You might think that because it’s called a "physical exam" that there might actually be some physical exertion, but don’t worry — you won’t have to run on a treadmill with a bunch of wires hanging off your arms.
Instead, it’s much closer to your normal annual physical. Life insurance physical exams, also called medical exams, paramedical exams, health exams — you name it, it’s been called it — are very basic physical examinations.
Here are three things to understand about the life insurance physical exam:
1. It's not a full physical, but you will be required to give a blood and urine sample
We went over the basics in our guide to insurance medical exams, but here they are again:
The point of the exam is to get a snapshot of your health, so you’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your health history. The technician or nurse will also take some basic measurements:
* your pulse
* your height and weight
* your blood pressure
Typically, there will also be a blood test for life insurance and disability insurance applications, so your doctor will draw a blood sample. Sometimes, but not always, you’ll be asked to provide a urine sample as well. If you’re an older candidate for a big life insurance policy, you might also be required to undergo an EKG.
It’s easy to prepare for the physical exam. In the twenty-four hour period before the exam, avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. You should also avoid over-the-counter medications, as they could interfere with your blood test results.
In the six to eight hour period before the exam, refrain from eating and strenuous exercise. You may want to schedule your exam for first thing in the morning, so you don’t have to fast in the middle of a work day.
An hour before the exam, drink a large glass of water. You know, for the urine sample.
Life insurance physical exams can take place at home or at work — wherever you’re most comfortable. Exams only take about thirty minutes.
2. It doesn't cost you anything, but it will become part of your insurance application record and travel with you
The best thing about an insurance medical exam is that it’s absolutely free. It’s a standard part of the life insurance application process, so the insurers pay for the doctor to examine you. You can also use these exam results when applying to other types of insurance, such as long-term disability insurance, for up to six months.
Getting a medical exam does not mean you are obligated to buy life insurance from the company that paid for your exam. However, it does become part of your health record, so if you’re planning on going to another life insurance company, keep that in mind.
If you don’t believe the results of your exam are accurate, you can contact your life insurance agent to see if you can schedule a second exam. It’s not a complete do-over, however — the results of your second exam will be mixed with the results of your first exam to create a composite.
In some cases, you may be able to retake the medical exam one or two years after you’ve purchased your policy. If your results have improved, you’ll be able to lower your rate.
3. If you really hate the idea of a physical exam, there are other options (but they'll cost you)
If you don’t want to take a life insurance medical exam, take a look at simplified issue life insurance. While it’s more expensive than traditional term life insurance, it’s your best bet if you don’t want to take an exam.
Image: Alex Wong