Global Privacy Signal Detected
Life Insurance

Life Insurance Plans With No Exam: Skip the Exam, Not the Coverage

Though medical exams are a standard part of the life insurance application process, some policies don’t need it. Learn how no-exam life insurance works and whether you should consider it.

Traditionally, applying for life insurance coverage involves submitting to a medical exam. This exam is similar to an annual physical: An examiner measures your height, weight, and blood pressure and takes blood and urine samples for analysis.

However, you may be hesitant to take a medical exam. Perhaps you’re worried about uncovering a serious medical issue, or perhaps you want to avoid spending extra time at the doctor’s office in general. Fortunately, insurance companies offer various policies that don’t require an exam or, in some cases, any medical information at all. Learn how life insurance with no medical exam works and when to consider this option.

Why Do Life Insurance Companies Use Medical Underwriting Anyway? 

Medical underwriting is a key part of the application process for most life insurance policies. Insurers rely on it when deciding which applicants to accept or decline and what premiums to charge. Due to medical underwriting, people with health issues like pre-existing conditions could face higher premiums or be ineligible for coverage.

Assessing Insurance Risk

Insurers use medical underwriting to gauge the risk of an applicant passing away while their policy is active; in other words, insurers use the applicant’s health history and health status to determine when (and if) they would likely need to pay out the policy’s death benefit.

For example, when someone applies for a 30-year term life policy, the insurer will estimate the risk of the applicant passing away during the next 30 years. Typically, the lower the mortality risk, the lower the premium. The reverse is also true: the higher the risk, the more the insurer charges for the premium. Or in some cases, if the risk is considered too high, insurers will reject coverage altogether.

What to Expect From Medical Underwriting Exams

To make informed underwriting decisions, insurers collect medical information from applicants through a detailed health questionnaire and physical exam. Insurers use medical exams to collect accurate, up-to-date health information and identify health risks the applicant may not be aware of, such as undiagnosed diabetes or high blood pressure.

Questionnaires can range from 5-50 questions about your health history, often including questions about your family health history, your past and current medications, and more. To complete the medical exam portion of the underwriting process, the insurer connects you with a medical testing service. Either in your home or at the service’s exam center, you would likely provide blood and urine samples, answer further health questions, and get your blood pressure taken.

How No-Exam Life Insurance Works

No-exam life insurance policies allow applicants to skip the traditional medical underwriting process. Instead of requiring applicants to take a medical exam, insurers ask for limited health information. Some no-exam life insurance policies require no health information at all. 

The amount of medical underwriting required for a life insurance policy without a medical exam varies based on the insurer and type of policy. For example, some insurers may ask applicants to fill out a health questionnaire, usually consisting of 3-12 questions. Other insurers may not ask for any health information at all and instead guarantee acceptance to all applicants who meet other non-health criteria, such as location and age.

Advantages of Getting a Life Insurance Policy Without a Medical Exam 

Buying life insurance without underwriting or medical question requirements has many potential advantages. Some reasons consumers seek out these policies include:

  • Higher approval rates: Insurers may accept the majority of applications for life insurance with no medical exam or guarantee approval for some types of policies. This helps people with high-risk medical issues qualify for life insurance, whereas they may not be accepted by traditional policies.
  • Easier application process: No-exam policies don’t require applicants to fill out lengthy health questionnaires or schedule a medical exam, making them appealing to those who value simplicity and convenience.
  • Accelerated decision timeline: Traditional life insurance underwriting takes around 4 to 8 weeks, but skipping the medical exam allows insurers to make coverage decisions within a week. In some cases, applications may be approved the same day.
  • Greater privacy: With some life insurance, no medical questions or exams are needed. This appeals to consumers who prefer not to share any information about their medical history.
  • Living benefits: Most whole life no-exam policies still offer living benefits, such as building cash value and allowing policyholders to borrow money from that cash value. However, this may be more limited in availability, especially for policies with lower death benefits.

