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When Do You Need A Medical Exam for Life Insurance?

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Depending on the type of life insurance you’re shopping for, you may be required to get a medical exam before you can buy a policy. This guide will help you understand what a life insurance medical exam is, when you must get one, and what to expect when you do.

What Is a Life Insurance Medical Exam?

A life insurance medical exam, sometimes called a paramedical exam, is similar to the annual physical you’d get from your family doctor. It consists of a physical examination by a medical professional and being asked a series of questions about your medical history and 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 exam usually takes place within a few days of your initial life insurance application. It should last less than an hour and there is no cost. You may be able to get the exam at a licensed testing facility, at your home, or place of work.

When Do I Need To Get a Life Insurance Medical Exam?

Not all insurance companies or types of insurance require a medical exam. For example, it may not be necessary if you’re young and healthy, or if you’re seeking a low amount of coverage. If you are applying for a life insurance policy that does require an exam, it will occur after you’ve submitted your application. Typically, you will either be contacted by the insurer’s paramedical testing partner to schedule 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 Do I Get a Medical Exam For Life Insurance?

You can get a medical exam at an approved testing facility, in your home, or at your place of employment. The decision is up to you. The insurer will pay for the exam. When scheduling your exam appointment, find out whether you’re expected to fast and for how long. If fasting is required, it may be wise to sign up for an early morning slot so you won’t go hungry for too long.

What Should I Expect During a Life Insurance Medical Exam?

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

  • Health history screening. The person who is examining you will confirm the answers you provided on your insurance application and may ask additional questions about your lifestyle and health history as well as your family’s medical history, including:
    • Tobacco, alcohol, and drug use
    • High blood pressure
    • Psychiatric or psychological issues
    • Stomach, intestine, liver, gallbladder diseases or disorders
    • Chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease
    • Blood or immune system diseases or disorders
  • 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 specimens. In some cases, a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), or treadmill stress test may be required. Tests such as these can reveal an undiagnosed health condition or indicate an elevated risk for certain diseases.

How Do You Prepare for a Life Insurance Medical Exam?

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

In the days leading up to the test:

  • Drink plenty of water to maintain hydration.
  • Cut back on red meat and foods that can raise blood cholesterol levels.

24 hours before the life insurance exam:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter medications such as decongestants and antihistamines, which could interfere with the results of a drug screening.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking, which can raise your blood pressure and pulse.
  • Avoid cardiovascular exercise, which also can elevate your pulse and blood pressure.
  • If fasting is required, follow the instructions you’ve been given.

Exam day:

  • Skip caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or soda, which can raise your blood pressure.
  • Wear short sleeves to make it easier to draw blood samples and check your blood pressure.
  • Drink plenty of water an hour or two prior if providing a urine sample.

If you wake up on exam day and feel unwell, reschedule. Your test results could be skewed by even a mild illness.

What Happens After I Take My Medical Exam?

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

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Can I Get Life Insurance Without a Medical Exam?

If you don’t want to submit to a medical examination or your life insurance application is rejected after you’ve had an exam, you still have options for buying life insurance. Many companies sell no-exam life insurance policies that can be purchased without having to take a paramedical exam, although you may still have to answer a few general health-related questions.

This type of life insurance generally comes with lower death benefit amounts and may be limited to specific age ranges. Moreover, the premium is likely to be much more expensive than for a policy that requires a medical exam. This is because insurers are assuming more risk in 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 minimum qualifications
  • Available for persons aged 50 to 80, but age limits may vary based on insurer
  • Coverage amounts up to $25,000, but some insurers may offer more
  • Level premiums
  • Intended for end-of-life expenses, such as funeral expenses or medical debt
  • Builds cash value over time
  • Waiting period means policy may not pay full death benefit during first two or three years policy is active

Simplified issue life insurance

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

group insurance

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

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

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

Learn More

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

Related 360 Reviews

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

Why You Can Trust Us: 25 Life Insurance Companies Researched

At US News & World Report, we rank the Best Hospitals, Best Colleges, and Best Cars to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. Our 360 Reviews team draws on this same unbiased approach to rate the products that you use every day. To build our ratings, we researched more than 25 life insurance companies and agencies and analyzed 14 third-party review sources. Our 360 Reviews team does not take samples, gifts, or loans of products or services we review. All sample products provided for review are donated after review. In addition, we maintain a separate business team that has no influence over our methodology or recommendations.

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