When you apply for life insurance, the insurance company needs to have an accurate view of your health before they can offer you coverage.
Insurance companies assess this through a process called underwriting, during which you take a medical exam and submit information about your current health and medical history, your lifestyle, and your family medical history.
As part of underwriting, some insurance companies request an attending physician statement (APS) from your doctor for additional information about your health.
The more health or lifestyle risks you pose, the higher your premiums will be. In some cases, people with very serious health risks may not qualify for term life insurance coverage.
An APS isn’t always required, but if you’re asked to provide one, here’s what you need to know.
What is an attending physician statement?
An APS is your doctor’s detailed evaluation of your current health, from their point of view.
If an issue pops up during your medical exam, an APS can let the insurer know if it’s due to a side effect of some medication you’re taking, or if the cause is an underlying medical issue. Insurers must know exactly what they’re covering with a policy, and an APS sheds light on any ambiguities.
If a doctor has ever treated you for a chronic medical condition, you may be required to submit an attending physician statement. Such conditions include asthma, diabetes, and sleep apnea, among other types of health issues.
If the insurance company needs to order an APS, this doesn’t mean that you’re not eligible for a competitive rate. The APS helps the insurer understand the details of your medical history so they can accurately assess how much risk your diagnosis poses to your health.
What’s included in an attending physician statement?
A standard attending physician statement contains the following questions for your doctor to answer:
What is the history of the condition? The doctor will explain how long they’ve been treating you for your illness, including when symptoms began, dates of treatment, and what treatments you’ve tried.
What is the prognosis? This section goes into how you’re managing your illness and whether you’ve seen any improvements since beginning treatment.
If you’re being treated by different doctors for different conditions, there’s a chance the insurance company will ask for an attending physician statement from each doctor treating each condition.
How does HIPAA apply to an APS?
The same rules based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that apply to your other health details also apply to your APS. You need to sign a waiver so your provider can share your medical history with your insurance provider.
Your insurer may only use APS information to determine your eligibility for coverage and set your rates. They cannot sell or share those details.
How does the APS relate to the medical exam?
The medical exam provides initial information about your health and medical history. During the physical portion of the exam, the medical technician conducts a standard medical checkup.
But if you have more complex health issues, this information will not be enough. The insurance company will order an APS.
The APS not only backs up the conclusions of the medical exam, but it also gives a picture of your health to your insurer that goes beyond simple blood draws, urine tests, and heart rate measurements.
The APS and medical exam provide a thorough look into your health history. And if the insurer determines it’s more risky to insure you, then you may pay higher premiums than you were first quoted.
How long does it take to get an APS?
Applying for life insurance takes minutes, but it can take between five to six weeks (on average) before your policy goes in force.
Part of that time is spent on the underwriting process, which includes scheduling and taking your medical exam. The process takes longer if the insurance company needs an APS.
After your doctor fills out the APS, it goes back to the underwriter. Many underwriters use a template or script to make sure they get all of the important information down as quickly and efficiently as possible.
While an APS may add a few weeks to underwriting, it will ensure that the offer you get from the insurance company is fair and accurate.
Temporary life insurance
Most insurance companies offer temporary life insurance, which provides life insurance coverage for you right when you apply. This offers you coverage while your application goes through formal underwriting.
This type of coverage is designed specifically for the period between your application and approval. It can secure peace of mind for yourself and your family while you wait for your offer.
As long as you’re honest and provide accurate information on your life insurance application, if you choose temporary coverage and die during underwriting, the insurance company will honor your policy and pay the death benefit to your beneficiary.
An attending physician statement can make your life insurance application process take a little longer, but it’s a simple step to getting a policy with the most accurate rates possible.