When do you need a medical examination for life insurance?

Depending on the type of life insurance you are looking for, you may need to pass a medical exam before you can purchase a policy. This guide will help you understand what a life insurance medical exam is, when you should have one, and what to expect when you do.

What is a life insurance medical examination?

A life insurance medical exam, sometimes called a paramedical exam, is similar to the annual physical exam you would get from your family doctor. It consists of a physical examination by a medical professional and a series of questions about your medical history and your lifestyle.

Insurance companies use this information – in conjunction with other personal data, including your age and gender – to calculate the cost or risk of insuring you and to determine your coverage amounts and premium. This process is known as underwriting.

The medical examination usually takes place a few days after your initial application for life insurance. It should take less than an hour and there is no cost. You may be able to take the exam at an authorized test center, at your home or place of work.

When do I have to take a life insurance medical exam?

Not all insurance companies or types of insurance require a medical exam. For example, this may not be necessary if you are young and healthy, or looking for low coverage. If you are applying for a life insurance policy that requires a review, the review will take place after you submit your application. Typically, you will either be contacted by the insurer’s paramedic testing partner to arrange a time and date for the exam, or you will receive an email asking you to schedule the test online or over the phone.

Where can I get a medical exam for life insurance?

You can take a medical examination at an authorized test center, at your home or at your place of work. The decision is yours. The insurer will pay for the examination. When scheduling your exam appointment, find out if you need to fast and for how long. If fasting is necessary, it may be a good idea to sign up early in the morning so you don’t feel hungry for too long.

What should I expect during a life insurance medical examination?

In general, you can expect the exam to take up to an hour, depending on the tests and lab work required. The insurance medical examination consists of two parts:

  • Medical history screening. The person examining you will confirm the answers you provided on your insurance application and may ask you additional questions about your lifestyle and medical history as well as your family’s medical history, including:
    • Tobacco, alcohol and drug use
    • High blood pressure
    • Psychiatric or psychological problems
    • Diseases or disorders of the stomach, intestine, liver, gallbladder
    • Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease
    • Diseases or disorders of the blood or immune system
  • Physical examination and tests. This includes basics like your height, weight, pulse, temperature and blood pressure. It may also require giving blood, urine or saliva samples. In some cases, a chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), or treadmill stress test may be needed. Such tests can reveal an undiagnosed health condition or indicate a high risk of certain diseases.

How to prepare for a life insurance medical exam?

Once your test has been scheduled, there are things you can do in advance to ensure that your results will present an accurate picture of your overall health.

In the days before the test:

  • Drink plenty of water to maintain hydration.
  • Reduce your intake of red meat and foods that can raise blood cholesterol.

24 hours before the life insurance exam:

  • Have a good night.
  • Do not use over-the-counter medications such as decongestants and antihistamines, which may interfere with the results of a drug screen.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking, which can increase your blood pressure and pulse rate.
  • Avoid cardiovascular exercise, which can also elevate your pulse and blood pressure.
  • If fasting is necessary, follow the instructions given to you.

Exam day:

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, or soda, which can raise your blood pressure.
  • Wear short sleeves to make it easier to take blood samples and check your blood pressure.
  • Drink plenty of water an hour or two before if you are providing a urine sample.

If you wake up on the day of the exam and you don’t feel well, reschedule it. Your test results could be skewed by even mild illness.

What happens after I pass my medical exam?

The results of your medical examination will be shared with the insurance company once they have been processed, which can take up to two weeks. In some cases, additional information (such as records from your doctors) may need to be requested and reviewed before the underwriting process can be completed. In total, it can take 30 to 60 days from the request to the issuance of the policy.

Can I get life insurance without a medical exam?

If you do not want to undergo a medical examination or if your application for life insurance is rejected after passing an examination, you always have the option of taking out life insurance. Many companies sell no-exam life insurance policies that can be purchased without having to pass a paramedical exam, although you may still need to answer a few general health-related questions.

This type of life insurance usually comes with lower death benefit amounts and can be limited to specific age brackets. Also, the premium is likely to be much more expensive than for a policy that requires a medical examination. In effect, insurers take on more risk by covering a person without the benefit that a detailed health history can provide the underwriting process.

The most common types of no-exam policies are guaranteed issue, simplified issue, and group life insurance. Here is the breakdown:

Guaranteed issue life insurance

  • Is a form of whole life insurance
  • No medical exam or health questionnaire required
  • Automatic acceptance if you meet the minimum qualifications
  • Available for people aged 50-80, but age limits may vary depending on the insurer
  • Coverage is up to $25,000, but some insurers may offer more
  • Level bonuses
  • Intended for end-of-life expenses, such as funeral expenses or medical debt
  • Creates cash value over time
  • Waiting period means the policy may not pay out the full death benefit for the first two or three years the policy is active

Simplified issue life insurance

  • Is a form of whole life insurance
  • A short health questionnaire may be required
  • Medical or prescription records may be reviewed
  • Acceptance is not guaranteed
  • Premiums vary based on your age, medical condition and amount of coverage
  • Available for people aged 50-80, but age limits may vary depending on the insurer
  • Coverage amounts up to $100,000, depending on the insurer
  • Benefits may not be paid in full for the first two or three years in some cases

Collective insurance

  • Is a form of term life insurance
  • Frequently offered as a social benefit at little or no cost to workers
  • Acceptance is guaranteed
  • Coverage often limited to 1 or 2 times the annual salary
  • May be able to add coverage for family members or purchase higher levels of coverage for yourself
  • Not portable; if you quit your job, your coverage ends
  • Sometimes available to members of professional, civic, or religious organizations

Depending on the insurer and policy, you may be able to purchase riders or add-ons that provide additional coverage. The most common of them are:

  • Accidental death and dismemberment pays a guaranteed death benefit if the insured person dies or is disabled in an accident.
  • Accelerated death benefit will pay a portion of your death benefit while the insured is still alive, if diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Learn more

For more information on life insurance, see the following guides:

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For more information on other types of insurance, see the following guides:

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