The Life Insurance Medical Exam: What Is it and How Do You Prepare?

Verified by Tobin Tuff
Certified Life Insurance Advisor
In This Article

When you apply for life insurance, it’s common for the insurance provider to ask you a few things about your health. This helps your insurer set the final price of your life insurance policy. Although it’s uncommon, the price of your insurance may change if a health issue is uncovered as part of the health exam.

The funny thing is that doing the medical exam may actually save you money on your life insurance premiums in the long run. Read on to learn why, as well as how to prep for the exam, what's tested for and what questions may be asked.

What is the life insurance medical exam?

The life insurance medical exam often involves tests like a blood and urine analysis. A third-party nurse will usually visit your home to complete your health exam.

Many Canadian life insurance companies will require you to complete both a medical interview and a medical exam after you submit your application.

The medical interview consists of a phone call where the medical underwriting company will ask you a list of standard health and medical questions for verification.

The two above steps can take anywhere from a day to three weeks.

There is a type of life insurance called no medical life insurance. It's exactly what it sounds: you don't need to do a medical exam to get approved. That said, it's usually more expensive and the payout to your beneficiaries is lower. Read our blog post on no medical life insurance for a full list of pros and cons.

What to expect from a life insurance medical exam

When you’re healthy, that likely means you don’t get a medical exam often, so you don’t know what to expect. For a lot of us, it can feel like the imaginary monster in the closet that your kids complain about at bedtime. 

And if you’re healthy, there’s little to be anxious about. It’s sort of like taking a test in a subject that you’ve already aced. 

To take the pressure off even more, we’re happy to report that many eligible PolicyMe applicants are approved without the need for a medical exam.

Once you’re approved, we like to keep things simple. Our advisors will match you up with a policy that’s personalized to your budget, your needs and your life and we won’t hassle you with an upsell or another sales pitch. 

How does the life insurance medical exam process usually work?

The traditional life insurance application process usually takes weeks. It usually involves:

  1. An initial needs assessment meeting with an advisor
  2. An initial application process that collects basic information and income details
  3. A 45 minute medical interview with a nurse

Take a look at this walk-through of the process by Tobin Tuff, one of our Certified Life Insurance Advisors:

No medical life insurance is a fast process, however, it is  much pricier and should only be used as a plan B after applying for a term life insurance policy. Learn more about the best no medical life insurance companies in Canada in our guide.

With PolicyMe term life insurance, most eligible applicants don't need a medical follow-up. That's because we've used technology to create a dynamic online application with 26 questions. Only answer additional questions if one of the responses to the 26 base questions is flagged. Same quality policy, just easier to apply for.

Here's how it works with PolicyMe:

  1. Get a policy quote online
  2. Complete your application online. On average, our customers complete our application in 20 minutes or less
  3. Review and activate your policy

How to prepare for your life insurance medical exam

Once your life insurance application has been submitted, the next step is to complete your life insurance medical exam. These appointments come in two forms:

  • Over the phone (known as the tele-interview)
  • In-person at your home or workplace (known as the paramedical exam)

A paramedical exam is requested only when your insurance company needs to collect fluids from you. This typically happens if you’re buying a larger insurance policy, are over 50 years old, or have a condition that was flagged in the application.

Here’s what they’ll be testing for:

  • Accuracy – They’ll be testing for nicotine and drugs in your blood to make sure everything lines up with what you told them on the phone
  • Cholesterol & blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, you might be riskier to insure because of the illnesses associated.

How to prepare for your tele-interview

The tele-interview will be only about 20–30 minutes long and will take place over the phone. To prepare, make sure you have medical information on hand, including dates of diagnoses, treatments, and procedures. It will also come in handy to have a list of any prescription drugs you’re currently taking.

How to prepare for your life insurance paramedical exam

To complete your paramedical exam, the health technician from your insurance company will come to your home or workplace to measure your height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse. You’ll also be asked to provide a blood sample and a urine sample.

To prepare, follow these simple steps:

24 hours before the exam

  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol
  • Limit salt and high-cholesterol foods
  • Avoid over-the-counter drugs, which might interfere with your test results
  • Have photo ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport, or health card) handy
  • Reschedule the exam if you’re sick

10 hours before the exam

  • Fasting is recommended (try to avoid eating or drinking)
  • Avoid exercise or excess activity (this will help keep your blood pressure and heart rate in a range that’s typical for you)
  • Avoid smoking or other nicotine intakes

Right before the exam

  • Drink a glass of water to help ensure you’ll be able to provide a urine sample.
  • Undressing is not required, but wear a garment that has sleeves that can easily be rolled up

PolicyMe tip: It’s important that you’re honest during your life insurance medical exam. If you finish the process and think you may have forgotten a key piece of information (which can certainly happen!), let your advisor know so that they can get this information to your insurer for you. 

What else do life insurance companies look for?

 Here are some of the main factors that your Canadian life insurance company will be interested in:

  • Height and weight: Insurers will want to understand your body-mass index (BMI) to assess your health risk. Those who fall into “average” height and weight classes can expect to get lower rates. Read more about getting life insurance as an overweight person.
  • Tobacco use: Tobacco use is still a big red flag for insurers, and they’ll look to understand if you’ve used any form of tobacco in the last 12–36 months. This includes any product containing nicotine (cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, etc.).
  • Medical history: They will ask about your health history. A history of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease may affect your monthly price. Read more about life insurance for HIV, life insurance for diabetes and life insurance for pre-existing conditions.
  • Family medical history: Insurers will also ask about your family's medical history. If both of your parents passed away at relatively young ages or had health issues, you could be classified as a higher-risk candidate.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse: You’ll be asked about your weekly alcohol intake. (But don’t worry—they’ll only looking to flag answers like “5–7 drinks a day”). Any heavy alcohol use or drug abuse (excluding marijuana) could seriously affect your monthly rate.
  • High-risk occupations: Insurers will ask about your occupation. Higher risk occupations like scuba instructors and professional mountain bikers will pay more for life insurance than most of us.
  • Dangerous hobbies: Insurers will want to know if you like to parachute off of high cliffs. If you do, they might “exclude” these activities from your coverage. This means that if you pass away while performing your dangerous hobby, you won’t be covered.
  • Driving record: You’ll be asked about DWI/DUI convictions or other driving violations in the past few years. Depending on the insurer, these could affect your insurance rates.
  • Travel plans: They’ll want to know where you’ve traveled to and where you plan to travel to. Any country the government has issued an advisory for can be a red flag for your insurer. Similar to “dangerous hobbies,” this could be something they exclude from your life insurance policy.

Age 60+? Our guide to the best life insurance companies for seniors is a good choice to read next.

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

About the Author

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