Key takeaways:

  • Simplified issue term life insurance is a no medical examination policy that requires applicants to answer a handful of health questions.
  • Simplified issue life insurance is usually more expensive than standard life insurance policies.
  • Insurance companies can deny you for simplified issue coverage for health reasons.
  • Accelerated writing life insurance is another way to get a policy without needing a medical exam.

Life insurance can be a difficult product to buy, but simplified issue life insurance and similar products make it easier to get coverage without a medical exam.

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The life insurance company typically underwrites applicants using extensive medical and lifestyle information, medical exams, blood pressure check, urine samples, bloodwork, and more. A simplified issue for term life insurance coverage was originally designed so consumers could purchase small coverage amounts of life insurance by answering a few qualifying questions.

If all of the questions were answered “no,” the term insurance policy was issued.

In recent years, simplified issue term insurance programs have expanded to include more consumers and offer larger face coverage amounts. Still, there are tradeoffs.

Here's what you should know about simplified issue life insurance policies before you apply.

Simplified issueAccelerated underwriting
No medical exam
Decision within minutes
Decision takes a day or a few days
Insurance database review
Reviews additional information from third-party vendors

What is simplified issue life insurance?

Simplified issue term insurance provides life insurance quickly. How fast? Most individuals who apply for a simplified issue life insurance policy have coverage immediately after the application process.

Generally, you can purchase the no medical exam life insurance by filling out an application online. The application includes a health questionnaire that first asks for personal information, such as:

  • Social security number
  • Drivers license number
  • Citizenship
  • Employment status

The application then asks for:

  • A brief medical
  • Lifestyle history

Some programs have more extensive questionnaires than others, and they usually offer more than one rate. You likely won’t be eligible for a simplified issue life insurance policy if you have a history of health issues, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Mental illness
  • HIV

You also may not be eligible if you’re a convicted felon, have received disability benefits or not a U.S. citizen.

The life insurance company reviews the information, as well driving records and information from credit cards and medical information bureaus before making its decision. The process is completed in minutes.

If you’re eligible, you can pay your first premium and your coverage begins immediately.

There's a trade-off for the convenience: A higher price for coverage.

"Prices can be rather high for the amount of coverage you actually get with this kind of policy," says Loretta Worters, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.

What is accelerated underwriting without a medical exam?

Some companies use a process that is similar to simplified issue, which is called accelerated underwriting. Accelerated underwriting is also no medical exam term life insurance coverage.

What’s the difference between simplified issue and accelerated underwriting? The difference is the accelerated underwriting application is fully underwritten and uses additional information about your prescription drugs and other information from third-party vendors. Accelerated underwriting has the convenience of simplified underwriting at a lower cost for healthy applicants.

Manny Lirio, assistant vice president of consumer direct marketing at Vantis Life Insurance Company, says a few carriers have online applications that use accelerated underwriting. Companies like Vantis don’t typically require a medical exam for accelerated underwriting policies, which cuts the time to underwrite a life insurance policy to a few days or even same day for applicants who are physically and financially fit.

“By being able to fully underwrite, premiums for products that use accelerated underwriting are similar or better in pricing to fully underwritten policies, and much more affordable than simplified issued policies,” Lirio says.

How much do simplfied issue and accelerated underwriting life insurance policies cost?

Simplified issue term life insurance policies usually cost more than accelerated underwriting life insurance policies since life insurers take on more risk with simplified issue policies.

Here's an example of simplified and accelerated underwriting monthly premiums for a male and female age 45 purchasing $250,000 of a 10-year term policy.

 Male age 45 Monthly PremiumFemale 45 Monthly PremiumType of policy
Gerber Life$99.17$75.21Simplified Issue
Trustage Life$120$80Simplified Issue
Vantis Life$30.45$25.49Accelerated Underwriting

Potential questions for simplified issue term life

Applications for simplified issue term life typically have a few "knock-out" questions. This means a "yes" answer to any one question will result in a denial. Here's an example of what the medical application might look like:

In the past 10 years, have you been diagnosed, treated, hospitalized or prescribed medication by a medical professional for:

  • Cancer or tumor
  • Diabetes
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Heart disease or disorder
  • Mental or nervous disorder
  • Stroke

You may also have to answer questions like these:

  • In the past five years, have you been advised of a medical condition that will require additional testing?
  • In the past five years, have you been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?
  • In the past year, have you received or applied for accident or sickness benefits?
  • Have you been tested for the HIV virus?

A simplified issue policy doesn't require a medical exam or many questions. However, by answering those questions, insurers still have an idea of your health status and insurance history before selling you a policy.

