Understanding the life insurance blood test

A blood test is a standard part of the life insurance medical exam that helps your insurer get a complete picture of your health and set your premiums.

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Andrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Updated|3 min read

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When you apply for life insurance, you typically undergo a medical exam. The life insurance medical exam is similar to an annual physical: A technician notes information like your height, weight, and blood pressure, and also takes blood and urine samples. 

The blood test, like the rest of the medical exam, is used to identify any health concerns you may have so that the insurance company can accurately set your life insurance rates. Insurers generally use blood tests to look for high cholesterol, drug or tobacco use, and high-risk medical conditions like diabetes.

Life insurance terms you should know
  • Beneficiaries: The people you name on your life insurance policy to receive the lump sum of money — also known as the death benefit — when you die.

  • Cash value: The portion of a permanent life insurance policy’s monetary value that grows tax-deferred over the life of the policy.

  • Death benefit: The amount of money the life insurance company will pay your beneficiaries when you die.

  • Face amount: The dollar amount, or death benefit, your beneficiaries receive if you die while your life insurance policy is active.

  • Insured: The person who is covered by the insurance policy.

  • Policy: The legal document that includes the terms and conditions of your life insurance contract.

  • Policyholder: The person who owns an insurance policy. Usually, this is the same person as the insured.

  • Permanent life insurance: A type of life insurance that lasts for the rest of your life and usually includes a cash value account.

  • Premium: The amount you pay your insurance company to keep your coverage active. Premiums are typically paid monthly or annually.

  • Riders: Add-ons to a life insurance policy that provide more robust coverage, sometimes for an extra cost.

  • Term life insurance: A life insurance policy that lasts for a set number of years before it expires. If you die before the term is up, your beneficiaries receive a death benefit.

  • Underwriting: The process where an insurance company evaluates the risk of insuring you and determines your final rate.

What is the life insurance blood test?

The medical exam and blood test are part of the underwriting process, which is how your life insurance company evaluates the risk of insuring you — in other words, how likely you’ are to die while your policy is active.

Using the blood test results, an underwriter can confirm the medical information you shared in your initial phone interview and get the most up-to-date details about any of your health conditions. After underwriting, you’re assigned a life insurance classification based on your assessed risk level, which determines your final premium

What does the life insurance blood test look for?

There’s no “passing” or “failing” a blood test for your life insurance policy. The testing simply helps the insurer get a more complete picture of your health. The insurance provider will be looking for signs of:

Results that show any of the above may lead to higher premiums or, in severe cases, a declined application.

If you purposely conceal information that’s revealed after the medical exam, your application could be denied or your coverage could be canceled due to life insurance fraud.

The life insurance company may also note on your Medical Information Bureau (MIB) report that you were dishonest, causing other companies to deny you coverage in the future.

How to prepare for the life insurance blood test

Since the medical exam will influence your life insurance rates for the entirety of your policy, it makes sense that you want to get the best results possible. While you can’t change your medical history, there are a few things you can do to prepare. 

  • Fast beforehand. You may be asked to fast up to 12 hours before testing so that your blood sugar and cholesterol levels are as accurate as possible.

  • Eat healthy foods. In the days leading up to your test, avoid high-sodium and sugary foods, which can raise your blood pressure or cholesterol.

  • Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated will help flush excess sodium from your system and make your veins easier to find for a blood draw. 

  • Wear short sleeves. Short sleeves make it easier to conduct a blood test and help keep your exam brief.

Making major lifestyle changes right before your exam, like quitting smoking, won’t earn you more favorable premiums. Underwriters need you to maintain those changes for a year or more before offering better rates. But taking steps to get precise results will help you get the most affordable premiums for your health profile.

Ready to shop for life insurance?

Can you skip the life insurance blood test?

If you prefer to avoid the blood test, you may be able to skip the test with no-medical-exam life insurance. This type of life insurance doesn’t require a medical exam, and falls into two main categories:

A Policygenius agent can help you decide whether no-exam life insurance is right for you or if you’d benefit from going through the full underwriting process.

There’s no need to worry about the life insurance blood test as long as you’re forthcoming about your health background and history. You can’t drastically change your results by making health or lifestyle changes immediately before the exam, but knowing what to expect and being transparent will get you the most accurate quotes for your coverage.

If you prefer to avoid the medical exam altogether, an accelerated underwriting or final expense policy may be the best fit. 

Author

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

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