Disadvantages of No-Exam Policies 

While there are many reasons to consider a life insurance policy without medical exam requirements, there are also several potential downsides of these policies. Some significant disadvantages include:

  • Higher premium rates: Offering life insurance without a medical exam leaves insurers with less information about applicants’ health. To compensate for this higher risk, they charge higher premiums for coverage.
  • Limited coverage amounts: Insurers typically cap no-exam coverage limits at around $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the policy type. In contrast, the maximum coverage amounts for traditional policies could be more than $1 million.
  • Delayed coverage: No-exam policies often have a two-year waiting period before the coverage takes effect. If policyholders pass away during this period, their beneficiaries receive a return of premiums paid rather than the death benefit. 
  • Limited rider options: Riders are add-ons that policyholders can buy to customize their life insurance coverage. While options vary from insurer to insurer, many offer few or no riders for no-exam policies.

What Kinds of Life Insurance Do Not Need a Medical Exam? 

People who want life insurance without underwriting have a few options to consider. Many employees have access to no-exam coverage through their jobs. If not, individual policies like guaranteed issue life insurance, final expense life insurance, and simplified issue life insurance could be an option. 

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
Policy TypeWhole life insurance
Health Information NeededNone
Typical Death Benefit Amount$5,000-$25,000
Application AcceptanceGuaranteed
Other CriteriaMust be at least 40-50 years old at the time of application; must not be older than 75-80 years old

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of whole life policy that promises acceptance to all eligible applicants, regardless of their health issues. These life insurance policies typically have low death benefits, such as $5,000 to $25,000.

These policies are marketed toward older adults who aren’t eligible to apply for a new traditional life insurance policy because of their health risks. The premiums tend to be much higher than other types of life insurance.

Who Should Consider This? 

These policies could be a good option for people ineligible for other coverage due to a serious health issue, such as dementia or kidney failure, or due to advanced age. Note that insurers typically set a minimum age of 40-50 to apply for guaranteed issue policies and may have age limits too.

Simplified Issue Life Insurance

Simplified Issue Life Insurance
Policy TypeTerm life insurance; whole life insurance
Health Information NeededQuestionnaire
Typical Death Benefit Amount$100,000 or less, though some insurers may offer higher coverage
Application AcceptanceNot guaranteed
Other CriteriaNone

Simplified issue is a type of underwriting insurers use for both term and whole life policies. Coverage is typically limited to $100,000 or less, though some insurers may offer policies with face values as high as $500,000.

Consumers must answer a short list of health questions instead of taking a comprehensive medical exam. Unlike guaranteed issue policies, not all eligible applicants are accepted. However, the approval rate is still high; overall, insurers accept around 70% to 90% of applicants. Like with most no-exam policies, insurers charge higher premiums to account for the risk of making approval decisions with limited health information.

Who Should Consider This?

Simplified issue life insurance is designed for consumers who don’t mind paying a higher premium in exchange for a streamlined application process. It may also appeal to people with health issues who worry they would not be accepted for policies that utilize traditional underwriting.

Final Expense Life Insurance

Final Expense Life Insurance
Policy TypeWhole life insurance
Health Information NeededQuestionnaire
Typical Death Benefit Amount$5,000-$25,000
Application AcceptanceNot guaranteed
Other CriteriaMust be at least 50 years old

Final expense life insurance, also known as burial insurance, is a small whole life policy designed to cover end-of-life expenses, such as funeral and probate costs. Insurers typically offer coverage amounts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

Since final expense life insurance provides a small death benefit, insurers offer this coverage without needing a medical exam. Applicants may be required to answer health questions. As this type of policy is meant to help with burial costs, insurers often set a minimum application age of 50.

Who Should Consider This?

Burial insurance may be a good option for older adults who are making end-of-life plans and want to leave their loved ones with enough money for funeral costs. These costs may be higher than one may expect — in 2021, the average cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial was $7,848.

