Over the years, you may have considered getting life insurance on yourself, to financially protect your loved ones in case you were to pass away. And if you have spent any time shopping around for a policy, you have probably come across mention of the medical exam.

Required for most term and whole life policies, this often-mandatory exam (also called a paramedical exam) can be nerve-wracking. After all, your approval for coverage (and even your premiums, in the end) can hinge on it. So, what is this life insurance medical exam like, and what are they actually looking for in its results?

Why It’s Given

Insurance companies are investing in your health, and they don’t want you to become ill or pass away. Therefore, it’s in their best interests to ensure that you’re in good health, and be less likely to die in the near future, before handing you a policy.

That’s why companies typically require a medical exam. This will evaluate your health and detect any underlying medical conditions or diseases (some of which the applicant might not even be aware). It can even give them an idea of your lifestyle.

The exam also allows them to confirm much of the medical history that you provided. In the end, your paramedical exam gives the insurer a better view of you and the overall financial risk you pose to them.

What to Expect

There are typically two components to your life insurance medical exam: a verbal questionnaire and a physical exam with medical tests. Before you answer any questions, you’ll likely be asked to validate your identity by showing your driver’s license or other government-issued identification, so be sure to have this available!

The verbal questionnaire will largely consist of many of the same questions you were already asked, on the health portion of your application. These cover things like your prescription drug use, medical history, family history, tobacco and alcohol use, and even your lifestyle choices. While you already answered all of these – likely at great length – you’ll be asked again to ensure consistency in your answers.

That’s why it’s so important to answer all of your insurer’s questions as thoroughly and truthfully as possible… even if they make you uncomfortable or if you think they’re not relevant anymore. Failure to be honest can result in your policy application being denied.

In some cases, your death benefit can be delayed or denied to your beneficiaries, if you were to pass away and it’s discovered that you lied on your application. Insurers typically have a two-year contestability period, in which they can investigate (and even deny) death benefit claims due to inaccuracies. This contestability is applicable even if your cause of death was unrelated to the misrepresentation in question.

Following the verbal portion, you’ll be given a medical exam. This will include measuring your height and weight, taking your blood pressure, and drawing blood for testing. You might be asked to give a urine sample, as well. If you’re an older applicant, an EKG may be required.

After the exam, your results will be processed and analyzed. You can expect this process to take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months. If the insurance company needs additional testing, has further questions, or wants to approve your application based on the results, you’ll hear back.

In most cases, your life insurance coverage will not begin until the testing is complete and analyzed, and your initial premiums are paid. This is important to note, as you are usually not covered for at least a few weeks after the exam is administered.

Where It’s Given

The great thing about paramedical exams is that you don’t need to go in to a hospital or doctor’s office for them. Most of the time, they will come to you!

These sorts of appointments are typically contracted out to third-party vendors. Your potential insurer will hire a company to conduct the test, who will in turn send a nurse to your home or office. The entire process takes less than an hour (sometimes as short as 20 minutes!) and allows you to work the exam around your daily schedule.

What They’re Looking For

Though you received a quote for premiums when you filled out your original life insurance application, they are subject to change based on the findings of your medical exam  If you have been honest in your questionnaire answers, though, you probably don’t have much to worry about, and a quality paramedical exam can sometimes even positively impact your life insurance premium.  There are a few key things that they will be looking for in your results.

First off, the insurance company will be evaluating your BMI, or body mass index, which is why they measure both your height and weight. Your BMI provides the insurance company with a basic view of your health risk, as it is a measure of body fat.

This can tell the insurance company if you are underweight, overweight, or obese, and give them an idea of some of the health risks you may be facing as a result. For instance, the higher your BMI, the higher your risk for certain medical conditions and diseases, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The medical exam will be testing your blood (and possibly urine) for a variety of health issues. These include:

  • Checking for HIV, AIDS, and STDs
  • Testing levels of cholesterol (HDL and LDL) and triglycerides, to check for potential heart disease
  • Checking for creatinine, hemoglobin, and proteins, which may indicate kidney disease
  • Testing glucose, fructosamine, and hemoglobin H1C levels, to identify diabetes or even pre-diabetes
  • Testing urine for acidity, which could mean diabetes or kidney issues
  • Checking for certain enzymes could indicate liver or muscle disease
  • Raised bilirubin or decreased albumin levels, to detect potential issues with your gallbladder or liver

In addition, they’ll also be conducting a panel on your fluids to find evidence of:

  • Illicit drug use (such as opiates or amphetamines)
  • Nicotine and cotinine in your system

Some life insurance companies will insure marijuana smokers, especially with so many states legalizing its use in recent years. Be sure to check with your individual company before applying if you consume THC-containing substances.

The nicotine testing can determine whether you are a regular smoker or if you recently quit smoking. However, it cannot differentiate between smoking and the use of a nicotine patch or gum. That’s why it’s important to be thoroughly honest in your application.

The Impacts of the Exam

While the idea of a medical exam can be stressful for many people – especially when your life insurance coverage hinges on the results – there’s no reason to worry about your paramedical exam. As long as you are fully disclosing your health history in your application and take certain steps to prepare your body for the tests involved, you should have no issue moving forward.

While there are no-medical exam policies offered, they usually cost considerably more. This is because they’re an added risk for the insurer.

So, if you’re in good health, it’s a wise idea to go ahead with the life insurance exam. Just make sure to drink enough water and do things like avoid substances like caffeine or alcohol in the days prior.

Once your insurance company receives and analyzes your results, you’ll be notified with approval, or further steps. Odds are that before you know it, you’ll have approved coverage and can get on with life… but with the added security of a life insurance policy!

Want to know more about life insurance and paramedical exams? Give our licensed life insurance representatives a call. They will happily walk you through the options available and help you pick a policy that best meets your needs.