What is a Life Insurance Medical Exam?
In life insurance, a medical exam is part of the underwriting process for many policies. It’s a tool life insurance companies use to determine the estimated risk level of an individual before insuring them.
Why life insurers require medical exams
Not all life insurance policies require a doctor’s visit as part of the application process, but many do.
Insurance companies use the medical exam to determine how healthy the individual is for whom the policy is being requested. By getting a doctor’s opinion on that person’s wellness and checking their system for specific conditions and substances, they can get a more accurate idea of how likely that person is to live for any number of years.
The longer the individual lives, the longer the policy owner will pay the policy’s premiums. That means the life insurance company can recoup money to cover the cost of insuring the life insurance applicant. Or, in the case of a policy with an expiration date (e.g., term life insurance), the insurer can gauge the statistical chances that a claim will need to be paid at all.
Medical exams don’t just benefit the insurance company, either. By getting a life insurance medical exam, you get a fair rate for the requested coverage. Without this or other tools, life insurers would have to set standard rates across the board. With unknown risk levels, those rates would be higher and healthy people would likely end up overpaying for their coverage.
What to expect during a life insurance medical exam
A life insurance medical exam is a lot like an annual physical. It’s designed to screen you for a range of health conditions and to gather certain health metrics, like your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and your body mass index (BMI). Additionally, during the medical exam, the healthcare provider gathers data about any current and past diagnoses and any medication you’re taking or have taken, along with your family medical history.
Most life insurance medical exams include blood tests and urine exams. This allows the insurance provider to screen you for several health conditions and to check your usage of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol.
Depending on your age and the amount of insurance applied for, you may also be required to undergo additional steps, like an electrocardiogram (EKG) or cognitive test.
To ensure you get the best results possible from your medical exam, it can be helpful to exercise and get ample sleep in the week prior. In the 24 hours before, limit salt and caffeine intake and drink plenty of water. It is also always best to take the test while fasting.
Based on the results of your medical exam — along with other specific risk factors like your occupation and your hobbies — the life insurance company assigns you a rating. A better rating means paying less for the same amount of life insurance coverage.
Life insurance without a medical exam
While traditional life insurance requires a medical exam as part of the application process, not all policies do. You can get specific types of life insurance without undergoing the exam.
- Accelerated life insurance
- Instant issue life insurance
- Simplified issue life insurance
- Guaranteed issue life insurance
If you have a health condition that would make you high-risk in the eyes of an insurer, you’ve been previously denied for a policy, need a policy in a hurry, or you’re in great health but simply don’t want to undergo a medical exam, this gives you a way to get coverage while skipping the doctor’s visit.