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A medical exam often is required in order to buy a life insurance policy, but if you’re in good health you have nothing to fear.

The medical exam will look for health issues, like high blood pressure or cholesterol, as well as check your height and weight, heart rate, and other basics. It’s a lot like your annual physical.

With an underwritten policy, a medical exam may be required depending on your age and the amount of insurance you are buying. If you’re seeking a policy with a low face value, you may not even be asked to undergo an examination. “Typically a $250,000 policy is going to require an exam,” says Jack Dewald, senior advisor at Agency Services, Inc. and past chairman of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education.

“With a typical exam, a paramedical is going to come to a person’s home or office at their convenience,” Dewald says. “You don’t have to go to a doctor’s office.” 

Read on for more information on the life insurance medical exam.

Key Takeaways

  • Many types of life insurance require a health exam, except for guaranteed issue life.
  • You will be asked a few questions about your medical history, habits and prescriptions.
  • Blood will be drawn for lab work and they will check your vitals, height and weight.
  • Depending on your answers, further tests like an EKG might be ordered.

What tests are involved in a life insurance medical exam?

Generally, you won’t have to budget much time for your exam.  A basic exam takes just 15 to 30 minutes and typically includes:

  • Height and weight measurements.
  • Collecting blood and urine samples.
  • Blood pressure check.
  • Medical questions.
  • A request for medical records.
  • In some cases, an insurer will require an EKG.

Don’t be surprised if the paramedical professional asks you all the same questions that you answered on your application.

How can you get the best results on your life insurance exam?

For optimal medical exam results, schedule an exam early in the morning.

These steps can improve your results:

  • Avoid alcohol the night before.
  • Get a good sleep the night before.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise on the morning of the exam.
  • Don’t drink caffeine on your exam day.
  • Avoid salty food, as it could elevate your blood pressure.
  • Drink water — especially an hour before the exam, so that you can give a urine sample.
  • Stay away from nicotine on the day of your exam.

Blood and urine samples from the life insurance applicant will be tested for everything from cholesterol and blood sugar to nicotine and marijuana, says Cindy Gentry, former president of BBA Life Brokerage Agency and a 30-year member of Corpus Christi Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

How long does it take to get life insurance exam results?

The length of time for results will vary by insurance company.

Gentry says that lab results are sent to insurance companies within three to five days and it might take another five days or more for an underwriter to review them. If an underwriter decides to request medical records from an applicant’s doctor or request an attending physician’s statement, these steps will lengthen the process.

Dewald says it’s typical for 40 to 60 days to pass before an application for a life insurance policy is approved.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the results of the exam, but you can request them. “You just write your insurance company and they’ll provide it — typically to your doctor,” says Dewald.

Life insurance with no health exam

Not every type of life insurance policy requires a medical exam. With a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, there are no medical questions and no exams. “You fill out the application and you’re pretty much good to go,” says Cindy Gentry, president of BBA Life Brokerage Agency in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Final expense insurance, which is intended primarily to pay for a funeral, is one type of guaranteed issue life insurance.

You’ll likely pay more for choosing to keep the details of your health private from life insurance companies, but these are great options for people dealing with serious medical issues such as cancer.

“Guaranteed policies are the most expensive,” Dewald says. “Typically a person buying a guaranteed issued policy is one who’s had medical problems.”

With a simplified issue term life insurance policy, an applicant answers a few medical questions but there is no medical exam. The cost of a simplified issue policy falls between the high cost of a guaranteed issue policy and a more cost-effective underwritten policy, which asks for more detailed medical information and may require an exam.

There are also instant-approval policies available. They offer higher policy limits than guaranteed issue policies.  And some term life insurance companies are now offering term insurance policies without a medical exam.

If you’re in the market for a life insurance policy,’s life insurance calculator can help you determine the best policy type and coverage amount. Then, you can compare the ratings from surveyed policyholders of the best life insurers.

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Penny Gusner


Penny is an expert on insurance procedures, rates, policies and claims. She has extensive knowledge of all major insurance lines -- auto, homeowners, life and health insurance. She has been answering consumers’ questions as an analyst for more than 15 years and has been featured in numerous major media outlets, including the Washington Post and Kiplinger’s.