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Life Insurance Basics

What is a life insurance medical exam?

Used as a means to determine insurability and premiums, a medical exam may be a part of your life insurance application process. The exam includes routine screenings that may detect health issues.

In addition to asking questions regarding your health history, an insurance company may require that you complete a life insurance medical exam as part of the life insurance application process. If this is the case, don't feel as though you're being singled out. The fact is, insurance companies routinely conduct life insurance health exams on prospective policyholders in order to determine insurability and to establish premium rates. Have you ever wondered what is included in a life insurance medical examination?

What do life insurance medical exams test for?

Life insurance companies routinely screen for a variety of different health alerts such as:

  • elevated blood sugar levels
  • abnormal liver and kidney functions
  • HIV
  • cocaine, cotinine and the substance indicating nicotine use
  • conditions that may indicate heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers

To test for these issues, a typical medical exam for life insurance may include a blood and urine sample, your height and weight, blood pressure, and pulse rate. Keep in mind that if you are age 50 or older and are applying for a large amount of life insurance, you may be asked to undergo additional tests that could include an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a treadmill stress test. In addition, your medical records may also be requested from your primary care physician.

Once your exam has been completed, your samples will be sent to a lab for testing. The length of time before the life company receives your results will vary; however, it typically takes on average between 30 and 60 days for a life insurance application to be reviewed and a policy to be issued.*

How can I prepare for a life insurance medical exam?

When it comes to medical exams for life insurance, the results are not "pass" or "fail." The information collected during your medical exam is used to place you in a risk class and will impact the rate you are offered. It's a good idea to ensure the exam represents your actual health condition and that you don't inadvertently misrepresent your health with practices (discussed below) that could negatively impact the results of your bloodwork or vitals. If you don't consider yourself to be at the peak of fitness, think about taking some time to put a healthier lifestyle in place prior to your insurance medical exam. 

In order to ensure that your results are not delayed, it's a good idea to spend some time collecting your personal and family medical history as well as a list of medications you take. By preparing prior to the exam, it's possible to avoid delays and frustration.

Medical exam tips

Here are some tips for preparing for the exam:

  • Watch your diet for a few days prior to the exam. Avoid processed foods with lots of sugar or sodium. Red meat can raise your cholesterol levels. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. 
  • Avoid rigorous exercise the morning of the exam, which can raise blood pressure.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to ensure you are well hydrated for the exam.
  • Limit alcohol consumption prior to the exam to avoid high blood pressure readings.
  • You may want to consider fasting to avoid high blood sugar.

Can I get life insurance without a health exam?

Not every type of life insurance policy requires a medical exam. With guaranteed issue, final expense, or simplified issue term life, there are typically no exams. Depending on the type of policy, you may be required to answer a few medical questions. Policies with limited medical examination often come with a higher premium cost. This is due to the life insurance company forgoing a full underwriting process to issue your policy.

If you'd like to get a better understanding of your life insurance health exam or read more about no exam life insurance, visit the Protective Learning Center.


*This is only an average. Your individual results may take longer depending on the life insurance company and lab.



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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

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