Life Insurance Medical Exam

Your life insurance medical exam lets your insurer review your health and medical history and how it affects their risk before approving your life insurance policy. A medical professional performs this exam, which plays a role in whether you’re approved for a policy and how much your premiums will be.

What Is Included in a Life Insurance Medical Exam?

Life insurance companies need to determine how long you will likely live before they determine how much to charge you for coverage. Insurers use a process called underwriting to figure out their financial risk in selling you a policy.

A life insurance medical exam is one of the tools used in insurance underwriting to assess this risk.

The exams typically take place in your home and consist of two parts: a questionnaire about your medical history and collection of blood and urine samples.

Typical Things You’ll Be Asked About in a Life Insurance Medical Exam
  • Your medical history including medical conditions, hospitalizations, surgeries and what medicines you take
  • Your family medical history — any health issues that may run in your family
  • Contact information for your primary care doctor
  • Contact information for any other doctor you may have visited in the past few years
  • How much life insurance you wish to purchase
  • Whether you drink alcohol and how much
  • Whether you engage in risky hobbies or activities such as skydiving or extreme sports
  • Whether you exercise and how frequently
  • Whether you have a mental health condition such as depression and what mental health treatments you may have received
  • Whether you smoke and how much
  • Whether you use recreational drugs and how much

After the questions, the medical professional administering the exam will take some physical measurements and use a kit to collect blood and urine samples.

The measurements will include blood pressure, pulse rate, height and weight.

The samples will be used to check for potential health issues.

Measurements Blood and Urine Samples Provide
  • Blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Cocaine and other illicit drugs
  • Creatinine levels
  • EKG (electrocardiogram) to check for heart conditions — usually only required for seniors
  • Proteins
  • X-rays (in rare cases)

Most life insurance medical exams take less than a half-hour to complete. If you require an EKG, your exam may take an extra 15 to 20 minutes.

What Are Insurers Looking for in Your Blood and Urine Tests?

Blood and urine samples can give underwriters an idea of your risk for different medical conditions or lifestyle habits that may shorten your life expectancy.

Medical Conditions & Risks that Life Insurance Medical Exams Can Detect
  • Diabetes (based on hemoglobin A1C and blood sugar and urine acid levels)
  • Heart disease (based on cholesterol levels, height, weight and blood pressure measurements)
  • HIV and AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted disease (based on blood and urine tests)
  • Kidney disease (based on creatinine levels and urine acid levels)
  • Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use

You will be asked lifestyle questions — sexual activity and drug, alcohol and tobacco use — in the questionnaire segment of the exam. It’s important to answer these questions truthfully. If the blood and urine tests show chemical results that contradict your answers, you may be denied coverage.

How to Prepare for a Life Insurance Medical Exam

You should try to be in your best physical shape possible before scheduling a life insurance medical exam.

Ideally, you should get into a healthy fitness and diet regimen weeks or months before applying for life insurance. But there are simple steps you can take in just the few days before the exam to get the best possible results.

Preparing for Your Life Insurance Medical Exam
Schedule a morning exam
You’ll likely need to fast before the exam, so scheduling it early will let you eat earlier in the day once it’s over.
Drink plenty of water
Drinking lots of water in the days ahead of the exam can help clear unwanted chemicals out of your system and reduce your blood pressure. On the day of the exam, it’ll make it easier for the examiner to collect blood and urine samples.
Watch your diet
Follow a healthy diet — avoiding fatty, sugary, fried and salty foods — for several days ahead of your exam to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Also eat foods that raise your good cholesterol such as nuts and oily fish like salmon.
Reduce alcohol, tobacco and coffee use
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine can raise your blood pressure or other measurements that can impact your results negatively. Avoid them in the few days before — and especially the day of — the exam.
Reduce exercise
Avoid strenuous exercise in the few days before — and especially the day of — your medical exam to prevent elevated protein levels in your urine test. Skipping exercise completely on the day of the exam will also lower your levels.
Wear lightweight clothing and shoes
Every pound counts at your weigh in and you don’t want your clothing and shoes adding to your weight.
Have a copy of your medical records
Having your medical records — including a list of your medications and their dosages — can save time during the question session. It helps to have a short list of medical conditions, hospitalizations and other treatments handy. You’ll also need a photo ID.
Relax
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam and relax in the morning before your exam. This will help lower negative measurements such as blood pressure.

There are also some common foods, drinks, dietary supplements and prescription or over-the-counter medicines you should avoid in the day or two before your life insurance medical exam. These can create false positives for drug use.

What to Avoid Before Your Life Insurance Medical Exam
What to AvoidPossible False Positive Test Result
Cold medicines (Robitussin, Delsym, Nyquil)PCP, opiates
DecongestantsAmphetamines
Diet pillsAmphetamines
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Zzzquil) and doxylamine (Unisom, Nytol)Methadone, PCP, opiates, antidepressants
Hemp oilMarijuana
Ibuprofen, naproxenMarijuana, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, PCP
Poppy seedsOpiates
Proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid)Marijuana
Riboflavin supplementsMarijuana
Sleeping pillsBarbiturates
Tonic waterCocaine
Vitamin B12 supplementsMarijuana
WellbutrinAmphetamines, methamphetamines
ZantacAmphetamines, methamphetamines
ZoloftBenzodiazepines

Before stopping any medication, you should first talk to your doctor. You should also notify your life insurer of your medications prior to scheduling the exam.

What to Expect After Your Medical Exam

It usually takes a few weeks for your insurer to process the results of your life insurance medical exam and get back to you. The insurer may request a second exam if unexpected results turn up.

The underwriting process usually wraps up in two months or less.

What to Do if You’re Denied Coverage

If you’re denied life insurance coverage based on the results of your medical exam, you need to immediately ask the insurer why.

Request a copy of the results and if they don’t look correct to you or your personal doctor, you may request a second exam.

If the exam reveals a medical condition that poses a serious threat to your life or health, you should talk with your doctor immediately.

You may still be able to purchase life insurance through another insurer, but you will have to take a new medical exam. There are policies that do not require medical exams, but they may have higher premiums or lesser benefits than standard life insurance.

Last Modified: January 28, 2021

4 Cited Research Articles

  1. Texas Department of Insurance. (2020, November 19). Life Insurance Guide. Retrieved from https://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb018.html
  2. Huddleston, C. (2020, September 3). What to Expect in a Life Insurance Medical Exam. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/life-insurance/medical-exam/
  3. California Department of Insurance. (2018, March). Life Insurance Guide. Retrieved from http://www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/105-type/95-guides/07-life/life-ins-guide.cfm#top
  4. Minnesota Commerce Department. (n.d.). Buying Life Insurance. Retrieved from https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/your-insurance/life-annuities/buying-life-insurance.jsp