How does medical history affect your life insurance? |
Doctor filling out paperwork for life insurance company

Life insurance and medical history

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Quitting smoking, losing weight and cutting back on alcohol can help you save.

You’ll need to provide your full medical history when applying for life insurance, and some insurers will require a medical exam. But if you’re prepared and know what to expect, the application process will run smoothly.

What to expect when applying for life insurance

During the application process you’ll be asked questions about your height, weight, date of birth, smoking and drinking habits, exercise habits, your income and any assets you may have.

If you need to undergo a medical exam, most insurance companies will send a medical professional to your home, but in some cases you may need to go to a doctor’s office. The doctor or nurse will record your height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure before collecting blood and urine samples and doing an electrocardiogram to check your heart.

Once your application is complete, one of several things may happen. You may be offered coverage straight away, a particular pre-existing condition may be excluded from your policy, or you may be denied coverage.

Why does an insurer need my medical information?

The cost of insurance premiums is based on your risk, or how likely it is that an insurer will need to pay out a death, disability or critical illness benefit. If you have any medical problems, you pose an increased risk to the insurer and you’ll have to pay more for your premiums as a result.

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$100,000 to $1,000,000
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$50,000 to $25,000,000
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Life insurance and family history

As part of the life insurance application process, you’ll be asked questions about the medical history of your parents and siblings, although family members aged over 60 will typically not be taken into account.

If you have a family history of cardiovascular illnesses, cancer or smoking-related illnesses, it will have a negative effect on your premiums. Other conditions like diabetes, stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and mental illness will also be taken into account.

Even if you’re perfectly healthy and have never suffered from any of these medical issues, your family’s history can still affect your premiums.

Tips for the application process

To make sure things run smoothly:

  • Apply as soon as possible. The younger and healthier you are when you apply for cover, the cheaper your premiums will be.
  • Tell the truth. Be honest and answer all questions truthfully, and let your insurer know if you have any health problems — even ones you aren’t asked about. Failing to do so could lead to any future claim being rejected.
  • Stay calm. When preparing for the medical exam, try to remain as relaxed as possible. Avoid tobacco, caffeine and alcohol leading up to the exam, and make sure to follow any instructions given by your doctor.

How to save on your life insurance premiums

The healthier you are, the less you’ll pay for health insurance. And if you already have a policy, you can ask to be re-evaluated if you’re healthier now than you were when you took the policy out. To get the best rates:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight and staying in the healthy weight range will help you get a better premium.
  • Quit smoking. Studies have shown that smokers sometimes pay more than twice as much for life insurance as non-smokers.
  • Drink less alcohol. If you consume more than 14 standard drinks a week, your premiums will be higher than they could be. Cutting down your alcohol consumption can help cut down on your premiums.
  • Look for discounts. Many insurers offer discounts if you take out joint or family coverage. You can also save by bundling your life insurance with your home or car insurance.
  • Review your policy. The insurance market is competitive and prices are constantly changing. Re-evaluate your policy every few years to see if you’re still getting the best deal.
  • Avoid dangerous activities. Do you enjoy skydiving and bungee jumping? Giving up these adventure habits can save you money.
  • Get a safer job. If you work with explosives, in an underground mine, or on electrical wires, you’ll face more risk on a daily basis than someone who sits in front of a computer in an air-conditioned office, and you’ll need to pay more for life insurance.

Most common life insurance mistakes

The most common mistakes people make when applying for life insurance include:

  • Lying on your application. You have a duty to disclose any information that could help an insurer make an assessment of the risk you pose to insure. Be honest on your application and supply any information you think may be relevant, even if it isn’t asked for. Any omissions could void your coverage.
  • Waiting until you’re older. As you get older, cover gets more expensive and harder to find. Buying a policy when you’re young can help you save money.
  • Waiting until you’re healthier. While you can reduce the cost of premiums by quitting smoking or losing weight, don’t put off buying coverage because you haven’t hit your goals. If you’re healthier down the line, you can ask your insurer to re-evaluate your risk and adjust your premiums.
  • Not getting enough coverage. How much coverage you need will be based on your debt, income and dependents. You can use our life insurance calculator to estimate your coverage needs.

Types of questions you can expect on a medical history questionnaire

  • Who is your primary care doctor?
  • Have you seen your primary care doctor during the past year?
  • Are you currently undergoing any medical care or taking any medications?
  • Have you ever been hospitalized or had a prolonged illness?
  • What medical problems run in your family?
  • Has your doctor ever said your blood pressure was too high?
  • Do you ever have chest pain?
  • Does your heart often race?
  • Do you often have difficulty breathing?
  • Has a doctor ever told you your cholesterol level was high?
  • Have you ever coughed up blood?
  • Have you recently experienced increased anxiety or depression?
  • Have you ever had a heart attack?
  • Are you allergic to any medications?
  • Have you experienced a recent change in a wart or mole?

Bottom line

The healthier you are, the less you’ll pay for life insurance. But that doesn’t mean you should wait to take out coverage until you hit your goal weight or quit smoking. Compare life insurance policies to find one that fits your needs, medical history and budget.

Compare life insurance providers

Frequently asked questions

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