Why A Medical Exam Is Needed
Life insurance companies take a risk when they insure you. Your life expectancy is the risk.
If you have a serious or terminal illness, they may have to pay out much faster than if you were in good health.
Insurance companies use the information from the medical exam to approve or deny applications as well as set appropriate premiums.
As far as premiums are concerned, life insurance companies use a medical exam to charge the ‘healthy’ applicants lower premiums and the ‘riskier’ applicants higher premiums.
This evens out the playing field. Otherwise, perfectly healthy individuals would pay more than necessary for insurance to make up for the deficit the less than healthy applicants create.
Finally, the medical exam is the life insurance company’s reassurance that the information you supplied on the application is legit.
The medical exam provides a third-party opinion on your health, ensuring that you are (or aren’t) a good risk.
Honesty is of utmost importance on the application because life insurance companies check everything.
Process & Procedures
The life insurance medical exam is similar to going to your primary care physician for a check-up. It has two parts – the questionnaire and the physical exam.
The questionnaire is a normal part of the life insurance medical exam. You may answer the questions over the phone or in-person; each facility works differently.
The questions are all the same though:
Questions about your medical history
This includes questions about current and past medications, hospitalizations, and procedures.
The medical technician will ask a variety of questions to jog your memory about any and all issues you may have had in the past.
Questions about your family’s medical history
Your family’s medical history affects you too. If there is a history of chronic or life-threatening diseases, it could affect your premiums.
Contact information for your medical professionals
You’ll need contact information for any doctor you’ve seen in the past few years including primary care physicians and specialists. Provide the name, address, and phone number for each.
Questions about your lifestyle
Insurance companies need to know how often (if at all) you drink, smoke, do drugs, and even exercise as they all affect your health.
Specific questions about any mental health-related issues
If you have a history of depression or anxiety, be ready to provide details about medications, hospitalizations, or treatments.
After the medical questions, the technician will perform a few quick physical tests including:
- Taking your height and weight measurements
- Checking your pulse and blood pressure
- Blood test
The entire medical exam takes approximately 30 minutes and the insurance company uses the results to determine your eligibility and premiums.
The Medical Exam
Most life insurance policies require a medical exam unless you choose a guaranteed issue or simplified issue life insurance policy.
Knowing where to get the exam and what happens is important.
Where to get the exam
Most insurance companies work with paramedical companies who conduct the exams, so they provide a few options.
These companies can come to you for the exam or you may go to one of their facilities. If they come to you, they can conduct the exam at home or even your workplace.
Who performs the exam
A technician from the paramedical company performs the tests. They are quick, painless, and can be completed within your lunch hour.
What Does the Blood Test Check For?
The blood test checks for nicotine or drug use, high cholesterol, high glucose levels, and indicators of any serious underlying diseases including HIV, diabetes, and protein issues.
What Does the Urinalysis Check For?
Life insurance companies can get a lot of information from a urinalysis, starting with any drug or nicotine use. The urinalysis also tests for certain health conditions including:
- Kidney issues
- Liver problems
- Red and white blood cell count
Tips For Preparing
While you can’t change your medical history or medical conditions overnight, there are a few ways to prepare for the medical exam and pass it.
Preparation should start a week before the medical exam to give your body time to respond to the measures you take.
Be completely honest
Don’t hide anything – the insurance company will find out somehow and then they’ll deny your application.
Prepare yourself as much as possible by going over your medical history and pulling any records you’ve kept.
You never know what they’ll ask based on what you say, that’s why it’s important to have as much information available as possible.
If you omit something accidentally, it’s a lot better than lying, so make sure everything you say is 100% truthful.
Avoid coffee & alcohol
Stop drinking alcohol at least a week before the exam and caffeine 1 – 2 days before.
If you can’t live without caffeine, limit yourself to one cup of coffee and avoid any other caffeinated drinks including soda and energy drinks. Caffeine elevates your blood pressure.
If you already have elevated or borderline blood pressure, caffeine could put you over the edge.
Avoid certain foods & supplements
Certain foods and additives can create inaccurate results on your blood test. For the best results, avoid the following:
- Vitamin B12, ibuprofen, protein snack bars – May cause a false positive for marijuana
- Poppy seeds – May cause a false positive for opiates
- Tonic water – The main ingredient quinine may cause a false positive for cocaine
- Sleeping pills – May cause a false positive for barbiturates
- Cold medicine – May cause a false positive for amphetamines
The day or two before the exam, take it easy on your exercise routine. In fact, skip any hardcore exercise altogether. If you need to move your body, stick to yoga, or a brisk walk.
