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What to Expect in a Medical Exam

Traditional medical life insurance policies require a detailed medical history and a medical exam by an insurance company-approved physician. Simplified-issue policies eliminate this step of the application process, but they will still require certain medical information from the applicant. A guaranteed-issue policy will not require any medical information from the applicant. Simplified- and guaranteed-issue policies are generally more expensive to purchase because the insurance company assumes an increased risk of medical problems.

Risk Classes

The application process associated with a medical life insurance policy can be arduous, but it has the potential to lead to dramatic savings for the average policyholder. The insurance underwriters use this information to estimate life expectancy and determine the appropriate risk class in which to place an applicant. Those applicants who enjoy good health and practice healthy lifestyle habits will usually be offered the best premiums and be granted preferred status, while those with some risk factors may be placed in a standard class. Applicants with serious health conditions or risk factors may be considered substandard. Guaranteed-issue policies, on the other hand, tend to price their policies based on the assumption that all applicants have a similar risk rating, which means low-risk applicants will be paying the same premiums as high-risk applicants.

Physical Exams

Those who apply for a life insurance policy will need to have a medical examination with a physician of the insurance company’s approval. The physical will include detailed questions about the applicant’s personal and family medical history, hospitalizations, surgeries and medications. It may take place at either the individual’s home or a medical office, and it will include information about height, weight, blood pressure and more. The insurance company will also generally request a copy of the medical records, health insurance information and photo identification. Some insurers may also request an EKG to determine heart health.

Lab Tests

Blood, saliva and urine samples may also be necessary for a full laboratory analysis. This analysis will check for evidence of any major health condition that could create a serious risk and decrease the applicant’s life expectancy. High cholesterol, high blood sugar, nicotine or the presence of antibodies or antigens can all indicate an increased risk level. Once the exam is completed, lab samples are analyzed and the exam results are sent to the insurance company’s underwriters, who will then determine the appropriate risk category and make an offer to the applicant.

The idea of a such a thorough medical exam may be stressful, but applicants can ensure the process goes more smoothly by scheduling the exam for first thing in the morning, fasting for at least eight hours before the exam, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and getting a good night’s sleep.

What You Can Expect: Starting With Basics

Insurance companies will generally provide the doctor or paramedical professional for the medical exam. Although applicants are not required to locate a doctor of their own for their exams, they may be asked for their personal physicians’ contact information. Applicants may also need to provide information about any surgeries they have had, medications they have used or are using and doctors they have seen. The health care professional who is performing the exam will check the applicant’s blood pressure, cholesterol and record other vital information. An EKG and other medical tests may be performed. The exam can take about 30 minutes altogether.

My Experience with the Medical Exam

What happens during a paramedical exam for life insurance? When you apply for life insurance, your health, both medical and financial gets evaluated. This process starts with data gathering. What’s needed depends on your age and the amount of coverage. The requirements usually show on the life insurance projection you signed when you applied. Depending on your answers and test results, more investigations may be required.

The nurse; a nurse came to my home at the appointed time to conduct the tests. She was pleasant, efficient, and experienced. She also works at a hospital. She asked many questions throughout. The process took about 40 minutes. Sometimes the insurer requires that your examination be conducted by a doctor of their choosing. To prevent conflicts of interest, you can’t use your own doctor.

The requirements; as with a normal medical checkup, the nurse collects the basics – measures your height, checks your weight on her scale, checks your blood pressure, asks about your use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, asks about your use of prescription medication, asks about changes in your health. In addition, I provided blood and urine samples, which go all the way to Kansas City for analysis.

Why there? Who knows? You’d think local testing would be faster and cheaper. I also gave proof of identity with my driver’s license, which has photo ID, and the name and address of my doctor, which may be helpful if other information is needed. Past health affects future health, so you’re asked many questions about yourself, and some about your family.

Here’s a tip. When answering questions, pretend you’re on the witness stand or at border security. Be truthful. Be concise. Be quiet. You gain nothing by continuing to yack. Otherwise, you risk providing unnecessary information that can lead to unnecessary scrutiny. A final question asks if any relevant information was not provided. Clever.

The EKG; an EKG was also required because of the amount of coverage I was requesting. This does not take a visit to a clinic for testing with a huge machine. Now a small device, the size of a paperback novel suffices. Ten electrodes were connected over my chest. I sat comfortably with my feet resting on a chair. The results were converted to sound and communicated to the analysis center by telephone.

The squeals reminded me of dial-up modems connecting, or R2D2 in a foul mood. Had the EKG identified problems, the test would’ve been repeated. Ouch. The EKG sensors attach to your body like bandages with metal probes on your back. The application is easy but removal stings if you have a hairy body like mine. The nurse asked me to remove the three toughest probes.

Initial results; the initial results look good and mirror my executive physical four months ago. That was an earlier podcast. If the
insurance underwriter is doing it, we face more tests or higher premiums. A poor health rating costs you just as a poor credit rating
does. Or in extreme cases, no offer from insurance. You’re un-insurable.

Preparing for the Medical Exam

Little preparation is needed for a life insurance medical exam. However, because rates can be as much as 20 percent lower for those who enjoy good health, applicants should do what they can to put their best feet forward. Fasting eight to 12 hours before any lab work can ensure more accurate results, and applicants should avoid stimulants and depressants, such as caffeine and alcohol, as well.

Most insurance company medical exams allow applicants to drink water during the fasting period. Avoiding exercise and getting plenty of rest in the 24-hours immediately before the exam will also help applicants appear at their best. If an individual uses decongestants or tobacco products, these should be avoided for at least 24 hours before the exam. Patients should wear comfortable clothing to the exam and bring a list of current medications or treatments with them. They will also need to bring their medical records and a photo ID.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Applicants should also be prepared to be entirely honest with the insurance company’s paramedical or physician. Many health-related white lies can be easily discovered through lab exams and may affect the insurance company’s decision to offer a policy at all. Other lies may not be discovered during the applicant’s lifetime but can result in the policy’s being rescinded after death, leaving the family without coverage at the time when it is most needed.

Although a life insurance medical exam is very similar to a thorough physical, individuals with questions about specific health issues or concerns should discuss these with their personal physicians instead of the physician or paramedical performing the medical exam. This medical exam is not designed to address ongoing medical concerns but rather assess an applicant’s current state of health.

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Liran Hirschkorn

Liran Hirschkorn is the founder of Chooseterm.com. His mission is to help individuals across the country in finding the best rates on life insurance as well as helping individuals with high risk life insurance.

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