No medical exam life insurance

No-exam life insurance can be considerably more expensive than regular term life insurance, so it’s not optimal for everyone. But it can be a useful option for those who don't qualify for traditional insurance coverage.

Elissa Nupur Gambhir

Elissa Suh & Nupur Gambhir

Published April 21, 2020

For many people, the medical exam is one of the most headache-inducing parts of the life insurance application process. Also called the paramedical exam, this 30-minute physical isn’t difficult — a technician or nurse will accommodate you at your home or office — but it’s still an extra step that many applicants would like to avoid.

It’s possible to avoid it with a no-medical exam life insurance policy. Whether you’re buying term life or whole life insurance, there are options that allow you to skip the medical exam and quickly buy life insurance with almost no waiting period.

No-exam life insurance has the potential to be considerably more expensive than traditional life insurance with a medical exam, so it’s not optimal for everyone. However, it can be a useful option for those who have trouble qualifying for traditional insurance coverage.

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What is a life insurance medical exam?

When you apply for life insurance, you’re required to go through the underwriting process, which typically includes:

This is known as fully underwritten life insurance.

The insurance company handles most of the process and will arrange the medical exam. During the medical exam, a nurse or technician will take your blood pressure, and your height and weight. You’ll also be asked to give blood and urine samples.

Why do insurance companies make you take a medical exam? Because the cost of life insurance is largely dependent on your health; the more health problems you have, the riskier you are to insure, and the more you’ll pay for your policy. During the underwriting process, life insurance companies try to get a complete picture of your medical history and risk.

How does no-medical exam life insurance work?

No-medical exam life insurance policies don't require the standard medical exam that most traditional life insurance companies need to make you an offer. The application process only necessitates the initial phone interview, which will walk through your medical history and financial standing. If you are eligible for a no-medical exam life insurance policy after the phone interview, you'll receive a policy offer and won't have to take any additional steps aside from signing your policy papers and paying your first premium.

Because the medical exam is used to determine any underlying disease, no medical exam policies usually come at a higher cost than fully underwritten life insurance. By allowing you to skip the medical exam, the insurance company is taking on more risk when they haven’t fully assessed your health. The added risk usually also means a generally low coverage amount — no-exam life insurance caps out at a death benefit of around $300,000.

The chart below shows how a few different types of no-exam life insurance coverage compare to traditional term life insurance:

Waiting periodAverageFastFastVery fast
Coverage$25,000 - $10 million$50,000 - $300,000Less than $50,000Less than $50,000
TermUp to 30 yearsUp to 30 yearsPermanentPermanent
AgesUp to 85Up to 65Ages 45 - 85Ages 50 - 85

No medical exam life insurance and coronavirus

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable if you prefer to get a policy that doesn’t require going out and getting a medical exam. While a no medical exam life insurance policy can be costlier and might not always offer optimal coverage, you have a few policy options that don’t necessitate a medical exam.

You'll find a few different options for terms, which are just the different life insurance policies that an insurer offers.

Mutual of OmahaTerm Express 20, 30 18-50$25,000-$300,000
Term Express 10, 15 18-50$25,000-$300,000
SBLIN/A 18-60$100,000-$500,000
TransamericaTrendsetter LB Term 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 18-60$25,000-$249,000
Trendsetter Super Term 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 18-60$25,000-$99,999

It’s important to note that getting a policy that doesn’t require a medical exam still requires recent medical records and doesn’t necessarily shorten the life insurance application process. If you want a faster turnaround time after you apply, you’ll have to get a plan with accelerated underwriting. An accelerated application also doesn’t require a medical exam, but not everyone qualifies and applications can be rejected at random.

No medical exam temporary insurance coverage

If, after speaking with a life insurance broker, you realize that a policy that requires a medical exam is your best option — or you simply want to ensure that you’re covered while you await a decision on your life insurance application — you don’t have to sacrifice optimal coverage for your safety and health if you don’t want to go out and get a medical exam.

You can opt-in for temporary life insurance coverage, which is the coverage you get during the life insurance application process so that if you die, your beneficiaries still get some death benefit. This would enable you to postpone the medical exam portion of the underwriting process until the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

Most life insurance companies still require the completion of the medical exam for temporary coverage to go in force, but Policygenius works with three life insurance companies that offer this supplementary coverage without a medical exam:

To activate temporary coverage with either of these insurers, you’ll simply need to provide your payment information and sign the application for the broker.

You could see some limitations on your temporary coverage without taking a medical exam, but you’d still have some life insurance protection to protect your loved ones during the pandemic.

Who should get no-exam life insurance?

The price of no-exam life insurance can greatly vary: It may be virtually the same price as a fully underwritten policy, or it may be much more expensive because it’s targeted to unhealthy individuals who pose a higher risk. It all depends on your individual life circumstances.

Here are some examples where no-exam life insurance could make sense:

  • You’re a 30-year-old male smoker who is otherwise healthy. By skipping the exam, you might get a better rate than with a traditional policy.
  • You’re young and looking for a low coverage amount.
  • You’re a 55-year-old with moderate risk who doesn’t qualify for traditional life insurance.
  • You’re a 75-year-old senior with health issues looking to use the death benefit to cover burial expenses.
  • You don’t have time to complete the underwriting process and want to be covered quickly. Skipping the exam shortens the approval process, but at the cost of higher premiums. Traditional life insurance with the medical exam is almost always cheaper if you’re healthy.

Who should not get no-exam life insurance?

