Will I need a medical exam to get life insurance?

Q:

Will I need a medical exam to get life insurance?

A:

A lot of people looking into life insurance for the first time have heard that they'll need to undergo a medical exam as part of their application. And it's certainly something insurers commonly request. They use the results of the exam to gauge your risk of coming to an untimely demise. And, in turn, they use that probability to calculate how much they need to charge you to make selling you a life insurance policy profitable (find out What Influences Life Insurance Premiums).

A medical exam to acquire life insurance is typical, but it's something a lot of insurance applicants want to avoid. Going to your doctor's office for an exam isn't exactly a fun activity, and many people want to avoid it because they're busy or have a medical phobia (such as a fear of needles). Others will want to avoid it because they're worried they'll be denied coverage if any serious health problems are discovered.

So, if you're in this camp, can you skip the medical exam and still get life insurance?

In some cases, yes, you can.

If you buy a life insurance policy while you're still young, for instance, the insurer might exempt you from the medical exam. That's because you're less likely to have pre-existing or underlying medical conditions, and you're unlikely to die before you pay enough premiums to make your policy profitable for the insurance company (learn more in The Perfect Age to Get Life Insurance).

There are also life insurance policies that don't require a medical exam, no matter your age. No-exam life insurance does, however, have a catch: they're usually more expensive and provide less protection than the standard life insurance policy. Charging more and providing less is a way of compensating for the risk of insuring you without knowing anything about your health. I only recommend no-exam life insurance for people whose age, medical conditions, or risky hobbies make it hard for them to get conventional life insurance (for related reading, see A Look at Uninsurable Risk).

Even if you don't go through a medical exam, insurers will still refer to your medical history and ask you medical questions when you apply. The questions will be about things like:

  • Your level of exercise
  • Lifestyle (drinking, smoking, recreational drug use)
  • Prescription medication you're currently taking
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Medical conditions you've been treated for in the past

So, while it's possible to get life insurance without taking a medical exam, you can't avoid revealing at least some details about your health or your medical history.

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Written by Jacques Wong
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Jacques grew up around the insurance industry and began actively participating in 2013. Since then, he has gotten a Level 2 license, won an Insurance Council of BC award in 2015 for academic excellence in the insurance licensing courses and educates insurance professionals through PNC Learning.   Full Bio