to hear back from the insurance provider immediately. The entire post-exam process can last up to six weeks. More complicated cases, such as ones that involve disability, may take longer.

Once you do receive results, you can discuss them with an advisor. The advisor will walk you through the life insurance coverage and the decisions behind the pricing. The conversation also allows you to change your policy type or modify your coverage.

What Happens If I Don't Get the Results I Want?

If you don't get the health classification you want, it's not the end of the world. You can still find coverage that meets your needs, even if it wasn't the anticipated route. For example, you might shop around with different companies to see who has the most competitive rates.

Some companies don’t require medical exams to secure life insurance policies. Providers like Brighthouse and Lincoln Financial use records to create policies. Brighthouse works well for anyone searching for a traditional term life insurance policy, while Lincoln Financial caters to individuals with reasonably good health and short medical histories.

If you're dead set on getting a life insurance policy with one company, you should consider their short-term life insurance options. These plans offer a financial safety net that lasts between ten and 30 years. They serve as a go-to alternative for anyone waiting to buy life insurance who wants to protect their family financially in the meantime.

Remember, your medical exam results aren't set in stone. You can also improve your results with a re-examination. Revamping your diet and adding more exercise to your regimen can transform you into the fittest and healthiest version of yourself.

Life insurance companies typically allow people to retake the medical exam after a year or two of preliminary coverage. Often, clients need that much time to quit smoking or lose weight. If your health outcomes improve between your initial exam and the subsequent one, you should see savings with your new life insurance coverage.

Do All Life Insurance Policies Require Medical Exams?

Insurance providers have moved away from medical exams over the past decade. This decision might seem strange on the surface. Medical information provides underwriters with essential details that shape policies.

Eliminating medical exams offers more convenience for clients. They don't have to go to the doctor or take time off work. The move also makes accepting and rejecting applicants faster and easier for insurance providers, allowing them to generate more revenue.

Additionally, removing medical exams allows insurance companies to reach clients who might not have applied in the past. It lowers the barriers to entry for life insurance coverage, even if you have an underlying medical condition. In part, that's because organizations have multiple ways to determine a person's coverage.

Some companies use data modeling to predict an applicant’s life expectancy. The model uses previous records to create a snapshot look at a person’s mortality risk. If you purchase life insurance without a medical exam, here are the three policy options you’ll encounter, as follows.

Accelerated Underwriting Policies

Accelerated underwriting mirrors the traditional underwriting process but forgoes an exam. An underwriter will ask you about your medical history and lifestyle to see if you qualify for coverage. Some companies that offer these policies include Jenny Life and Haven Life.

Some accelerated underwriting policies offer the same coverage as traditional life insurance. However, the maximum death benefit typically doesn't exceed $1 million. If you want more than $1 million in coverage, you'll need to take a medical exam.

Related: Do You Need a Million Dollar Life Insurance Policy?

Simplified Issue Life Insurance

All you have to do is answer a few questions, and you can secure simplified issue life insurance. The policy uses fewer third-party sources for information than other coverage options. This feature helps insurance providers lower underwriting costs.

Simplified issue life insurance stands out as a fast and user-friendly option. It's also more expensive than life insurance with complete underwriting. As a rule of thumb, you should expect your premiums to be 20% higher if you opt for simplified issue life insurance.

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance does what the name suggests. You won’t have to take a medical exam or answer questions, and you’ll get insurance, guaranteed. The policy favors older adults searching for final expense coverage for a funeral or burial.

Guaranteed issue life insurance comes with severe trade-offs. The policy limits typically max out at $25,000 and have high premiums compared to other policies. Also, some companies won't let families collect the death benefit if the policyholder dies within two years of starting the policy.

Bottom Line

Life insurance offers a way for you to provide for your family, even after you're gone. Getting life insurance coverage often starts with a medical exam, allowing providers to verify your current health status and medical history. The entire process takes less than an hour and can help you secure an affordable policy.

A healthy diet and regular exercise can dramatically lower your premiums for life insurance. If you have an exam in the next 24 hours, you can improve your test results by abstaining from drugs and alcohol and drinking a lot of water. If necessary, you can always retake the test to lower the coverage costs.


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