Underwriting is a process that life insurance applicants may have to go through to get approved for their life insurance. This process determines the risk of the applicant and ensures that they’re insurable.
Besides reviewing an applicant’s age and life expectancy, most life insurance policies may require medical underwriting. Medical underwriting may go over an applicant’s health history, past and current prescriptions, and could require a physical health exam.
Why Do Insurers Need Medical Exams for Life Insurance?
Insurers require medical exams to determine how much you could pay for life insurance. The exam may go over specific health questions and screenings that the insurer could use to build your risk profile. A risk profile helps to determine an applicant’s current health and the likelihood of developing diseases and other health conditions.
For example, you may be asked about your family’s medical history. If the insurer sees that there is a history of heart attacks in the family, this could affect your monthly premiums. Family medical history is important to the insurer because it shows the likelihood of you dying while the policy is still active, based on looking at a pattern in your family.
During your medical exam, the insurer may test for conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Cholesterol level
- Nicotine use
- Recreational drug use
There are some life insurance policies that do not require a medical exam such as certain term life insurance policies and a guaranteed issue whole life policy.
How a Life Insurance Medical Exam Works
You may get your medical exam done at an approved facility, or the insurer may send a nurse to your home to give you an exam. The nurse is paid by the insurance company to conduct a medical questionnaire exam and a physical exam.
The physical exam consists of checking for your height, weight, and blood pressure. You may need to do a blood and/or urine sample as well. The nurse will then use your height and weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which measures if your weight is healthy for your height. Being overweight or underweight for your height could affect where you’ll be classified in terms of your health. The liquid samples may be used to test for diabetes, high blood pressure, nicotine, and recreational drug usage.
Medical procedures could differ by age. For example, a young and healthy 20-year-old applicant may only need to do a medical questionnaire, as their life and health expectancy are greater than someone older. In comparison, a 65-year-old applicant may need to do both a questionnaire and physical exam because they have a greater chance of their health declining.
Prepare For Your Life Insurance Physical
Since your life insurance physical is an exam of your health, there are some factors out of your control such as family medical history and preexisting conditions. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure your medical exam showcases your health in as good a light as possible.
There are long-term changes you could make, such as quitting smoking and having a balanced diet. Bear in mind that it could take a week for any signs of smoking to not show up in your blood. The insurer also looks at your smoking habits within the last three years and any signs of tobacco use could increase your premiums. Having a balanced diet can help to stabilize your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, leading to a healthier lifestyle as well.
For 24 hours and on the day of the exam, here are some tips to prepare for your physical.
24 hours before the exam:
- Avoid stressful situations as much as possible, as that can affect and increase your blood pressure
- Limit salty and high-cholesterol foods
- Get plenty of sleep before your exam
On the day of the exam:
- Try to avoid caffeine and stay hydrated with water
- Avoid or limit exercise. Intense exercise may lead to an increase in blood pressure and could be picked up by your urine sample as well
- Be honest with the nurse about your health. If the insurance company finds out you lied on your medical exam, you could be charged with life insurance fraud and your policy could be terminated
How a Life Insurance Medical Questionnaire Works
For the medical questionnaire, the nurse may ask you a series of health-related questions to see how healthy you are. The questionnaire is usually asked before the physical part of the exam. Questions that the nurse may ask could consist of:
- Recent hospitalizations
- The types of prescriptions you may take
- How often you take your prescriptions and the dosage of those prescriptions.
- Types of doctors you’ve seen in the last one-to-5 years
- Family medical history
- Your driver’s license to ensure you’re the applicant
It’s important to keep in mind that the questions being asked do not differ by age. Both a 20-year-old applicant and a 65-year-old applicant may receive the same questions.
Your Options If You Don’t Like Your Exam Results
If you do not like the rates that your insurer provided after they assessed your medical exam, there are other options for you.
You may choose to shop around with different insurers and see the different rates that they offer. Bear in mind that your initial risk profile and rates may be shared across different insurance companies. In doing so, you may either be disqualified or also receive higher rates automatically without a medical exam.
In the gap that you’re waiting to apply for and undergo a new medical exam, you may apply for a short-term life insurance policy. The goal of short-term life policies is to cover you for a short period of time and still protect your family financially in the case that you die before you get permanent life insurance. Most short-term life insurance policies provide coverage for up to a year and you may choose to renew your policy annually.
Do All Life Insurance Companies Require a Medical Exam?
Not all life insurance companies require a medical exam. Life insurance policies that do not require a medical exam include:
- Simplified issue life insurance
- Guaranteed issue life insurance
- Group term life insurance
Oftentimes, these life insurance policies are beneficial for those who are in poor health and cannot get life insurance anywhere else. These policies only require answers to a few short health questions and the amount of death benefit an individual is applying for.
Younger people who are in good health may choose to undergo accelerated underwriting. Accelerated underwriting allows individuals to purchase standard term life insurance without going through their medical records or a medical exam. With accelerated underwriting, you may know if you got accepted or not within 72 hours.
Simplified Issue Life Insurance
The underwriting process for simplified issue life insurance requires a few questions about an applicant’s medical history and questions pertaining to their lifestyle. After applying for the policy, a third party may be contacted by the insurer to verify your prescriptions, such as the applicant’s doctor’s office.
This policy is beneficial to those who do not want to undergo a medical exam or who need life insurance right away, as they can get approved within a week.
Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
The guaranteed issue life insurance policy is beneficial for those who are in poor health and may not be able to get life insurance anywhere else. There are no medical or health questions when applying for this type of whole-life policy.
Group Term Life Insurance
Group term life insurance is offered through your job as an employee benefit and costs less compared to purchasing the life insurance individually. Since group term life is offered by the employer, there is no need for a medical exam. However, if you were to switch or leave your job, your group term life insurance may end as well.