Understanding the life insurance blood test

Life insurance companies take blood samples during the medical exam to get a complete picture of your health and set your premiums.

Amanda Shih author photo


Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Jetty, and J.D. Power.

Published January 26, 2021|3 min read

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When you apply for life insurance, you may 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 underwriter can accurately set your life insurance rates. Underwriters generally use blood tests to look for high cholesterol, drug or tobacco use, and high-risk medical conditions like diabetes. If you’re relatively healthy you may be able to avoid taking the test by applying for a no-exam life insurance policy. 

Key Takeaways

  • A blood test is a standard part of the life insurance medical exam

  • The exam and blood test are part of underwriting, when insurers evaluate your health and set your rates

  • The blood test looks for signs of nicotine or drug use, high cholesterol, and pre-existing medical conditions

  • You may be able to skip blood testing if you qualify for a no-medical exam policy

What is the life insurance blood test?

The medical exam and blood test are part of the underwriting process, which encompasses a majority of the life insurance application period. Underwriting is how your life insurance company evaluates the risk of insuring you — i.e., how likely you are to die while your policy is active. 

Using the blood test results, an underwriter can confirm medical information you shared in your initial phone interview or discover any health issues that you didn’t mention. After underwriting you’re assigned you an 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 an underwriter 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 result in higher premiums or, in severe cases, a declined application. But if you purposely conceal information that’s revealed after the medical exam, your application could be denied or your coverage could be canceled. 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 to 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 prior to 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 to see you 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.

Learn more about preparing for the life insurance medical exam

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Can you skip the life insurance blood test?

If you prefer to avoid blood testing or are social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, 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:

An independent insurance agent or broker 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.

Learn more about no-medical exam life insurance options

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There’s no need to worry about the life insurance blood test as long as you’re forthcoming with your provider about your medical 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. 

Life insurance blood test FAQs:

What do life insurance blood tests look for?

Life insurance companies use bloodwork to test for nicotine and drug use, high cholesterol, blood sugar, and other signs of pre-existing medical conditions.

Why do I need to take a blood test to get life insurance?

The blood test helps your insurance provider get a comprehensive picture of your health, which they use to set your rates.

How can I prepare for a blood test?

Prior to the exam, follow your provider’s guidelines for fasting, avoid unhealthy foods, and stay hydrated to get the most accurate results.

Can I skip the life insurance blood test?

If you qualify for no-medical exam life insurance, you can skip the blood test as well as the rest of the medical exam.