People get scared out of life insurance by being asked to take a medical exam, but I did it for my $1 million policy and it was no big deal

People get scared out of life insurance by being asked to take a medical exam, but I did it for my $1 million policy and it was no big deal

nurse medical exam

JGI /Jamie Grill / Getty Images

A life insurance medical exam is no big deal.


When applying for new life insurance, most insurance companies score you on a wide range of factors to approve your application and assign your rate. While it may seem mysterious and intimidating, the process for scoring your application is fairly simple and straightforward.

When reviewing your application, the underwriter is on the hunt for risk factors that indicate you may not live for the full policy term. One of the most important ways to do that is to look at your current health through a medical exam. I've come across many people who skipped out on life insurance because they thought they might "fail" the medical exam. That's completely the wrong attitude.

I signed up for a $1 million life insurance policy when I was in my 20s, even before I had a family. Outside of the non-portable policies I got from work, I knew that a new life insurance policy would only get more expensive over time. I picked term life insurance as it gives you by far the best bang for your buck compared to the monthly cost.

Even though I had to get a medical exam, it was no big deal. Here's exactly what you can expect:


Applying for life insurance

The life insurance application process is fairly painless and simple. The best place to start is an online aggregator like SelectQuote or Policygenius, or through a trusted agent that can get you multiple, no-obligation quotes from a single application.

I got my life insurance policy through my friend and financial adviser Jeff Rose. One form on his website gave me a good list of potential policies from reputable insurers. I picked the one with the lowest cost for the term and coverage I wanted.

The application asks tons of questions about your health history, risky activities and hobbies, your work, and other lifestyle details. Once you submit, the insurer should contact you to set up your medical exam appointment.

How life insurance medical exams work

A life insurance medical exam is a lot like an annual physical you should be getting every year from your primary care doctor. The examiner will check your weight, blood pressure, pulse, and other vitals. They will also review what you put on your original application with you for accuracy.

My least favorite part is the blood test, where they check for things like cholesterol and other indications of disease. You also have to pee in a cup for a urinalysis. These specimens are also used for drug testing.


Compare quotes with Policygenius to find the best life insurance coverage for you »

The medical exam is free for you and paid for by the insurance company. If you're a little behind on the annual medical exams you should be getting anyway, this is a great opportunity to check in on your health without paying a doctor.

I had my life insurance medical exam on a Sunday morning at my old condo. The nurse arrived as scheduled and the whole process took under 30 minutes. While it felt a little odd going through a blood draw in my kitchen, it was a lot easier than a trip to the doctor.

Why life insurance medical exams save you money

If you don't get a medical exam, most insurance companies will assume the worst about your health. If you won't come in for the exam, you might be hiding high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or another major condition.

Some insurers do offer policies called "guaranteed issue" policies. As the name implies, they are guaranteed no matter what your medical results look like. But these policies typically come with high monthly premiums and relatively low payouts compared to traditional term life insurance.


When you submit to a medical exam, you're there to prove that you are healthy and low-risk. If you take generally good care of yourself and don't do things like skydiving, you'll probably qualify for one of the lower-cost categories, which come with names like "Preferred" or "Preferred Plus."

When it comes to life insurance, sooner is better

If you've been putting off life insurance for any reason, there's an important fact to know about your rates. One of the biggest risk factors for life insurance is age. As you get older, your life insurance costs will probably only go up.

The sooner you get your insurance, the sooner you can lock in your rate. Once you get your policy with a term life insurance policy, the rate is fixed for the entire duration of the policy. If you have a 30-year term, for example, your rate will not change for the entire 30 years. That's the case even if you come down with a medical condition later on. Once you sign up, as long as you didn't lie on your application, your policy can't be revoked unless you stop paying.

I picked my life insurance policy after getting engaged but before starting my family. I knew life insurance would only get more expensive, so I picked a policy in my late 20s. It's never too early to get life insurance. If you're waiting around to sign up, this is your wake up call that it's time to get started.

Policygenius can help you compare quotes to find the right life insurance coverage for you, at the best price »

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.