Group Life Insurance

Group Life Insurance
Policy TypeTerm life insurance
Health Information NeededNone
Typical Death Benefit AmountSet by employer
Application AcceptanceGuaranteed
Other CriteriaSet by employer

Employer-sponsored group life insurance provides a base amount of coverage to eligible employees without the need for a medical exam. Coverage is typically limited to a specific dollar value or a multiple of the employee’s salary. 

Group life insurance doesn’t require a medical exam because insurers underwrite the group as a whole. That means they consider overall group characteristics, such as average age, rather than looking at any individual employee’s medical history.

Who Should Consider This? 

Insurers typically pay for some or all of the premiums for basic coverage, so it’s a low or no-cost option for the 60% of American workers with access to job-based life insurance. It’s especially appealing for people with health issues that would otherwise make them ineligible for coverage outside of work.

How Much Does Life Insurance With No Medical Questions Cost? 

The cost of life insurance with no medical exam varies based on the type of policy, as well as an applicant’s age, gender, and chosen coverage amount. Talk to a trusted agent for advice about premium rates.

Still, average costs can be helpful when weighing life insurance options. Here’s what a 55-year-old man might pay for the coverage options discussed in this guide:

Policy TypeExpected Policy Cost
Guaranteed issue life insurance$110-$200 per month for a whole life policy with $25,000 in coverage
Simplified issue life insurance$35-$55 per month for a 20-year term policy with $100,000 in coverage
Final expense life insurance$30-$65 per month for a policy with $10,000 in coverage
Group life insuranceNo or low cost, depending on the employer

Is This Type of Policy Right for You?

Life insurance with no medical exam is a specialized type of life insurance that may be a good choice for some applicants, but a poor choice for others. It’s a good idea to talk to a trusted agent for help when deciding if a no-exam policy suits your needs.

In general, no-exam policies may be a good choice for the following applicants:

  • People who feel their age or health disqualifies them from traditional life insurance
  • People who want a smaller death benefit for end-of-life expenses
  • People who don’t mind paying higher premiums to avoid taking an exam
  • People who feel comfortable with more restrictive or limited terms for their life insurance plan

On the other hand, the following applicants may be better served by a traditional policy with a medical exam:

  • People in good or excellent health who may be eligible for lower premium rates
  • People who want a larger death benefit for income replacement or debt repayment
  • People who want access to a wide variety of policy riders

When to Consider Standard Term Life Insurance Coverage Instead 

Unlike most no-exam life insurance types, traditional term life insurance lasts for a predetermined number of years, or a “term.” Short-term policies cover policyholders for a year or less, and longer terms of five, 10, 20, or even 30 years are available.

Traditional term life insurance could be a better option for those who cannot afford the higher premiums of a no-exam policy. In fact, some term life policies may effectively function as no-exam policies, allowing you to skip the medical underwriting.

Lower Costs

You can typically access higher death benefits at much lower premiums with standard term life insurance policies. These policies are usually more affordable than most no-exam life insurance types, even for people with health issues who are hesitant to take a medical exam.

For example, a 55-year-old man in poor health could pay around $65 to $110 per month for a 10-year $250,000 policy. Contrast that cost with a guaranteed issue life insurance plan, which would cap coverage at $25,000 and have premiums of $110 to $200 each month.

Potentially No Exam or Limited Health Data Needed

Standard term coverage doesn’t necessarily require a medical exam. Increasingly, insurers are using accelerated underwriting, which utilizes a health questionnaire instead. Here’s how it works: Applicants complete a detailed health questionnaire, and insurers supplement this information with publicly available non-medical data, such as driving records and criminal records. The exam requirement is waived if the insurer has enough information to complete their applicant risk assessment.


Your Next Steps

  • Determine if you are eligible for employer-based group life insurance, which is usually low to no cost and does not require a health exam.
  • Decide what type of no-exam life insurance policy best suits your concerns, benefit expectations, and budget: guaranteed issue, simplified issue, or final expense life insurance.
  • Learn more about traditional term life insurance to see if that would be a better fit for your coverage needs at a lower cost.