Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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Life insurance companies test for several medical conditions when a person applies for coverage. The company uses this information to evaluate the level of risk that an applicant presents.

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A person whom the insurance company thinks is more likely to have to pay out a claim for will have to pay more for their coverage.

When Testing is Ordered

When a person applies for insurance coverage, he or she is required to answer a series of health questions. The agent may go through the list with the applicant, or the questions may be completed online. This is not always required.

Not everyone who applies for life insurance coverage will need to undergo testing. If the person is relatively young and/or the level of coverage requested is low, the insurance company may not require any medical tests at all.

For example, a 40-year-old who is trying to buy $50,000 in coverage may be considered based on the answers to the medical questionnaire alone. A person who wants a high level of coverage, such as $1 million or more, will likely need to participate in a more thorough level of testing, which may include an examination conducted by an internist selected by the insurance company.

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Paramedical Exam

In many cases, the testing ordered by a life insurance company can be conducted by a licensed health professional who works for an agency that specializes in going to an applicant’s home or work location to conduct the exam. The insurance company pays for the cost of this testing; the applicant is not responsible for paying any fees at all.

The paramedical company will contact the life insurance applicant to set up an appointment. These companies can check the applicant’s current weight, as well as taking a blood and/or urine sample. Portable EKG machines are used when a reading on the applicant’s heart health is needed. When the life insurance applicant is older and/or a higher level of coverage is requested, a treadmill test may be ordered as well. The applicant may need to go to a testing facility to have it done.

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What is the insurance company is looking for?

When a life insurance company orders medical tests, it is trying to find out if the applicant has any medical conditions that are likely to shorten his or her life. Applicants are routinely screened for HIV, diabetes, hepatitis, liver disease, kidney disease, and immune system disorders

The insurance company should be informed of any medications the applicant is taking, since they may turn up on the blood work. The health questionnaire will ask about a number of medical conditions and the applicant will be asked if he or she is being treated for any other medical issues that have not already been disclosed. The presence of certain prescription medications may mean the applicant will be rated higher risk (and have to pay more in premiums) or the insurance company may refuse to extend coverage altogether.

Along with looking for a number of medical conditions from the blood and urine samples an applicant provides, insurance companies will also test for the presence of illegal drugs. Even if a person who has been using illegal substances stops using before undergoing an insurance company’s testing, he or she may still test positive. The insurance company will likely decline to provide coverage if the applicant has been using cocaine or other drugs.

When tobacco use is detected, the insurance company may agree to provide coverage, but at a higher rate. A person who has smoked within the past 6-12 months may still be classified as a smoker for life insurance purposes, even if he or she has stopped using tobacco products. The person will pay a higher rate for coverage but if the individual stays smoke-free, the insurance company may reconsider the premium in a year or two after the original policy was issued.

When life insurance companies run tests, they are looking for medical conditions that will, or are likely to, take the applicant’s life. A person who is young and healthy will pay less for his or her life insurance coverage because they are less likely to die prematurely. Someone who is middle-aged or older is not only more likely to have developed some health issues, but is getting closer to death simply by having lived longer. The results of the tests are used to determine the applicant’s level of risk and set premium rates.

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