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The rate you’re offered for life insurance, in part, reflects how healthy are. That’s where the medical exam comes in. It gives your insurer a complete picture of your health and helps them set your premium. But if you’d rather not take one, you have options.
Why do I need to take a medical exam?
The medical exam — or paramedical exam — is part of the application process for traditionally underwritten life insurance policies. The results help your insurer assess your risk level and are a significant factor in determining how much you’ll pay for coverage.
What can I expect during the medical exam?
If you need to undergo a medical exam, your insurer will send a technician to your home or office. You can’t have your own doctor perform the exam, but you can schedule the visit at a time that’s convenient for you. The exam typically takes around 30 minutes.
The technician begins by asking about your personal medical history, as well as that of your parents and siblings. Generally, insurers don’t factor in family members aged over 60 or 70.
You can expect to be asked questions like:
- Do you smoke? If so, how much?
- Do you drink alcohol? If so, how much?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Have you ever had surgery?
- Have you ever had a heart attack?
- Have you ever been hospitalized or had a prolonged illness?
- Have you noticed any changes in your skin recently?
- Have you ever experienced anxiety or depression?
- Have you ever coughed up blood?
- Are you currently taking any medications or undergoing treatments?
- Do any medical conditions run in the family?
- Do you ever have chest pain?
- Do you ever have difficulty breathing?
- Do you have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels?
Afterwards, the technician will conduct a physical exam. This may involve:
- Recording your height and weight
- Recording your blood pressure
- Running an electrocardiogram if you’ve reported heart issues
- Taking a saliva, urine and blood sample
- Testing your cognitive skills if you’re a senior
- Measuring your cholesterol levels
You then need to authorize the technician to pass on your medical records to your insurer.
Can I see the results of my medical exam?
Yes. You can request the results, and your insurer will send a copy to your primary care doctor.
6 tips to prepare for a life insurance medical exam
You can make the medical exam go smoother by doing the following:
- Write down your doctors’ names and contact details
- List any medications you take
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods the day before the exam
- Save any high-intensity workouts on the day of the exam until after
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Steer clear of smoking on the day of the exam
Must read: Why lying during your medical exam is a bad idea
A life insurance application is a legal document, and you have a duty to disclose any information that could help your insurer calculate your risk level.
Your insurer will cross-check the results of your medical exam with sources like the Medical Information Bureau and prescription drug databases. If they find out you lied or omitted information, you might be charged a higher premium — or denied coverage.
And if your insurer discovers you lied while they’re investigating your claim, your beneficiaries might not receive the full death benefit. So, withholding information not only puts your life insurance coverage at risk — but might also affect your loved ones when you die.
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How your rating class affects premiums
Once your insurer has the information they need about your health and lifestyle, it assigns you to a “rating class” or “classification.” Think of it as a risk category — the higher the classification, the less risky you are in the eyes of the insurer.
If you land in a higher rating class, you’ll score a cheaper premium. But if you end up in one of the lower rating classes, you’ll be charged more for coverage to compensate for that risk.
The names of rating classes vary among insurers. But generally, these are the classifications from best to worst:
- Preferred Plus
- Preferred Nonsmoker
- Standard Plus
- Standard Nonsmoker
- Preferred Smoker
- Standard Smoker
Life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam
If you want to skip the medical exam for whatever reason, these are your options:
- Simplified issue life insurance. With simplified issue policies, you won’t have to take the medical exam — but you’ll fill out a health questionnaire. It’s made up of about 20 yes or no questions. Approval isn’t guaranteed. But if your application is accepted, your policy could be issued the same day.
- Guaranteed issue life insurance. Sometimes called “guaranteed acceptance life insurance,” this policy is open to anyone, and approval is guaranteed. It forgoes both the medical exam and health questionnaire. Since the insurer has no information about you, this type of coverage can be capped as low as $50,000.
- Group life insurance. This policy type is offered by employers as part of your employee benefits. If you choose to enroll in group life insurance, you’re not required to complete a health questionnaire or take a medical exam. Your employer covers all or most of the premium, too.
- Instant-approval term life insurance. Some fintech companies sell term life policies with accelerated underwriting. Typically, you’re asked to fill out a few basic questions about your health and family medical history. Complex algorithms then scan your public records to verify your answers. You’ll find out if you’re approved immediately, and your policy can be issued within hours or days.
Life insurance is a game of risk, and the medical exam gives your insurer an idea of how healthy you are. It then uses this information to determine your rating class and premium.
While the medical exam is a simple physical, some people may find it invasive. If you’d prefer not to take one, compare life insurance providers that offer no-exam policies.
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