What To Expect In A Life Insurance Medical Exam
Chances are, you know you need life insurance if you have loved ones who count on you for financial support. A payout from a policy would help them pay the bills and keep them afloat if something happens to you.
But you might be dragging your feet when it comes to applying for life insurance because you’ve heard you may have to take a medical exam. Perhaps you don’t like the inconvenience of giving up your time to be poked or prodded. Or maybe you’re worried about what the exam will uncover.
Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t let the prospect of getting a medical exam deter you from getting life insurance. The exam probably isn’t nearly as bad as you think. Knowing why some insurers require medical exams and what it entails can help put your mind at ease.
Why Life Insurance Companies Require a Medical Exam
Life insurance companies use a process called underwriting to determine how much of a risk you are to insure. Insurers need to calculate the life expectancy of applicants. This helps insurers price life insurance policies accurately to protect themselves financially.
It also helps prevent healthy people from overpaying for coverage to subsidize those who aren’t as healthy. Healthier applicants are more likely to get lower insurance rates. And those with health conditions and at older ages will pay more or could possibly be declined for coverage.
So a big part of the underwriting process involves gathering information about an applicant’s health. Insurers will ask you to fill out an application with questions about your medical history, prescriptions, your family’s medical history (parents and siblings), and your driving record, dangerous hobbies and plans for international travel.
A fully underwritten policy (which takes all medical and personal information into account) typically requires a medical exam to verify the information you provide and determine whether you have any health conditions that could affect your life expectancy.
What a Life Insurance Medical Exam Entails
A life insurance medical exam doesn’t require you to give up an entire day. It can take just 15 to 45 minutes, depending on what tests are included.
You’ll generally be asked questions about your medical history during a phone interview before your exam, and the examiner will review them again in-person. Here’s a sample of the type of information you should have on hand:
· Names and dosages of medications, for past and current conditions.
· Names, addresses and phone numbers of doctors visited in the past five years.
· List of medical conditions, dates of diagnoses, treatment, treatment outcome and treating physician contact information.
· Driver’s license number and expiration date.
During the exam, your height, weight, pulse and blood pressure will be recorded. You likely will have to provide a urine sample and have blood drawn to test for health issues such as elevated cholesterol or blood sugar levels, and to screen for nicotine and drug use.
If you’re over age 50 and applying for a high amount of life insurance, such as $1 million and up, you might be required to take an electrocardiogram (EKG) which is painless. Electrodes will be placed on you to record the electrical activity in your heart. The guidelines for who needs an EKG will vary by insurer.
You won’t have to undress during the exam, but it’s good to wear loose clothing if your test involves an EKG. Occasionally some insurers might require an X-ray or treadmill stress test, which needs to be done at a doctor’s office or clinic. If you’re age 70 or older, you might have to take an additional test of your cognitive ability.
How to Get a Life Insurance Medical Exam
Not only is a life insurance medical exam relatively quick, but it’s also easy to get one. Insurance companies partner with paramedical companies that provide testing services, such as ExamOne and APPS Para Medical Services.
Typically, a representative from the medical testing service will contact you to schedule an appointment. The insurer will cover the cost of the exam.
You can choose to have the test done at your home or workplace, and a nurse or paramedical professional will come to you. If you choose your workplace, keep in mind that it could be awkward to deliver the urine sample from the bathroom to your examiner.
Or you may be able to have the test done at one of the paramedical service’s exam centers.
Delaying the exam will only slow the process of getting insurance coverage. So you’ll want to schedule your exam for the earliest possible date.
How to Prepare for a Medical Exam
The results of your medical exam will play a big part in the rate you’ll pay for life insurance. So it’s important to take the test seriously. Granted, you won’t be able to make major changes to your health in the short period between applying for insurance and taking the exam. But there are things you can do to get the best results possible.
· 24 hours before the exam: Limit salt and high-cholesterol foods such as red meat; avoid over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and nasal decongestants.
