When you apply for life insurance, it’s common for the insurance provider to ask you a few things about your health. This helps your insurer set the final price of your life insurance policy. Although it’s uncommon, the price of your insurance may change if a health issue is uncovered as part of the health exam.

What a life insurance medical exam covers

 Here are some of the main factors that your insurance company will be interested in:

  • Height and weight: Insurers will want to understand your body-mass index (BMI) to assess your health risk. Those who fall into “average” height and weight classes can expect to get lower rates.
  • Tobacco use: Tobacco use is still a big red flag for insurers, and they’ll look to understand if you’ve used any form of tobacco in the last 12–36 months. This includes any product containing nicotine (cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, etc.).
  • Medical history: They will ask about your health history. A history of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease may affect your monthly price.
  • Family medical history: Insurers will also ask about your family's medical history. If both of your parents passed away at relatively young ages or had health issues, you could be classified as a higher-risk candidate.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse: You’ll be asked about your weekly alcohol intake. (But don’t worry—they’ll only looking to flag answers like “5–7 drinks a day”). Any heavy alcohol use or drug abuse (excluding marijuana) could seriously affect your monthly rate.
  • High-risk occupations: Insurers will ask about your occupation. Higher risk occupations like scuba instructors and professional mountain bikers will pay more for life insurance than most of us.
  • Dangerous hobbies: Insurers will want to know if you like to parachute off of high cliffs. If you do, they might “exclude” these activities from your coverage. This means that if you pass away while performing your dangerous hobby, you won’t be covered.
  • Driving record: You’ll be asked about DWI/DUI convictions or other driving violations in the past few years. Depending on the insurer, these could affect your insurance rates.
  • Travel plans: They’ll want to know where you’ve traveled to and where you plan to travel to. Any country the government has issued an advisory for can be a red flag for your insurer. Similar to “dangerous hobbies,” this could be something they exclude from your life insurance policy.

How to prepare for your life insurance medical exam

Once your life insurance application has been submitted, the next step is to complete your life insurance medical exam. These appointments come in two forms:

  • Over the phone (known as the tele-interview)
  • In-person at your home or workplace (known as the paramedical exam)

A paramedical exam is requested only when your insurance company needs to collect fluids from you. This typically happens if you’re buying a larger insurance policy, are over 50 years old, or have a condition that was flagged in the application.

Here’s what they’ll be testing for:

  • Accuracy – They’ll be testing for nicotine and drugs in your blood to make sure everything lines up with what you told them on the phone
  • Cholesterol & blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, you might be riskier to insure.

How to prepare for your tele-interview

The tele-interview will be only about 20–30 minutes long and will take place over the phone. To prepare, make sure you have medical information on hand, including dates of diagnoses, treatments, and procedures. It will also come in handy to have a list of any prescription drugs you’re currently taking.

How to prepare for your paramedical exam

To complete your paramedical exam, the health technician from your insurance company will come to your home or workplace to measure your height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse. You’ll also be asked to provide a blood sample and a urine sample.

To prepare, follow these simple steps:

24 hours before the exam

  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol
  • Limit salt and high-cholesterol foods
  • Avoid over-the-counter drugs, which might interfere with your test results
  • Have photo ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport, or health card) handy
  • Reschedule the exam if you’re sick

10 hours before the exam

  • Fasting is recommended (try to avoid eating or drinking)
  • Avoid exercise or excess activity (this will help keep your blood pressure and heart rate in a range that’s typical for you)
  • Avoid smoking or other nicotine intakes

Right before the exam

  • Drink a glass of water to help ensure you’ll be able to provide a urine sample.
  • Undressing is not required, but wear a garment that has sleeves that can easily be rolled up

PolicyMe tip: It’s important that you’re honest during your life insurance medical exam. If you finish the process and think you may have forgotten a key piece of information (which can certainly happen!), let your advisor know so that they can get this information to your insurer for you. 

Why is the life insurance medical exam important?

The medical underwriting process is detailed for good reasons. It helps your insurer control the cost of your life insurance (by giving you preferred rates if you’re healthy). It’s important not only for their bottom line but also for yours.

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

Laura brings 7 years of experience working in insurance & strategic operations as a management consultant at Oliver Wyman, after experiences at Manulife and Munich Re. In 2017, she launched a successful initiative for the World Economic Forum focused on innovation in insurance, working closely with insurers, tech pioneers, and policy-makers.

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