So, you’re looking to buy a policy, but the company you applied for requires a life insurance blood test…
But, is it really something you need to go through with?
DID YOU KNOW?: You can skip the blood test! Click here to skip the medical exam and get the coverage you need much, much faster!
A blood test for life insurance is required by a majority of companies because it gives them a more clear picture of your health the day you apply. While your medical records are your past, your blood test is your current snapshot.
If you’re like many, you have questions:
- Why do they really need it?
- What are they looking for?
- Are there alternatives?
Let’s answer those questions, and more.
A Definitive Guide To The Life Insurance Blood Test
Table Of Contents
- What It Is
- Why It’s Required
- How To Schedule
- Exam Preparation
- During The Exam
- After The Exam
- Test Results
- What They Test For
What Is A Life Insurance Blood Test?
A person who is attempting to go to an ivy league university has to have credible evidence they are the best in their class of high school graduates to have a shot at being accepted. You not only give your high school credentials and extra curricular activities, but you also show your current knowledge application by way of the SAT and ACT tests.
This is very much how a blood test for any life insurance policy should be viewed!
Your high school track record, like GPA and other activities, are representative of your past health. The SAT and ACT scores are like the blood test. Both of these combined gives the underwriter a full picture of your health, past and present.
When you apply for life insurance, life insurance companies are evaluating you as a risk. Your risk class, paired with your age, gender and base policy information will yield your required premium.
The life insurance blood test results give the carrier very specific health information about you which allows them to make very exact estimates of your current physical health. Without this information, it’s more of a shot in the dark for them, which carries extra risk (and extra premium).
The less of a risk you pose, the lower your premium. Because of this, it’s in your best interest to undergo the exam and complete the test to show how healthy you are.
The best life insurance rates available in the industry are reserved for those who complete the exam!
So, what exactly is this blood test and what does it consist of?
It’s a medical exam requirement where a third party paramedical company sends a nurse to draw blood (and get a urine sample) strictly for the purpose of obtaining life insurance. The blood profile is analyzed and sent to the insurance company you applied to for evaluation.
Typically, this is paid for by the insurance company and at no cost to you. The exam results are good for up to six months.
Even if you’ve previously had a blood panel done at your primary care physician or OB/GYN, you cannot use those. The blood test for life insurance must be completed by an independent, disinterested third party.
Why Are Blood Tests Required?
As mentioned in the previous section, a blood test is required for life insurance because it aids in assessing your overall risk to the insurance company.
Without the information contained in your blood profile, it is more guesswork than statistical analysis when putting you into a rate class with people exactly like you.
However, there is still more to it:
- It is confirmation that what you said on the application is actually true.
- It could reveal prescriptions you neglected to mention.
- It could reveal the use of any illicit drug use.
- It could reveal the use of undisclosed tobacco or marijuana use.
Just because an application structures its questions in a certain way doesn’t mean you can answer in a way which might be misleading in order to give yourself the opportunity for cheaper premiums. While most applications are now worded to avoid this, it can still happen, especially with applications taken over the phone where the agent didn’t read the entire question.
Let’s look at the first point, as it’s a big one.
As an underwriter reviews your case, you’re given the benefit of the doubt and start at the best rate. However, based on your how you answer the questions on the application, this rating moves either up or down. Negative risk factors move you down, and positive risk factors (which not all companies use) move you back up.
So, if you describe yourself through the application process as being healthy, the company will offer you a great rate unless they find a reason otherwise. If the medical exam results come in and show something different, your rate must now move down as they have data to back it up.
Why is this so important?
Even if you feel you are 100% healthy, have never been to the hospital or required surgery, and never have been prescribed medication, your blood analysis could reveal something else. Perhaps you just weren’t diagnosed with anything yet, or perhaps you neglected information.
In either case, even if you told the truth as best as you could, the blood test is simply confirming this.
The second point talks about prescriptions, and there are two parts to this one.
Yes, your blood will have traces of what medications you’re currently taking. To add to this, insurance companies can also run a prescription check, so even if you stopped taking it for a period of time, they have the ability to look back.