· 12 hours before the exam: Refrain from alcoholic beverages and strenuous exercise, which can raise blood-pressure levels.
· =strong>One hour before the exam: Avoid caffeine and nicotine; drink a glass of water. Being hydrated will help with the blood test.
· At the exam: Have a photo ID and application paperwork; wear short sleeves or sleeves that can be rolled up so your blood can be drawn and blood pressure can be taken
· When scheduling your exam, ask whether you need to fast. You might have to avoid eating and drinking anything other than water during the 12 hours before your exam.
Getting the Results of Your Exam
You may be able to access the results of your blood and urine tests, depending on the paramedical company that conducted the test. For example, ExamOne—which is one of the top paramedical services—provides results within seven to 14 days after an exam. Applicants can register on the ExamOne website and be notified by email when their results are available.
To find out whether you can get your exam results, ask the representative you speak with when you schedule your exam. Or contact the paramedical company’s customer service.
Other Ways Insurers Get Information About You
In addition to your application and medical exam, insurers gather information about you in a variety of ways. They get more information about your health by getting your medical records from your doctor, by using a third-party company such as Milliman Intelliscript to check your prescription history, and by using the MIB Group database to verify information on your application.
Insurers will check your motor vehicle report for violations that would show that you engage in risky behavior. They’ll generally check public records to verify your personal information, find out what property you own, and see if you have a criminal record or other information that shows you are a risk to insure. They may even use credit in their assessment of your risk.
Expect to be asked about planned travel outside the U.S. Your application will be postponed if you’re traveling to certain countries, such as those listed as Level 4 risk by the U.S. Department of State.
Some insurers will look at what you post on social media to see if you’re engaging in risky behavior. And if you apply for coverage worth several million dollars, you might have to provide third-party financial statements such as tax returns or documents from an accountant.
Insurers use all of this information to determine your underwriting classification—which is also called a risk or rate class. Insurers usually have preferred and standard rate classes but might also have preferred plus and standard plus classes. They usually also have a substandard category for people with more severe health conditions.
Those in the preferred plus and preferred classes get the lowest rates. To qualify for the best rates, you must generally be in good health with no tobacco use in the past three to five years, have a clean driving record, no history of drug or alcohol treatment, and no family history of heart disease or cancer before age 60.
How to Avoid the Medical Exam
You can avoid taking a life insurance medical exam if you’re worried about how your health will affect your rate or ability to get coverage—or if you simply don’t want to bother with an exam.
Many insurers offer no-exam life insurance policies. Companies such as Haven Life even offer a “fully underwritten” policy that doesn’t require an exam. Fully underwritten policies tend to be the most affordable option for many applicants, especially if you’re healthier and younger. That’s because they offer the most information to the insurer, which uses that information to accurately price a policy.
These three types of underwriting don’t involve a medical exam.
· Accelerated underwriting: Many life insurance providers today offer no-exam policies and a speedier application process. There are also options for fast life insurance, where providers use data and algorithms to quickly decide on a term life insurance rate for you. These options are generally available to younger (under 50 or 60), healthier applicants.
· Simplified issue: The simplified issue underwriting process does not require a medical exam. Applicants have to answer a few questions about medical history and lifestyle. There might be a check of third-party data sources, such as prescription history.
Because less information is gathered and no medical exam is required, simplified issue policies will have higher rates than fully underwritten and accelerated underwriting policies – even for healthy people. It’s also common for insurers to limit the amount of coverage available under a simplified issue policy.
· Guaranteed issue: You don’t have to take a medical exam or answer health questions to get a guaranteed issue policy. These policies are a way to get coverage if you’re in poor health. They tend to be tailored to older adults with limited financial resources who are looking for a small policy to provide for funeral and final expenses.
And guaranteed issue policies are usually the most expensive type of policy for the amount of coverage you get. If you’re young and healthy, push past any fears you might have of taking a medical exam. Then you’ll be more likely to get the coverage you need at the best price.