As if acquiring life insurance wasn’t hectic enough, did you know that you might be required to get a physical exam?
A licensed phlebotomist, nurse, or medical doctor will check your vitals: blood, urine, blood pressure, height, and weight. The insurance provider will then use this information to determine whether it wants to insure you and what health class you fit into, which affects your policy’s price.
With the physical’s results in hand, an insurance company can get a detailed snapshot of your health. But don’t worry; companies aren’t necessarily interested in one bad reading — it’s the overall picture that counts.
For example, while slightly elevated liver enzymes don’t automatically mean you’ll get declined, very elevated levels could. Similarly, blood sugar levels indicating Type 2 diabetes don’t mean no, but high levels that aren’t controlled with diet and exercise or medication could be reason for a much higher rate or a decline altogether.
The key to a successful exam is proper preparation.
How to Plan for Your Exam
Preparing for your physical may yield better results, which could lead to a lower premium. But it’s important that you prepare properly. I recently had a client who had an abnormally high result on a specific lab test. It was most likely due to him running 3 miles right before the exam. He thought it would help his results, but it actually did the opposite.
To prepare for your physical, do these four things:
1. Fast. It’s recommended that you fast at least four hours before your blood tests. Eat the night before, and schedule a morning exam so you don’t go all day without food.
2. Get a good night’s sleep. Stay relaxed, and get at least eight hours of sleep. Your blood pressure results will look better if you’re stress-free.
3. Don’t eat an unhealthy meal the night before. Limit your salt and cholesterol intake, and opt for a balanced dinner instead.
4. Take a couple months to prepare. If you want to get healthier for yourself and life insurance purposes, think about these things a few months in advance. Get healthy, and then make an educated decision about life insurance.
Based on your results, you’ll be placed in a class: preferred plus, preferred, standard plus, or standard. Most people fall into one of these. Preferred plus means excellent health, standard is average, and the other two are in between. My client ended up taking another exam in which his results were normal. Based on this, we were able to get him a preferred plus rate.
Companies also have substandard ratings, usually presented in the form of numbers or letters (ranging from one to 10 and A to J) — the higher the number or letter, the higher the price. For example, if you had a heart attack last year, you have a chance of approval with good follow-ups and normal EKGs and stress tests, but you’ll likely get a substandard rating.
Skipping the Exam
If you wish to forego a personal exam altogether, there are companies that will insure you without it. Instead, they’ll use information about you that’s available in databases. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that no-medical-exam life insurance means no health checks at all or that anyone can get approved.
It’s actually easier to get approved with an exam. When an insurance company has more data on you — meaning an exam and access to your medical records — it can make a better decision as far as approval and pricing. The no-exam route is pretty thorough, and it could include companies consulting:
• Health questions. You can lie and say you don’t smoke, but if you knowingly misrepresent yourself, you risk losing your death benefit.
• Third-party firms. These firms report on the medications you take, so a provider will know if you have prescriptions for conditions like asthma or diabetes. While prescriptions don’t automatically cause a denial of coverage, more serious conditions like diabetes hurt your chances.
• Your motor vehicle report. Companies will know if you’ve been cited for a DUI or had multiple speeding tickets — something they don’t look into if you go through an exam. When you go the no-exam route, one DUI in the past five years is reason for a decline.
• The Medical Information Bureau: This is how insurance companies share information. So if you apply for life insurance with one company and say you’re a smoker and then claim you’re a non-smoker in another company’s application, the companies will see the discrepancy.
Insurance companies already know a good bit about you, and you can’t change that. However, you can take care of yourself in the days or even months leading to the exam. So I would suggest skipping that hot-dog-eating contest the night before. Instead, take the time to prepare properly — your pocketbook will thank you.
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Author: Liran Hirschkorn
Liran Hirschkorn is an independent life insurance agent and founder of BestLifeQuote.com, a national life insurance agency. His mission is to help individuals find the best rates on life insurance.