Our society has made it seem as though prescriptions are commonplace, and many consumers answer as though it’s not a big deal to take a medication for blood pressure, diabetes, or other health or mental concern. While it may have very little impact on your daily life and seem routine, the long term use of any medication can impact major organs or body functions.
You may not currently have high blood pressure, but the blood test will reveal that it’s a result of being controlled by medicine. This alone may not increase your rate, however it can alert the insurance company to possible long term concerns.
It shouldn’t come as a shock a life insurance blood test is looking for drug use. Blood tests routinely look for illegal drug use for athletes, employees and in many other situations.
So, without a doubt, yes, you need to pass a drug test, in a sense; of course, it’s included in the typical blood test, not additional. But it may actually be a little more complicated than you think.
Unfortunately, you have to be careful here because things you eat, supplements you take, or other extraneous variables can give a false positive. From men and women who workout and take supplements to the person who had a poppy seed bagel for breakfast, it can happen.
So, what can you do to avoid this?
First, don’t do illegal drugs. That should get you past the first hurdle.
Otherwise, talk to your examiner. We’ll go into more detail below, but you’ll have a chance to tell your examiner any and everything which might alter your final results and possibly produce a false positive or abnormal reading.
NOTE: Certain drugs, like marijuana, which have changing regulation may not necessarily apply in the same way, but still tell your agent and examiner. Marijuana, for example, will not get you disqualified, but rather tobacco rates by most carriers.
One thing you shouldn’t do is try to purge your system by using cleansing kits before your exam date. Any attempt to fraudulently get approved for better rates can have harsh penalties.
How To Schedule Your Exam
After you have finished your application, signed it, and returned it to your agent, it’s time to set up your medical exam.
You can give your agent a convenient date and time which you would be available for and have him call an exam company on your behalf, or you will be contacted by the exam company directly.
We do have a few tips for you to schedule your exam for your life insurance blood test to give yourself the best chance at optimal results.
- Schedule Soon. Have your exam completed on the earliest possible date you can; 48-72 hours is best. During those first 2-3 days, motor vehicle records, MIB history, and application processing have begun. The process of buying a policy can take time, and every day you wait to do you exam pushes this date further. Until your medical results are in, little else can be done to review your case.
- Schedule Early. Exams require fasting 6-8 hours beforehand. If you’re sleeping, you’re not eating. So by scheduling it for first thing in the morning, you won’t be missing out on breakfast.
- Give Yourself Room. Try not to squeeze your medical in before another event which is really important, just in case. Most of the time, the exam only takes 15-20 minutes, but it could be longer. Certain policies and policy amounts require an EKG, for example, in addition to the blood test and urinalysis. It will be a lot less stressful to have extra time after you exam is complete before your next item of the day.
Also, keep in contact with your examiner. It is not the responsibility of your agent to make sure the examiner keeps their appointment. Remember, exam companies are a third party. Most use their cell phone, so you could call or text to confirm they’ll be on time or give them additional directions if needed.
This is rarely an issue, as examiners aren’t paid unless they complete the full life insurance blood test, urinalysis, EKG, and paperwork.
One final note: if both you and your spouse are getting life insurance together, schedule your exams at the same day and time, even if you are applying to different companies. Simply remind the examiner you are applying for separate carriers and they’ll have the appropriate paperwork set aside for each of you.
Preparing For A Life Insurance Exam
Now that you’ve scheduled your exam, there is still preparation to do beforehand. Remember, anything you can do to get the best results possible will lower your premiums.
- Drink Water. If you’re even within a couple days of your exam, drink plenty of water. While you should probably be doing this every day of your life, most people don’t drink enough water. The benefits of drinking water are vast, but when it comes to affecting your life insurance blood test, it can help your body filter toxins.
- Avoid Alcohol. One beer or a glass of wine won’t do any harm, but don’t partake in much more in the days leading up to your exam.
