Life Insurance Medical Exam: What It Is And How To Prepare!

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Certified Life Insurance Advisor

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In This Article

Key takeaways:

  • Medical exam helps insurers determine what to charge you for premiums based on your health and subsequent risk level.
  • The medical exam usually takes place in two parts: questions over the phone and a physical exam your home.
  • There are also life insurance options without a medical exam, but they’re much more expensive than “traditional” life insurance policies.

What is the life insurance medical exam?

The life insurance medical exam is meant to help your provider better understand your risk-level based on various health factors.

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

Many 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. But it's usually more expensive and the payout to your beneficiaries is capped at a lesser amount.

How does the life insurance medical exam process 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, Certified Life Insurance Advisor:

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, 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

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.

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. A paramedical test may be requested in addition to the tele-interview depending on your situation.

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 to consider for to get the best life insurance in Canada:

  • 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.

Thus, "no medical exam" policies, can offer quick coverage without undergoing any medical tests, and these policies typically have higher premiums due to greater risk and uncertainty, but it's still worth considering them, especially if you're concerned about the average cost of life insurance Canada.

Life insurance without a medical exam can be a good option for some people, especially those who want quick coverage or may not qualify for a traditional policy due to health concerns.

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

FAQ: Life insurance medical exam

Can life insurance blood tests detect cancer?

Yes, life insurance blood tests might be able to detect cancer. The blood test is intended to detect a variety of health conditions, including cancer. But note that not all life insurance policies require a medical exam or blood test, and not all blood tests are designed to detect cancer! However, if a blood test is part of the application process, it is possible that cancer could be detected. The test looks for biomarkers in your blood that may indicate the presence of cancer.

What do life insurance blood tests detect?

Life insurance blood tests are designed to detect a few different health conditions so the life insurance company can make an informed decision on your application. The test may detect health issues including (but not limited to!): 

  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis
  • Some types of cancer
  • Diabetes

Why Life Insurance Companies Require a Medical Exam?

Life insurance companies in Canada use medical exams to assess your health and risk level. This helps them determine a fair price for your policy (premium). A medical exam provides a more complete picture than just your application, ensuring the company can accurately cover you without taking on excessive risk.

Where Can I Get a Life Insurance Medical Exam in Canada?

In most cases, the life insurance company will arrange for a paramedical professional (a nurse or technician) to visit your home or workplace to conduct the exam. Some companies may offer alternative locations or have a network of clinics you can visit.

How to Get a Life Insurance Medical Exam in Canada?

Once you apply for a life insurance policy and it requires a medical exam, the insurance company will contact you to schedule the exam. They will handle the logistics and provide any necessary instructions beforehand.

What Happens During the Medical Exam in Canada?

A typical life insurance medical exam in Canada will involve two parts:

  • Tele-interview: A nurse will ask you questions about your medical history, medications, lifestyle habits, and family health history.
  • Paramedical exam: The paramedical professional will measure your height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse. They may also collect a urine and/or blood sample depending on the policy amount and your situation.

Getting the Results of Your Life Insurance Medical Exam in Canada

The paramedical professional will send your exam results to the insurance company. The timeframe for receiving your application decision can vary depending on the company and the complexity of your case, but it typically takes a few days to a few weeks.

What If My Life Insurance Is Denied Because of the Medical Exam?

If your application is denied due to the medical exam, the insurance company will inform you of the reasons behind the decision. You may be offered a policy with a higher premium or be denied coverage altogether. In this case, you can consider appealing the decision or applying with a different company that may be more lenient based on your health profile.

Are There Any Disadvantages to a No Medical Exam Life Insurance Policy in Canada?

Yes, there are a few disadvantages to consider with no medical exam life insurance in Canada:

  • Higher premiums: Since the insurer can't assess your health through a medical exam, they charge a higher premium to account for the increased risk.
  • Lower coverage limits: No medical exam policies often have lower maximum coverage amounts compared to traditional policies.
  • Limited benefits: Some no medical exam policies may have exclusions or limitations on certain types of claims.

Who Should Consider a No Medical Exam Life Insurance Policy in Canada?

No medical exam life insurance can be a good option for some Canadians, particularly:

  • People who need coverage quickly: If you need life insurance coverage right away and can't wait for a medical exam, a no medical exam policy can provide some peace of mind.
  • Those with health conditions: If you have pre-existing health conditions that might make it difficult to qualify for a traditional policy, a no medical exam option may be your only choice.

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder
About the Author

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