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Why are life insurance medical exams required?

Senior adult man at medical appointment
Many life insurance companies will want the results of a medical exam before approving your application. Getty Images

Life insurance provides economic security for you and your loved ones in the event of your death. By making a payment to the insurance company each month, depending on your billing schedule, you can ensure that your beneficiaries will receive compensation. 

While putting a life insurance policy into place (and maintaining it) is relatively simple, there are some important steps you will need to take to finalize the plan. For example, a medical examination may be required. While not always mandatory, many insurance companies will want to have the results of an exam reviewed before signing off on your plan. 

If you're currently in the market for life insurance, or just want to increase the coverage you already have, now is a good time to do so. You can start by getting a quote today.

It's important to understand how to prepare properly to obtain the life insurance policy you desire. Read on to learn more.

Why are life insurance medical exams required?

Medical exams are conducted by life insurance companies to ensure they have an accurate picture of who they're insuring (and for how much). It's easy to lie or exaggerate about your health and well-being when applying for a policy. But the company won't just take your word for it and let you automatically pay lower premiums. They'll want to confirm your health status. This will likely be done in two ways:

  • A questionnaire (online or paper): This is where you will answer some basic questions including your age, height, sex, weight, etc. You'll be asked if you smoke or previously did. You'll likely be asked about your alcohol consumption, if you're on any medicine and if you have any allergies. Be honest when answering because the company will determine the truth when they complete the in-person medical exam.
  • Physical exam: This is done at no cost to the applicant. It's completed either in an office or the insurance company can send a representative to your home to complete it. If you've had your annual wellness visit with your primary care physician then you already know what to expect. You will have to step on a scale to check your weight. They'll check your blood pressure. They'll ask additional questions not addressed in the questionnaire. You'll also need to provide blood and urine samples. It should be relatively quick (think under 30 minutes).

You likely won't get immediate approval or rejection on the spot. The results of the exam need to be returned to the insurance company for that to happen.

If you're ready to start a new policy or want to supplement the life insurance you already have, speak to a provider and get a price estimate.

Can I get a life insurance policy without a medical exam?

If you don't want to take a medical exam to get life insurance, you don't necessarily need to. Some providers may not require one. You can explore those right now and expedite the approval process. 

Here are some common reasons why you may not have to get a medical exam for life insurance:

  • You're young: If you're under 30 and healthy. 
  • You want basic coverage: If you're not seeking a particularly high amount of coverage you may not have to take an exam. 
  • Someone else is insuring you: This would be applicable when being added to a relative's supplemental life insurance.

It's important to note that these guidelines don't apply across providers. The necessity of a medical exam is specific to all of the above factors - and the provider you are submitting an application with. 

The insurance you would get without submitting to an exam is different than the traditional types you may receive should you agree to the standard vetting process. That doesn't mean one type is better than the other, but it's something to be aware of.

No-exam life insurance policies, for instance, are popular if you fall into one or more of the above categories. This type of coverage is guaranteed and is easier to finalize since you're not taking an exam. 

Despite its benefits, however, this insurance type also has some drawbacks. For example, the death benefit may be limited. It also may come with higher monthly premiums than other, more traditional insurance types. This is because the insurer has no real record of your medical history or health status and is therefore taking on additional risk by approving you for coverage. 

When determining whether a medical exam is needed - and what kind of protection you can apply for - it's best to go directly to the provider to review your options.

Factors that affect life insurance rates

If you're well then a medical exam can help ensure that you pay a low rate for life insurance coverage. Conversely, if you're unhealthy the exam will demonstrate this, likely leading to a more substantial cost. But your performance on a medical exam, should you choose to take one, is only one factor that affects life insurance rates. Here are a few others to know:

  • Age: The younger you are, the less you'll typically have to pay. As you age, the rate will rise.
  • Gender: It may seem unfair for one sex to pay more but, statistically, women live longer than men. Since men often (but not always) die at an earlier age than women, they can expect to pay more for their life insurance coverage.
  • Policy type: The type of life insurance you choose (and are eligible for) will influence your rate. Term life insurance is generally cheaper but whole life insurance policies have cash options that may be appealing to you, depending on your circumstances and goals.
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