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Life Insurance Medical Exam

Many life insurance providers require applicants to take a medical exam during the application process. These exams help the insurer gather health information about the applicant.

The medical exam is an important piece of the underwriting process, helping the insurer assess the applicant’s health-related risk to determine approvals, premiums, and policy terms. This article will explain how these exams work, which policies typically require them, and some tips on preparing for the medical exam.

How a life insurance medical exam works

A life insurance medical exam, sometimes called a paramedical exam, is a routine assessment of the applicant's health and family health history. Its goal is to get a better picture of the applicant’s overall health to determine the premiums they’ll pay.1 These exams generally involve providing a personal and family medical history, undergoing a physical examination, and providing blood and urine samples for lab testing.

Insurers work with paramedical testing companies and typically pay the costs to conduct the exam. Many companies let you choose between visiting an approved testing facility, in your home, or at your place of employment.2

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Why a life insurance medical exam is important

Insurers require a medical exam for traditional life insurance policies for several reasons:

  • Risk assessment: Insurers must factor in the applicant’s risks when underwriting a life insurance policy. Medical exams provide them with information on the applicant’s health status and related risks, such as illnesses.
  • Premiums: Insurers calculate premiums based on several factors, with health being one of the most significant. Better health can result in lower premiums.
  • Approval: Like with premiums, medical exams help insurers determine an applicant’s health risk to ensure they meet underwriting guidelines for approval. Insurers vary in underwriting standards around health, though, so some insurers may be more likely to approve those with poor health than others.
  • Fraud prevention: Medical exams can help insurers prevent fraud by cross-referencing medical exam results with medical or other information provided on the application.

What life insurance policies require a medical exam?

Many life insurance plans require a medical exam, such as:

  • Term life insurance: A term life plan lasts for a fixed time, typically from 10 to 30 years. You risk outliving the policy, but premiums are typically affordable.3 Aflac offers term life insurance policies with several term lengths to fit your needs.
  • Whole life insurance: Whole life insurance through Aflac offers lifelong coverage and a cash value component that grows with each premium payment and can earn tax-deferred interest. You can borrow or withdraw from this cash value when it grows large enough.
  • Universal life insurance: Like whole life insurance, these policies are also permanent. But a universal life plan also allows you to increase or decrease the death benefit with a corresponding increase or decrease in premiums.

There are also several life insurance plans that don’t require a medical exam. As a result, they offer faster and simpler applications. Here are some no-exam policies:

  • Final expense insurance: These small whole life insurance policies are designed to help cover funeral expenses, medical bills, and other end-of-life costs. They have a small death benefit, low premiums, lifelong coverage, and cash value. An Aflac final expense policy can help your loved ones cover these costs without a medical exam.
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance: These policies offer the same features as final expense insurance but guarantee approval regardless of the applicant’s circumstances. The amounts of coverage are typically restricted so you should research all options to find the plan that best meets your needs.

What you should expect during a life insurance medical exam

Medical exams generally last 15 to 45 minutes, although the exact length depends on which tests are included. Exams consist of two portions:4

  • The interview: The examiner goes over certain health questions that may have been on your application, such as health history. The health history typically includes information about preexisting conditions, family health history, current prescriptions, and similar information. They may also gather your contact information.
  • The physical exam: The examiner takes your height, weight, pulse, and blood pressure. They may also take your blood and urine samples to determine levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. Applicants over 50 applying for a higher level of coverage, such as $1 million, may need to take an electrocardiogram (EKG).4 If you need an EKG, the examiner will place electrodes on you to record the heart’s electrical activity. Applicants over 70 may need to take a cognitive test as well.5

Make sure you have the following information with you:

  • Driver’s license
  • Names and dosages of medications for any past and current conditions
  • Names and contact information of all doctors you visited in the past five years
  • Medical conditions and relevant information, such as the dates of diagnoses, treatments, outcomes, and contact information for the treating physicians

Tips to prepare for a life insurance medical exam

You can’t change your overall health picture drastically overnight. However, you can do a few things to potentially improve your exam results in the days leading up to the exam:

Schedule it early in the day

Some medical exam tests may require you to fast before the exam. So, it may be easier to schedule the exam in the morning since you won’t eat overnight.

Eat and drink healthier

Eating and drinking healthier in the weeks leading up to the exam could slightly improve several health markers. Limit salt intake and eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and some lean meats. Avoid processed foods where possible. Additionally, limit alcohol consumption, and avoid caffeine consumption.

Drink water beforehand

Most medical exams require blood and urine samples. Drinking water beforehand can help you produce these samples easier during the exam. Furthermore, staying hydrated can make these samples healthier, potentially leading to better exam results.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is one of the most vital aspects of good health. Poor sleep can raise blood pressure, tempt you to eat unhealthy foods, and create other detrimental health effects. Get on a good sleep schedule and get sufficient sleep the night before.

Avoid intense exercise

Regular exercise is healthy, but exercising on the same day as the exam can worsen your results. This is because exercise can temporarily raise your blood pressure and pulse rate. It can also impact blood cholesterol and protein levels, which could worsen your results or cause you to require retesting. It's best to exercise regularly leading up to the exam but it may be best to take a break the day before and day of the exam.

Get a life insurance quote

Medical exams are a crucial component of underwriting for insurers since it impacts the applicant’s risk and insurability. They use the exam results alongside numerous other factors to determine approvals, calculate premiums, and create other policy terms. If you get one of these exams, follow the tips above to optimize your test results. However, if you don’t want to take a medical exam, policies like final expense and guaranteed issue life insurance can allow you to find coverage options without one.

Aflac offers policies with and without medical exams, so you can choose whether you’d prefer to take one. Speak with an Aflac agent today to learn more about your life insurance options.

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