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Having a life insurance policy in place can give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will not be burdened with big bills if you pass away unexpectedly. But securing a life insurance policy often requires a medical exam, unless you qualify for a no-medical exam policy.

The question is, what’s involved in a life insurance medical exam? And what exactly are insurers looking for?

What Is A Life Insurance Medical Exam?

The life insurance medical exam is a full physical examination that’s part of a life insurance application. 

The purpose of the exam is to provide information to your life insurance provider regarding your overall health, which will have a direct impact on your insurability and how much your premiums will cost. 

There are typically two stages involved in a life insurance medical exam:

  1. A questionnaire and interview. You’ll first be asked to answer a number of questions about your health. The examiner will then conduct an interview with you and use the answers you provided in the questionnaire to verify all the information you provided. 
  2. A physical exam. During this exam, your blood and urine samples will likely be collected. The examiner will also record basic measurements, such as your height, weight, and blood pressure reading. 

Why Do Life Insurance Companies Require Medical Exams?

When it comes to life insurance policies and their associated costs, it’s all about risk. Life insurance providers will assume a certain level of risk when they agree to insure you. 

Ideally for the insurer, you will live a long life free of medical issues. This will ensure that no premature claims will need to be paid out, which can eat into the insurer’s profits.

A physical exam will provide the insurance provider with information regarding your health. If you’re in poor health, you’ll be considered a high-risk customer to the insurer, who may charge you a higher premium to make up for the higher risk assumed. Conversely, if you’re found to be in excellent health as per the medical exam, you’ll be considered lower risk, which means your premiums will be lower. 

Find out how to buy life insurance

When Must You Get A Medical Exam For Life Insurance?

Life insurance companies will want to determine what your life expectancy is estimated to be, which they can do by ensuring that a medical exam is conducted on policyholders. Your premium for your life insurance policy will be based on your likelihood of dying early, which the medical exam may help to determine. As such, a medical exam is typically required to get a standard life insurance policy. 

Your physical exam will accompany other metrics insurers use to assess your health and life expectancy, such as your age, lifestyle, family health history, and whether or not you smoke. 

That said, there are some no-medical exam life insurance policies available. These policies use your previous medical records in place of the medical exam. 

However, these no-medical exam policies are usually only available to those in good health. If you have any serious medical issues, a medical exam will likely be required. 

What Do Life Insurance Medical Exams Look At?

Your medical exam will look at the following:

  • Your medical history. If you’ve had any previous diagnoses for serious medical issues, these will need to be disclosed. 
  • Your family’s medical history. A serious medical illness that runs in your family could put you at higher risk for developing the condition yourself at some point, which can ultimately impact your life expectancy.
  • Height and weight measurements. Obesity can contribute to several health issues, which can put you at higher risk for health issues in the future.
  • Blood pressure test. This test will measure the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps, which can gauge your heart health.
  • Blood and urine samples. These samples could uncover any underlying medical issues you may have that you may not be aware of. 
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG will check for any signs of heart disease and is more likely to be required for those over the age of 50 applying for a very high life insurance amount.

Learn more about life insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Other Types Of Illnesses Tested For

Depending on your health and your history, your insurance provider may require that you be tested for a variety of additional ailments, including the following:

  • High cholesterol. Heart disease can be determined by checking several markers, including elevated cholesterol levels. 
  • Hyperglycemia. Elevated levels of glucose could be an indicator of diabetes.
  • Nicotine use. Smoking plays a key role in the cost of your life insurance premium due to the many health problems it can cause, including lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Recreational drug use. Dabbling in recreational drugs can dramatically shorten your lifespan, so your insurance provider will want to know if you use any type of narcotics
  • HIV/AIDS. This disease will increase the insurance provider’s risk of insuring you. 
  • Hepatitis. Like HIV/AIDS, a diagnosis of hepatitis can lower your life expectancy, which also increases the risk for the insurer.

What Documents Do You Need To Bring to A Life Insurance Medical Exam?

Plan to have the following with you at your medical exam:

  • Medications
  • Names and contact information of doctors, both past and present
  • Detailed information regarding medical ailments
  • Driver’s license 

Find out the average cost of life insurance in Canada.

How to Prepare For A Life Insurance Medical Exam

Before the day of your medical exam, there are a few steps you should follow to prepare to both improve your health and ensure a streamlined examination. 

Weeks Before The Exam

  • Improve your diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Minimize alcohol intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Drink lots of water

Day Before The Exam

  • Get lots of sleep
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid over-the-counter medications that can increase your blood pressure, such as antihistamines or nasal decongestants

Day Of The Exam

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages
  • Drink lots of water
  • Avoid overly strenuous exercise
  • Be prepared with required documentation, such as a list of medications and photo ID
  • Wear short sleeves to make it easier to collect a blood sample and have your blood pressure checked

Can You Fail A Life Insurance Medical Exam?

It’s possible to be denied coverage with a life insurance policy if your health information is unacceptable following your medical exam. Whether you’re deemed to be high risk due to poor health or the information you provided on your application form doesn’t match the information collected at your medical exam, you could risk being denied coverage. At the very least, you may have to undergo another medical exam. 

If your medical exam reveals that you are not in good health, get in touch with your insurance provider to see if there were any inaccuracies with the examination. In this case, request a copy of the results from your medical exam. 

If the poor results of your medical exam are because of a health issue, you may be able to discuss it with your physician. But if your failed medical exam was the result of errors made by the insurance provider, the situation should be rectified right away so the inaccurate results don’t remain on your health record, which can risk denial for any future insurance coverage.

If the results of your medical exam reveal that you’re in poor health, you may need to look elsewhere for coverage with an insurance provider that specializes in policyholders with specific issues. For example, some providers may be open to providing coverage to those who are regular tobacco smokers. 

Learn the difference between term life and whole life insurance.

Life Insurance Medical Exam FAQs

Can you get life insurance without a medical exam?

Yes, there are no-medical exam life insurance policies available to those who are generally in good health.

Where can you get a life insurance medical exam?

Your insurance provider will arrange for you to have a medical exam conducted, either at a healthcare practitioner’s office or at your home. Insurance providers typically partner with paramedical firms that provide medical exams and tests.

Who pays for the life insurance medical exam?

The insurance provider covers the cost of the medical exam.

Can I use my medical exam to apply with another life insurance provider?

You can request the results from your medical exam from the insurance provider who ordered it to apply for a life insurance policy with other companies, as long as the results are no more than 6 months old.

Can I fail a life insurance exam?

There is no “pass” or “fail” per se, but the results of the medical exam will have a direct influence on your ability to secure a life insurance policy, as well as what your premiums will be if your insurance provider agrees to take you on as a policyholder. To ensure the best results from your medical exam, take some time to improve your health by eating healthy, exercising, getting lots of sleep, and avoiding bad habits like smoking or excessive alcohol intake.

Final Thoughts

A medical exam is often part of the life insurance policy application process, and the results can directly impact how much you pay for your policy, and whether or not you can even get approved for one. To keep costs low and improve your odds of policy approval, take some time to improve your overall health if possible by making some positive lifestyle changes. 

Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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