Updated: Mar 14, 2024

Life Insurance Medical Exams: What to Expect

Find out what to expect during a medical exam for life insurance purposes, including the next steps after you find out the results.
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Life insurance is an integral part of your family’s financial plan. 

When you die, any income you earned from an employer will likely stop coming in. 

Life insurance can help protect your spouse, children and other loved ones. If they rely on your income, life insurance can replace it with a payout upon your death.

Unfortunately, some people put off getting life insurance due to the need for a medical exam. They may be scared of finding out the results or getting poked by needles.

Thankfully, life insurance medical exams aren’t as bad as you may be thinking.

In fact:

It’s a straightforward and reasonably convenient procedure as far as medical exams go.

Here’s what you should know about life insurance medical exams and how they fit into the process of getting life insurance.

Why Life Insurance Companies May Require Medical Exams

You might be wondering why life insurance companies require a medical exam as part of the term life insurance application process. 

The reality is:

Life insurance companies set their rates based on the likelihood you’ll die during the policy term.

Certain medical conditions can impact those chances.

In order to provide the most competitive and accurate rates for your situation, life insurance companies need to verify your current state of health.

In particular, they’re looking for medical conditions, measurements and verifying the information you gave them on your application. 

Based on what they find, the life insurance company will set life insurance rates based on your risk.

The lower risk you are, the lower premiums you should receive.

What to Expect in Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

A life insurance medical exam won’t be at your usual doctor. 

The life insurance company contracts with a professional. This person often meets you at your home or office for the health exam.

This process generally takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Your medical exam is much like your annual physical.

The medical professional will take measurements, ask you to answer questions about your health history and take blood and urine samples.

Expect for the representative to take your height, weight, blood pressure and pulse, among other readings. 

The blood work looks for high cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, smoking signs, drug use signs, certain diseases and potentially other factors.

Personal and family history

The medical professional will also ask you questions about both you and your biological family’s health history.

This helps them look for risk factors you may be genetically predisposed to.

It’s important to tell the truth and avoid lying during the application process. 

The life insurance company will likely find out you lied when getting life insurance through your medical records.

If they do, your policy may become void and not pay out upon your death.

Helpful Hints for Your Medical Exam

While you don’t want to do anything dishonest, carefully planning your exam can help you perform better.

You’ll usually need to be fasting for the bloodwork to be done correctly.

For this reason, it’s generally best to have these appointments in the morning.

Next, don’t wear heavy clothing. Your weight influences your body mass index, which impacts your premiums.

You should also be prepared with information about medications and health issues you have. Having your doctor’s contact information and medical records ready can save time. 

Drinking enough water before the exam can make it easier for the medical professional to draw your blood. The last thing anything wants is getting stuck many times for a blood draw.

You should also avoid any activities that could influence your exam results before the exam.

Don’t do anything improper, but avoiding things that increase your blood pressure would be reasonable.

What’s Next After the Exam?

Once your life insurance gets the exam results, the information is analyzed.

If something looks abnormal, you may be asked to take part in a follow-up exam.

After the company has the info they need, they give you your final premiums and try to get you to sign up.

This normally takes a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on the insurer and how backed up they are.

There are typically five categories of health you can fall into based on the results. The names vary by insurer, but your premiums will be determined by where you land.

After you get your final premiums and read through the policy in detail, you can decide whether you want to purchase it.

Can you fail a medical exam?

It is possible to fail a life insurance medical exam.

Most likely:

Insurers may find out or believe that you have a life-threatening condition. 

If the discovery makes it likely you’ll die during the policy term, it doesn’t make financial sense for them to insure you.

You may get denied for life insurance.

If you still want coverage, you may have to consider other options.

Your Options Based on the Test Results

You have a few options to consider after you get the results from the medical exam.

Purchase the insurance

The most straightforward thing to do at this point is to buy the life insurance policy.

Make sure to ask any questions you have before you purchase the policy.

You’ll also want to clarify when the policy goes into effect and how to make your premium payments.

Shop around

If your medical exam results weren’t what you were expecting, you can shop around for a better life insurance quote.

Each insurer rates risk in different ways.

What may increase your premiums with one company may have no impact with another.

That said:

Your medical exam results are now part of your medical records. Don’t expect other companies to ignore this information when looking for a better rate.

Take no action

You may decide purchasing life insurance isn’t a good idea. 

Be very careful if you make this decision. Consider the results it could have.

If you have money set aside to cover your loved ones after you die, you may not need life insurance. 

Few people have this luxury, though. Life insurance could be the only thing keeping your family’s finances afloat after you die.


If you find out you’re uninsurable with traditional medical exam life insurance, you may want to consider alternatives.

No exam life insurance

You’ve probably seen advertisements for no-exam life insurance. It does exist, but there is something these companies aren’t volunteering in the ads. 

It’s almost always more expensive. If you think about it, this makes sense.

Some people may simply refuse a medical exam on principal and choose no exam life insurance. 

However, most people that apply for this type of insurance may not qualify to get it elsewhere. These people likely have a much higher risk of dying during the policy term. 

For this reason, the payout amounts offered may be much lower than a standard term life insurance policy could offer. 

Additionally, the premiums will have to be much higher for the life insurance company to remain profitable.

Group life insurance coverage

Your employer may offer group-based life insurance coverage. This coverage doesn’t always require a medical exam.

The coverage is available because you’re part of a large group, such as employees of a certain company.

The risks of a person dying overall are spread out due to the variety of employees at the company.

You can usually only buy certain amounts of this type of life insurance without a medical exam. The limit is often in the form of a multiple of your salary or yearly earnings.

You may be able to purchase additional insurance above that amount. It may require a medical exam, though.

There are downsides to this type of coverage. If you get fired, laid off or decide to leave your employer, the coverage generally terminates.

This could leave you in a tough spot if you’re older or have developed health conditions during your tenure at the employer. 

It could make getting traditional term life insurance much more expensive or impossible, depending on your situation.

Don’t Put Off Getting Insurance

Don’t avoid getting life insurance because of the life insurance medical exam. It’s a fairly quick and relatively painless process. It doesn't force you to buy life insurance, either.

It’s a fairly quick and relatively painless process. It doesn't force you to buy life insurance, either.

Securing a life insurance policy today locks in the current rates. This way, you have life insurance even if it is more expensive than you were hoping.

If you end up getting diagnosed with an illness that makes it impossible to get life insurance in the future, you’ll still be covered.

That said, you can get a new policy if your medical health improves from when you got your initial policy. 

Of course, you’ll want to make sure your new life insurance coverage is in force before you cancel your old policy. 

Insurance does tend to get more expensive as you get older. That means you may have to significantly improve your health to find a lower rate in the future.