What life insurance companies check out besides health questions

By signing the application, you authorize the insurer to run your name through several databases, such as the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). The databases will flag anything that looks suspicious, such as multiple simultaneous life insurance applications.

You can request a copy your individual MIB report, but you will only have a report if you have applied for an individual life or health insurance policy in the last seven years. The report is based on "codes" submitted by MIB members, which include health and life insurance companies. This information is important to the underwriting process as it alerts companies to any errors or misrepresentations on applications.

The insurance company could also check your driving record and run your name through a pharmaceutical database to check on medications. Applications also make it clear that many states can and will prosecute insurance fraud, such as lying on your application.

The process does knock out applicants, but insurers approve the majority of people who apply for a simplified term life policy.

When to buy a simplified issue term insurance policy

While simplified issue life insurance is convenient, it comes at a price. Fully underwritten or accelerated underwriting life insurance is usually less expensive for people who are in good health.

Here are two cases when you should consider simplified term insurance:

You need a life insurance policy right away

Sometimes the need for life insurance coverage can't wait for the normal underwriting process, or even accelerated underwriting.

For example:

  • Court-ordered life insurance coverage to satisfy a divorce settlement.
  • Life insurance required to complete a financial transaction, such as a business loan.
  • Replacing coverage that has lapsed.

You don't want an exam or invasive testing

  • You may not want a medical exam because of time constraints or personal preference.

How to buy simplified issue term Insurance

Before you apply for simplified issue term insurance, do some homework and figure out how much coverage you need.

Here are some things to take into account:

How much life insurance do you need?

Think about your money and compensation that your loves would not longer have; expenses, such as mortgages, credit card bills and future education costs for your children; and funeral costs. That will help figure out what kind of death benefit your loved ones would need if you were to die.

If you need more than $300,000 of term insurance, a simplified issue may not be available. You can use our calculator here to find out how much life insurance coverage you need.

Depending on your age, and the amount of insurance you may be able to use accelerated underwriting, but you might not get covered immediately.

Decide what type of term insurance you want

How long do you need the insurance? Term insurance is available in 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 years. Learn more about term insurance here.

Review your medical history

You won’t be eligible for simplified issue policies if you answer “yes” to the questions above. That doesn't mean you can't get life insurance at a reasonable rate, you'll just have to go through the full underwriting process.

If you have some health or lifestyle issues, a professional life insurance agent can help you find the right company and product.

How is a simplified issue different than other insurance products?

Let’s take a look at the three types of individual term life insurance from the easiest to the most difficult.

Simplified issue

Generally available from ages 18 to 60 up to $500,000, there is no medical exam, no bloodwork, and no reports from physicians that you have seen or medical tests you have taken. The insurance company makes its decision based on data it gets from third-party vendors.

Some programs ask for more information than others and can offer higher amounts of coverage. The insurance company makes its accept or reject decision fast, often within minutes.

Simplified issue is the most expensive way to purchase term life insurance because the insurance company has less information about you to make a decision.

Accelerated underwriting

Generally available from ages 18-60 up to $1 million, there’s initially no medical exam, no bloodwork, and no physician reports.

Based on the information provided, and results from third-party vendors, the insurance company may request additional information from physicians and/or exams and lab work. Decisions can be immediate based on results.

Accelerated underwriting is less expensive than simplified underwriting because the insurance company has access to additional information as necessary.

Full underwriting

Full underwriting is used at all available ages and face amounts. Full underwriting often involves medical exams, bloodwork, physician and hospital reports, and extensive medical and financial information.

The turnaround time for full underwriting can be several weeks or more. However, these policies are cheaper than simplified issue, accelerated underwriting or guaranteed issue since the life insurance company has the most information to make a decision. In that way, full underwriting limits their risk.

Advantages and disadvantages to simplified issue term life

Simplified issue term life insurance isn’t for everyone. Here are the pros and cons for simplified issue life insurance.

Simplified issue term life pros

Convenience -- Simplified issue doesn’t require a medical exam or invasive tests. The application is completed online at the buyer’s convenience.

Time -- The entire process, application, approval and payment can be completed in minutes, rather than weeks

Simplified issue term life cons

Cost -- Simplified issue term is the most expensive way to buy individual term insurance.

Availability -- Available to age 60. Older ages usually have to go through a full underwriting process.

Limits -- Simplified issue not available over $500,000. Amounts over $500,000 usually need to go through a full or accelerated underwriting process.

Shop around for insurance

Though simplified issue term life insurance makes it easier for you, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do your homework when looking for an insurer. Make sure to get multiple quotes for the same policies and check the insurance companies' ratings.A good place to start to look is Insure's Best Life Insurance Companies.