- Avoid Stimulants. Energy drinks, pots of coffee or micro energy shots are not recommended before exam dates. These raise your blood pressure and resting heart rate, so it will have an adverse effect on the results of your test.
- Eat Smart. This isn’t quite as crucial as the others, but eat light the night before your examiner arrives. Stuffing yourself on fast food, pizza, large portions of red meat or sugars can throw off several different ranges within your blood profile. This is very important for a few select folks, like diabetics, where glucose levels are key indicators.
- Continue Prescriptions. If you have prescriptions to take on a daily or weekly basis, continue them as you normally would. Forgetting to take your medication or skipping it might result in showing your previous medical concerns are not being taken care of properly.
Outside of what you can do physically the days before, have medical records, doctors information, prescription information and your driver’s license handy. Information from each may be required by the examiner, so make it easy on yourself and your examiner by having them together.
Remember to fast for 6-8 hours before you blood will be drawn. As previously mentioned, if you scheduled your exam for first thing in the morning, you won’t really need to worry about this as you’ll be sleeping. Just try to not gulp a cream and sugar filled coffee right when you get up.
Finally, remember any important policy details, like the company you applied for and how much coverage you applied for. Not only will this be necessary for some paperwork, but it will help your examiner know what requirements are necessary and what won’t be needed.
Well, it’s here. For some, it’s no big deal; others can’t stand needles in any way and this is an entirely stressful situation to be in.
So, exactly what are you about to do?
Let’s walk through a typical exam from beginning to end. Knowing the order of events may put your mind at ease.
After your examiner arrives and you’ve done your introductions, you’ll need to find a place to sit comfortably, like the kitchen table. Your examiner will likely have a small bag in tow, a laptop if they use one, and anything other medical equipment needed (scale, tape measure, etc.).
Upon sitting down, you’ll need your driver’s license right away so the examiner can confirm your identification before proceeding. She’ll also get basic contact information, basic policy information and make sure you have no questions.
Basic health questions will be asked next, including use of tobacco, any major medical concerns, use of medication and more. The examiner may ask you to list out all medication, dosage and frequency, as well as doctor’s information to be used for your underwriter’s review.
Once this all checks out, she’ll measure your height and weight.
Next, you’ll sit back down and have your blood pressure checked. The standard procedure is to check it three times. This gives the insurance company data on averages as well as fluctuations, and helps with accuracy on the examiners part.
Next, you’ll need to urinate in a container for the urinalysis portion. Examiners will have you clear your pockets, remove any baseball caps or large clothing items, follow you to the bathroom, and hand you the cup for your specimen. Once completed, your examiner will cap it, seal it and add a label.
The blood draw is next, so you’ll want to find a place to get comfortable, either sitting back at the table or even lying down on a couch.
If you’ve ever blacked out while giving blood or have a fear, aversion or blood issue of any kind, let your examiner know! Don’t worry, you’re not the first!
The blood test will be complete when the examiner has retrieved a couple vials of blood. For some, this takes just a moment, and for others it may take several minutes.
Once this part is done, and there are no further requirements, your examiner will seal and label those just like your urinalysis. You will now sign the examination forms as well as initial in several areas, which will be added to the vials and specimen containers.
If you need to, based on your age or the amount you’re applying for, you will need to perform an EKG under the watch of the examiner. This is usually done last, and you will be monitored for up to 20 minutes, or once enough usable data has been received.
Without the EKG, this whole process should take no longer than 20 minutes, but with an EKG requirement, expect the additional 20-25 minutes added on top.
When everything is complete, and you’ve signed where needed, everything will be transferred to the exam company or place of analysis.
You’re now done. Time for breakfast and coffee, right?
After Exam Completion
At this point, there is little for you to do, but there is plenty going on behind the scenes of your pending application.
You can contact your agent and let them know you completed the exam, and they may be able to expedite the process a little by checking frequently with the insurance company to ensure results were received. This can take 5-10 business days, although with electronic reporting, it can be faster.
You can also reach out to your doctor(s) to let them know you’ve applied for life insurance.
