When you think of taking a urine test, the first thing that comes to mind is likely a when a prospective employer requests you take one for a job offer.
But company drug tests aren’t the only time you may have to pass a urine test: Did you know life insurance companies may make you take one, too? And the urine tests life insurance companies administer test for more than drugs.
Life insurance urine tests aren’t uncommon. Along with blood tests, they’re a normal part of the life insurance application process. But what are life insurance companies looking for in urine test results, and how can you avoid them? Here’s what you need to know.
When and why life insurance companies test blood or urine
To understand why a life insurer might as for a urine sample, you have to know the basics of how term life insurance works.
You pay for a life insurance policy through monthly premiums. If you die while the policy is active, the life insurance company pays your beneficiaries a lump sum of money called a death benefit. If the policyholder doesn’t die and the policy term ends, the life insurance company doesn’t pay out anything.
That means that, before a company sells a life insurance policy, they need to know the likelihood of an applicant dying over the life of the policy so they can price the premiums accordingly. If an applicant is likely to die while their policy is in place, whether because they’re elderly, have a chronic health condition, or take part in risky hobbies, they’ll pay more than someone who is likely to outlive their policy.
Companies do this through a process called underwriting. They’re finding out how risky you are to insure. One of the main aspects of underwriting is the paramedical exam. This life insurance medical exam – similar to your average physical – gives companies a comprehensive picture of your health. Urine tests, along with blood tests, motor vehicle reports, and prescription drug checks all play a role in this. Things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and even traffic violations can raise your life insurance premiums.
That’s not to say that if a life insurance company uncovers anything you’re uninsurable. There have been so many advances in modern medicine that conditions like diabetes and even HIV are much more manageable than in the past. Companies simply want to be fully aware of your health history and potential future, and urine tests help them do that.
What life insurance companies use urine tests for
Urine tests are useful in finding out a lot about a person’s health. Here are a few of the things that life insurance urine tests can be used to uncover.
Along with blood tests, urine tests play a big role in life insurance drug tests.
Why do life insurance companies test for drugs? Because, depending on the drug, there can be major health implications. If a life insurance company detects amphetamine/methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, PCP, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or methadone in your system, you’re likely to be disqualified. One drug that’s an exception, though, is marijuana.
THC-COOH can stay in your system for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so urine tests are a reliable way to test for marijuana use. But unlike other drugs, a positive result for marijuana doesn’t tank your chances of getting covered, and may not even affect your rates all that much. Marijuana is in a social grey area, legal in some places but not others, and life insurance companies are similarly split in how they treat it. Depending on how often you use marijuana some companies won’t consider it at all, while others may deny coverage. See our full list of the best rates marijuana users can get from different life insurance companies.
Note that medicinal marijuana users may find themselves facing higher rates than recreational users, because medicinal marijuana indicates potentially severe medical conditions.
Another substance that’s commonly looked for in life insurance drug tests is nicotine. When life insurance companies see how risky an applicant is to insure, they classify the applicant in a category ranging from Preferred Plus to Substandard. Then there’s a specific Smoker designation; this can raise rates considerably.
Nicotine and related cotinine can stay in the body for almost a month. If an insurer detects nicotine, your premiums are almost sure to take a hit.
Besides foreign substances in the body, life insurance companies also use urine tests to detect existing or potential health issues.
By analyzing a urine sample, companies can determine a wide variety of health risks. Some of the things looked for in a urine test, and the corresponding potential red flags, include:
Hemoglobin (kidney infection)
Creatinine (kidney disease)
Bilirubin (liver problems)
Red blood cells (blood disorder or organ problems)
White blood cells (infection)
Urine tests can also detect diuretics, which may be a sign of blood pressure medication. Even if you don’t disclose a health condition, a urine test may still reveal potential issues.
If a potential health issue is flagged by a urine test, the life insurance company may do some more digging to confirm the findings, which can delay the application process.
How to avoid life insurance company urine tests
As far as medical tests go, urine tests are relatively unintrusive. Still, some applicants may want not want to take one – or the medical exam in general. You may have that option.
No-medical exam life insurance policies, like those with accelerated underwriting, allow applicants to bypass the paramedical exam. This can speed up the timeline considerably: certain aspects of the medical exam can take several weeks, so cutting it out means your family is protected faster.
Note that not everyone is eligible for a no-medical exam term life insurance policy; applicants may be limited by their desired coverage amounts or term lengths, and people in poor health may still be subjected to a medical exam. But anyone looking to bypass the exam, and therefore the urine test, should see if it’s an option when looking at policies.