  • Healthy individuals. If you’re in top physical form, you’ll end up paying a penalty for not going through the full underwriting process. For a healthy applicant, a no-exam policy can be up to 80% more expensive than a normal fully underwritten policy.
  • People who need a large financial security net. A traditional life insurance policy can reach well into the millions, while one without a medical exam will be much smaller.

If you’re still not sure what kind of life insurance policy is right for you, you can talk to a Policygenius agent or compare life insurance quotes with Policygenius’ free comparison tool.

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Term life insurance with no medical exam

Also known as simplified issue life insurance, this type of insurance lets you skip the medical exam in favor of a health questionnaire instead. The insurance company will also use your medical records to check your health history.

But there’s a caveat: If an issue comes up in the health questions or the medical check raises a red flag, the insurance company can then require you to take the exam to get a more accurate assessment of your health.

No-exam life term insurance is only for relatively low-risk individuals, and even then only for those who have moderate coverage needs. It can also be more expensive than a traditional term policy depending on your health.

Here’s a look at what an average 30-year-old male (nonsmoker) living in California would pay for a 20-year no-exam policy versus a traditional term policy with an exam:


But for someone who wants a small coverage amount and isn’t in tip-top health, you could actually save by avoiding the medical exam.

For instance, if the hypothetical 30-year-old mentioned above were a smoker, here’s what the price comparison for a 20-year policy would look like:


Permanent life insurance with no medical exam

You can also get permanent life insurance without taking a medical exam.

Unlike term insurance, permanent life insurance policies don’t expire; they last as long as you pay the premiums.

Whole life insurance with no medical exam

Also called simplified issue whole life insurance, this permanent policy is useful for applicants who need a low level of coverage, as this death benefit is a lot lower than a term policy with no medical exam and usually maxes out around $50,000.

Applicants need to be in sufficiently good health to qualify; there’s a medical questionnaire and history check involved, just like with the no-exam term life policy. That also means that not everyone who applies will be eligible. Pre-existing conditions may require a more thorough look at your health.

Unlike standard whole life insurance, no-exam whole life insurance doesn’t come with a cash-value component that acts like an investment.

Read our full guide to simplified issue whole life insurance.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

For seniors who want to skip the medical exam, but pose too high of a risk to qualify for simplified issue life insurance, guaranteed issue whole life insurance may be the best option.

As the name suggests, your application is virtually guaranteed to be accepted as long as you are able to pay the premiums. However, the benefit amount is much smaller—usually only enough to cover end-of-life expenses, which is why it’s sometimes called burial insurance or final expense life insurance.

Guaranteed issue life can be used for:

  • Burial and funeral costs
  • Other end-of-life expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Outstanding debt like credit card bills

You also typically need to be an older applicant to qualify. For example, AIG offers guaranteed life insurance up to $25,000 for people ages 50 to 85 years old, while Mutual of Omaha covers up to $40,000 for those aged 45 to 85 years old.

There is no medical exam and no questionnaire — if you can pay the premiums, you can get coverage. These premiums are much higher than with other policies. Depending on the life insurance company, you may still qualify even if you have a pre-existing condition.

For these reasons, guaranteed issue life insurance is considered a last resort for seniors. There’s almost always a better choice in terms of cost and coverage, but for applicants too old or too unhealthy to qualify for another type of insurance, it can provide them that much-needed coverage.

Read our full guide to guaranteed issue life insurance.

Accelerated underwriting life insurance

Another way you can get life insurance with no medical exam is through accelerated underwriting. In recent years, accelerated underwriting has become more popular among life insurance companies, but is not offered by all insurers. With this service, you can get a traditional term life policy at the same cost, but on a fast track. However, if the insurance provider notices any red flags or irregularities, they might ask you to take the medical exam, as would happen in a standard life insurance application process.

When creating a snapshot of your health, accelerated underwriting uses traditional data sources (like the previously mentioned Medical Information Bureau, motor vehicle reports, prescription history, health records, and electronic lab data), plus some non-traditional information to build out your risk profile and set premiums prices.

According to the Society of Actuaries, these new data sources can include:

  • Clinical lab data
  • Credit profiles
  • Predictive models
  • Facial analytics
  • Behavioral economics

There are still some limitations to accelerated underwriting. You must be a non-smoker in good health, and certain conditions, like cancer and untreated diabetes, can automatically disqualify you.

But, if you do successfully qualify with accelerated underwriting insurance, you will have a fully underwritten policy at no increased cost.

No medical exam life insurance policy riders

Riders are additions or modifications to a life insurance policy that give the policyholder flexibility or extra coverage options. No-medical-exam policies typically have the same riders available to them as standard policies, though this varies by life insurance company. Here are some common riders you may want to add to your no-medical-exam insurance policy:

Accelerated death benefit rider

In the event you become terminally ill, this rider will allow you to access part or all of the death benefit in advance and use it to pay for expenses like medical care. Proof of life expectancy under six months or 12 months is typically required.

Disability income rider

A disability income rider provides monthly payments to replace your income if you become disabled or unable to work. This acts similar to disability insurance, so some shoppers choose to add it as a rider to their life insurance instead of buying a second policy to protect against disability.

Policygenius recommends getting disability insurance because it’s the most cost-effective way to protect your income from illness or injury.

Term conversion rider

Adding a term conversion rider to your policy allows you to convert a term life insurance policy to a whole life insurance policy at the end of the term. This is a common rider in most term life insurance policies.

Read more about converting a term life policy to a whole life policy.