What is the disability insurance medical exam and drug test?

The medical exam is similar to a physical. It provides insurers with a better understanding of your health and is used to set your rates.

Amanda Shih author photo


Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

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The medical exam is a standard part of getting disability insurance. Specifically, the disability insurance medical exam is part of underwriting, and is used by disability insurance providers to set your policy premiums.

The exam is paid for by your insurance company and involves routine physical tests and drug testing. Here’s which health conditions insurers are looking for and how to prepare for your appointment.

Key Takeaways

  • Disability medical exams include two parts: questions about your health history and a physical exam

  • Expect to answer questions about any doctors you see and medications you take

  • People with fewer health issues will get more competitive rates, since they’re less likely to file an insurance claim

What happens during the disability insurance medical exam?

Your insurance agent or broker will help you schedule an appointment for your exam with a medical technician. Exams take 30 to 45 minutes and can be done at the technician’s office, your home, or your workplace. The technician will collect:

  • Blood and/or urine samples

  • Height and weight measurements

  • Pulse and blood pressure readings

You’ll also be asked questions about your medical history, including:

  • Current health issues

  • Family medical history

  • Habits like smoking, drinking, and drug use

  • Medications you’re on

  • Past hospitalizations

  • Which doctors you’ve seen recently

Your answers and exam results confirm the information you shared in your application and phone interview with your insurer.

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What does the medical exam test for?

An underwriter is looking for signs that you’re more likely to become disabled and the insurer will need to pay out benefits. Disability pays out if recovery from an injury or treatment for an illness keeps you out of work, so a more complex health history can make you a higher risk applicant. 

Some of the conditions underwriters look for during your exam include:

  • Diabetes and hyperglycemia

  • Hepatitis

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol


  • Mental or nervous disorders

  • Recurring injuries

  • Tobacco or drug use

You’ll pay higher rates if you have a pre-existing condition, or your insurer can add an exclusion instead. The exclusion means your insurer won’t pay benefits for injury or illness related to any excluded conditions or activities.

How to prepare for the medical exam

First off, be completely honest about any medical conditions you have before the medical exam. Your final premium will be higher than your initial quote if the medical exam reveals any conditions you didn’t disclose.

While you won’t be able to hide or change your health history, you can take some steps to ensure you get accurate results:

  1. Avoid exercising for 12 hours beforehand. Strenuous exercise can raise your blood pressure and lead to an incorrect high reading.

  2. Fast for 6 to 8 hours before your exam. This ensures your blood sugar and cholesterol numbers aren’t skewed by your diet. Try to schedule your exam in the morning to avoid fasting all day.

  3. Adjust your diet and habits. Avoid caffeine, sugar, over-the-counter medicine, and tobacco or other drugs before your exam. It won’t change your health overnight, but abstaining can help keep your test results accurate.

  4. Stay hydrated. Drinking a lot of water before your exam will help flush out your body and make your veins easier to find for a blood draw.

Your exam provider will ask for detailed health history information, so be ready to answer questions about:

  • Diagnosis and treatment history for any pre-existing conditions

  • Doctors you’ve visited in the last two to five years

  • Names and dosages of your current medications

What happens after the medical exam?

Your insurance company will evaluate your exam results alongside your application, medical records, and financial records to set your policy premiums. If any of your test results seem abnormal, they may ask to reexamine you. Otherwise, you’ll receive a policy offer in around four to six weeks.  

Your medical exam results become part of your health record, so if you decide to apply for a different disability insurance policy — or for life insurance — you can reuse the results for about six months. 

If your health improves in the future, you can take a new exam and ask your insurer to reconsider your rates. If not, try shopping around to see if you can find a cheaper policy. 

Can you get disability insurance without a medical exam?

Some providers offer an option called simplified underwriting or simplified issue that doesn’t require a medical exam. You’ll need to have a phone interview with the insurer, and only certain age groups are eligible.

However, these policies usually come with lower coverage limits. Depending on your monthly expenses, the coverage may not be enough. Rates won’t necessarily be lower for a simplified-issue policy either.

The disability insurance medical exam is relatively straightforward and brief. As long as the exam doesn’t turn up any new health risks, the results shouldn’t have a major impact on the rates you were initially quoted. 

→ Learn more about getting a disability insurance policy

Frequently asked questions

What can you expect during the disability insurance medical exam?

A medical professional will ask questions about your medical history, then conduct a physical exam that includes blood pressure readings and taking blood and urine samples.

How do you pass the disability medical exam?

You can’t pass or fail the medical exam. The exam helps your insurer assess your health and whether you’re likely to file a claim in the future.

How should you prepare for the disability insurance medical exam?

It’s best to fast, hydrate, and avoid intense exercise immediately before your exam for accurate results. Be ready to answer questions about your medical history and doctors.