Strenuous exercise elevates your blood pressure, giving the exam company an inaccurate reading.
Fast before exam
Most medical exam companies require you to fast 8 to 12 hours before the exam. Schedule the exam for first thing in the morning so you sleep through the fast.
Not eating provides a more accurate blood sugar and cholesterol reading, so it’s important, even though it’s unpleasant for you.
Stop smoking long before you take the medical exam. Although quitting even a month or so before the exam won’t affect your premiums a lot, it will help.
You’re considered a smoker until you don’t smoke for 3 – 5 years, but the less nicotine in your system, the better your chances of approval with affordable premiums.
Bring your medical details
Have your medical details from the last 5 years. You never know what questions will pop up and the more prepared you are to answer them, the better off you’ll be.
Try a cleanse before
Now is the best time to clean up your health. Ditching caffeine, alcohol, supplements, and anything else ‘unhealthy’ in your diet can only benefit your results.
Ditch the sugar, eat whole, plant-based food, and avoid processed foods and you’ll possibly improve your overall health right in the nick of time.
After The Exam
Typically, you get results within 14 days of the exam. The insurance company needs this time to review the results, compare it to the information you provided, and classify you.
How long does coverage take after the exam?
How long it takes to get coverage varies. Some companies offer coverage immediately after you sign the application, even before the medical exam results are in.
If you have this option, you’ll likely pay your premium with the application. If everything checks out, you move on with coverage in place. If it doesn’t the life insurance company will adjust accordingly.
Other companies don’t start coverage until after the medical exam results are in – this could mean waiting a month or two for coverage.
What happens if you’re denied?
If you failed, you have no life insurance at the moment. You can appeal the decision, but this takes time.
In the meantime, you may want to see if your employer offers group life insurance so you have at least a little coverage available in the interim.
You also have a right to the medical exam results if you were denied.
If you feel something was inaccurate or reported in error, you can communicate with your medical professional and life insurance agent to work it out.
What happens if you die waiting for the results?
If you pass before the results are in and your policy finalized, one of two things could happen:
- If you would have been approved based on the findings, the insurance company will likely pay your beneficiaries.
- If the life insurance company would have denied you, there won’t be a payout.
Life Insurance Classifications
Each life insurance company has its own classifications, but in general, the categories are as follows:
You are in excellent shape, have no health conditions (or very minimal), and get the lowest premiums.
You’re in overall good health with a few minor issues. You still get low premiums, just not as low as the preferred plus.
If you’re in decent health but have a health issue or two that kicks you out of preferred status, you’ll fall in this category. The premiums are slightly higher but still affordable.
Applicants whose height and weight don’t fall in the ‘healthy’ ranges typically fall in the standard category.
You may have a few health issues too, but the BMI or weight is what classifies you in this category.
If you have serious health issues, you’ll be in this category, which has the highest premiums.
Depending on the number of issues that put you in this category, your premiums may be as much as 25% – 100% higher than the standard premiums.
Failing A Life Insurance Exam
If you failed the life insurance exam without any ability to rectify the situation, talk with an insurance broker to see what options you have based on your results and/or circumstances.
One option, with or without a life insurance broker may be a no exam medical insurance policy.
No Medical Exam Insurance
If you’re worried about not passing the medical exam (or you fail) a no medical exam insurance policy may be better.
With this policy, you don’t have to undergo a medical exam but you may have to answer simple health questions.
The policy works the same, meaning you get life insurance coverage and your beneficiaries receive a payout when you pass.
However, you may receive a lower amount of coverage and you’ll definitely pay higher premiums.
There are two types of no exam life insurance:
Guaranteed life insurance
You don’t have to undergo an exam nor answer questions. Everyone is guaranteed a policy no matter their health.
The coverage amount is typically much lower and the premiums are the highest out of any policy.
It’s a good option as final expense insurance for seniors who don’t have life insurance and/or enough money set aside for their final expenses.
Simplified life insurance
Simplified issue insurance also doesn’t require a medical exam, but you must answer a series of questions related to your health.
Insurance companies may also check third-party records to make sure there aren’t any major underlying medical issues that would affect your insurance risk.
Simplified issue policies also have lower coverage amounts and higher premiums.
Don’t fear the medical exam
Your life insurance medical exam isn’t something to fear. If you can’t pass one due to a health issue, consider your alternatives including guaranteed and simplified issue life insurance.
The more you prepare yourself for the exam, the better the results and the more options you’ll have when choosing the life insurance that’s right for you.