What Are Life Insurance Providers Testing for In Medical Exams?

Life Insurance Providers

Most people consider life insurance a necessity, especially for providers and caretakers. Knowing that your dependents can have some financial assurance during a potentially devastating time offers a small solace.

Unfortunately, a person can’t just walk into an office and buy a life insurance policy off the shelf. An individual must apply to an insurance company, which then assesses whether or not they will provide coverage for the person’s life.

Once the application is submitted, the prospective insurance provider evaluates the applicant. Often, a company assigns a life insurance medical exam. They can even conduct a consumer report to get a clear picture of the person seeking insurance.

Read on to find out what life insurance providers are testing for in a medical exam, tips for approaching a life insurance medical exam, and options that wave a medical exam.

Life Insurance Medical Exam

When an insurance company evaluates an applicant, they employ an underwriting process that assesses your risk level. This process helps them assign a premium and policy terms to fit your needs and cover their risk.

The medical exam will consider your lifestyle, occupation, habits, and physical health. By using a questionnaire, an agent report, and a physical exam, they can rate your risk.

Risk Categories

Preferred risk class offers the lowest premium for the healthiest, least risky applicant. Standard risk status is assigned to average applicants with minimal risk. Substandard or table-rated applicants will pay the steepest premiums for coverage because they are the riskiest to insure.


Usually, the first step of the life insurance application process involves a questionnaire and an interview. You fill out your questionnaire, and the agent compiles an agent report based on your interview. Both cases piece together your medical background.

On your questionnaire, be careful to answer all the questions accurately. If the insurance company can prove you provided false information, they can terminate your policy, deny disbursement of funds, or change your premiums.

Accurately answering the questionnaire does not mean you should go above and beyond answering questions. This is not the time to volunteer risk factors that were not directly asked about. They need an accurate picture of who they are insuring, but you also do not need to do extra work for them.

Physical Exam

You can go to a specified place for your exam or work out details for the medical professional to come to you.

The medical professional will not be your primary care provider and isn’t usually a doctor. The medical professional will simply check your height, weight, and blood pressure and collect samples.

This physical exam is simple and takes less than a half an hour from start to finish. You can do nothing to alter your height, but you can prepare for the other aspects of the test.

Losing a few pounds preceding your physical exam can result in lower premiums and a better life insurance rating. So if you’ve lacked the motivation before, now’s the time to shed the extra weight.

Bloodwork and Urinalysis

Most medical exams for life insurance will include bloodwork and possibly a urinalysis. They will look for risks of diabetes, cholesterol levels, and HIV status. The urinalysis will look for drug use, kidney problems.

You can ask the medical professional which tests will be performed on your samples. Most companies that conduct the testing allow you access to your results.

Further Testing

The life insurance company you apply to may also require heart testing, depending on your age and medical history. They can also apply for a consumer report on you by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).

Finally, they can obtain credit reports, social media posts, public records, and other avenues to complete their assessment of your risk.

How to Prepare for a Life Insurance Medical Exam

You can follow some simple advice to improve your insurance medical exam results and overall health.

Lower Your Blood Pressure

Start practicing methods to lower blood pressure, such as meditation, paced breathing, and self-hypnosis. If you know you have the potential to fail the blood pressure portion of the exam because of nerves, figure out how to counteract your body’s nervous reactions.

If you have diagnosed hypertension, tips and tricks won’t erase that from your medical record. But practicing techniques to lower your blood pressure can prevent spikes in your blood pressure for the exam.

Skip the wine leading up to your medical exam because alcohol can alter your bloodwork (such as liver enzymes) and raise your blood pressure. It’s best to stick to drinking water instead.

Lower Your Cholesterol

Exercise and stress management are some of the quickest ways to lower your cholesterol. Diet is also important for lowering cholesterol. Eating the right foods can help your numbers all the way around, not just your cholesterol.

Quit Smoking and Show Proof

If you are a smoker, go to therapy or graduate from a quitting program.

Especially make sure to be nicotine-free for your blood and urine tests. Nicotine can hang out in your system for weeks. So quit well before your medical exam.

You can’t take nicotine out of your past, but if you can prove you quit, you have some bargaining power with your underwriter.

What To Do if Your Life Insurance Application Is Denied

An insurance company has the right to deny your application. There are many reasons a company can deem you uninsurable. Your occupation might be too risky, your hobbies might pose a threat, or your medical history can define you as uninsurable.

If You are Denied Based on Inaccurate Information

You can appeal for inaccuracies if you believe your medical results are incomplete or false.

If the information provided by the MIB is inaccurate, file a request for reinvestigation with the bureau. Mistakes happen in less than 2% of their cases, but they are still possible.

If You Are Denied Because You Are Uninsurable

More than likely, if you are denied insurance, your activities, health, or occupation place you in the uninsurable category.

You can appeal to the insurance company and provide more information that may improve their assessment of you. Work with your agent through the process. It’s best to appeal the process with the provider you start with instead of jumping to another company.

Once an insurance company denies your coverage, they will indicate your status to other companies, so shopping around once deemed “uninsurable” is difficult. Convincing the initial company to change their assessment of you is the best action to take.

If you are denied coverage, they will supply you with the reason, and a note will be added to your MIB file to indicate you have been denied coverage.

Options for Life Insurance Without Medical Exam

There are life insurance policies that do not require medical exams. If a policy is small enough to pose little risk to the insurance provider, they will likely waive a medical exam. Also, funeral insurance or final expense insurance does not require a medical exam since it’s a service for guaranteed death.

Life insurance providers make it their business to know your business. Therefore, they need to assess their risks accurately to make a profit and fund death benefit claims.

The medical exam is just one portion of the bigger picture of an applicant. It’s an efficient way to determine risk and assign premiums and policy terms. It is not fool-proof and can be appealed.

Follow up with an agent today to make sure you are properly insured or start the process. If you wait to get insurance until you need it, it’ll be too late.

Maria Hanson writes and researches for the insurance comparison site Clearsurance.com. She is passionate about helping people understand their options when it comes to insurance and finding their best fit.