When applying for life insurance, the insurance carrier will typically ask you to undergo a medical exam – performed by an independent third party – to determine your current state of health.
They do this to verify the information on your life insurance application, get your complete medical history and identify any underlying medical conditions and/or drug use, including nicotine. This helps the insurer determine your risk of dying, which plays a key role in the cost of your policy and whether or not you are approved for it.
In addition to a basic physical (to measure height, weight, blood pressure, etc.) the exam can also involve blood and urine tests, an EKG and in-depth questions about your medical history. The blood sample and urinalysis are used to measure cholesterol, glucose, protein and other common health factors, as well as the presence of HIV and recreational drugs in the system. The results from these tests are then compared to the information you submitted on the application form to identify any discrepancies and determine the risk factor for your policy.
The insurer generally lets you know in advance which tests will be required for your life insurance medical exam. The exam usually takes about 30 minutes, and is paid for by the insurance company. In some cases, a medical professional will come to your house to perform the exam.
Questions Asked During a Medical Exam for Life Insurance
The questions asked during the medical exam cover a wide range of personal and health information including:
- Your medical history, including medications, hospitalizations, procedures and any health conditions you have or have had
- Your family’s medical history
- Name and contact information of your primary doctor and any other doctors you’ve seen in the past few years
- Lifestyle behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, recreational drug use and exercise habits
- Any mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety
After the exam, the testing company will usually provide you with a copy of the results, although sometimes you may need to request a copy from the insurer. Either way, it’s important get a copy in case the insurer denies coverage or quotes excessively high premiums due to poor exam results. That way, you can ask specific questions to understand the reasons for the insurer’s response.
At the same time, the insurer will check your answers with the Medical Information Bureau, prescription database and DMV records, so it’s important to answer all questions honestly. At any time during the first two years of the policy, if the insurer discovers you deliberately falsified information on the application or during the life insurance medical exam, they can increase the rates or cancel your policy.
Smoking and Drug Use
If you smoke cigarettes, you can still qualify for life insurance. However, you will pay much higher premiums than people who don’t smoke.
The life insurance medical exam uses the urinalysis to screen for nicotine and cotinine (an alkaloid found in tobacco that is used as a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke). The test can determine whether you’re a regular smoker or if you recently quit smoking, but it can’t tell how the nicotine got into your system. If you’re using a patch or nicotine gum to quit smoking, or if you occasionally puff on a cigar, the insurer will probably classify you as a smoker. Disclosing details about your smoking habits on the application and during the exam can help prevent you from being misclassified.
Keep in mind that nicotine and cotinine can stay in your system from a few days to several weeks after smoking. So don’t expect to pass a life insurance test for tobacco simply by laying off the cigarettes for a few days. If you do manage to pass the test and the insurer company later finds out that you smoke, they have the right to cancel your coverage (within the first two years).
If you use illegal drugs, such as cocaine or street opiates, you can forget about qualifying for life insurance. If your blood or urine test indicates the presence of any illegal drugs, you will automatically be denied coverage. The one exception is marijuana, which is now legal in many states. Some insurers will allow regular marijuana use, others will not. If you smoke or eat marijuana for medical or other reasons, you may want to consult with an independent insurance agent who can identify insurance carriers that will offer coverage to those who consume the drug.
What To Do If You Fail a Life Insurance Medical Exam
Insurance companies can deny coverage (or charge higher premiums) based on information from the medical exam for several reasons. For example, the information you submitted on the policy application doesn’t match the results of your medical exam. The urinalysis shows the presence of illegal drugs in your system. Your medical history indicates that cancer or other fatal diseases run in your family.
Insurers don’t like to deny coverage, so in some cases they may ask for additional testing to obtain more information about your health status. However, if the insurer says you failed the exam, or you feel part of it was inaccurate, be sure to get a copy of the results and discuss it with your doctor. If you have a legitimate health problem, perhaps your doctor can recommend treatment to improve it. If the insurer denied coverage due to a mistake on the medical exam results, your doctor can support you in having the incorrect results removed from your health record so you won’t be denied for other insurance.
The medical exam is an important part of the process for obtaining the life insurance you need to protect your loved ones. For information about how to prepare for the exam to get the best results, visit the IntelliQuote web page “Life Insurance Medical Exam.”