One of the behind the scenes actions being taken by the insurance company is to request Attending Physicians Statemtents (APS) from your doctor, which is your record for as long as you’ve been seeing him or her. Many insurance companies will not request this until they have confirmation your life insurance blood test was complete, as there are additional expenses to have them ordered.
By contacting your primary care physician, OB/GYN, hospital or specialist, you can attempt to move along the process. An APS request can take a very long time, but usually consumer intervention can jump start the order delivery.
Finally, just relax. You’ve done what you can, and it’s up to the insurance company and underwriter to review your case and issue you the results.
Due to HIPAA laws, few people have access to your results. In order to get your results, you have a couple options:
- Request directly from the exam company for them to be mailed.
- Utilize an online portal to access results if a company has one.
Because of privacy concerns, your agent will not be able to get you your results. Even the insurance company won’t distribute full blood test results they used for life insurance underwriting purposes.
However, if you are rated down for any reason, you can request this bit of information from the insurance carrier, and they will send you a letter why. It won’t be your entire test results, but just the piece of the blood profile which was a cause for concern for them.
Depending on the company, they may or may not go into great detail, so you’ll need to have your doctor review your results with you.
When you do get your hands on your blood test results, you may recognize some of the items, but not all. Exam companies are good about making them visually appealing, and it should say right in your report if you’re high, low, or right on target for each aspect tested.
Your exam results are good for 6 months, generally. If for any reason you didn’t get accepted with the first carrier you chose, you can use these same results, if it’s in your best interest to do so, when you apply with the next company. If you’re using an independent agent (a good one), they’ll be able to do this for you.
What Is the Blood Test Looking For?
So, with all of this information, what are the life insurance companies even looking for from the life insurance blood test?
The human body has an extraordinary amount of vital signs, especially in your blood. Your body is constantly fighting to keep you healthy by fending off infection, filtering out contaminants, and making sure you are running at optimal levels.
When these levels start to move, it can be indicative of illness, either acute or chronic, failing organs, or any number of other concerns.
They could be very minor and not much of a concern, or they can be quite terrifying, alerting the carrier of a very high risk person. This is why it’s so important to prepare yourself as best you can, so your individual readings are as accurate as possible to your body’s highest performance.
Here we’re going to break down as many of blood profile items as we can. If you have results which are not normal, consult your doctor before making any assumptions.
Here is what a blood test for life insurance is looking for:
Heart and Arteries
Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a fatty substance which exists nearly everywhere throughout the body. While some is necessary and natural, too much can cause plaque build up in arteries, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the body. A good range lies between 140 and 199.
HDL – High-Density Lipoproteins are considered the good cholesterol because it offsets LDL, the bad cholesterol, from clogging up arteries. Men with more than 40 mg/dL and women with more than 50 mg/dL are less prone to heart attacks and strokes. Lower numbers show increased likelihood for arterial or heart disease.
LDL – Low-Density Lipoproteins are considered the bad cholesterol, and without a presence of HDL, block arteries. Having less than 129 mg/dL is recommended to ward off threats of arterial and heart diseases.
Cholesterol/HDL Ratio – When you divide total cholesterol by the amount HDL in your blood, it creates an indicator of heart health. A ratio beneath 5.0 is a strong indication of heart health, while a higher number means you do not have enough HDL to ward off plaque.
LDL/HDL Ratio – Another form of indication for heart health is by dividing your bad cholesterol by your good cholesterol. Having enough HDL to offset the LDL in your body means a low likelihood of heart disease, where a high number represents possible heart health problems. A ratio between 1 and 5 is ideal.
Triglycerides – Triglycerides are yet another type of fat within your body. As with cholesterol, higher numbers of lipids are signals of poor heart or arterial health. Triglycerides are more common with those who struggle with weight, use alcohol frequently, or may be diabetic. A number less than 150 is ideal.
Diuretic SCRN-U – This is a test strictly to detect the presence of a diuretic in your urine specimen you gave before your blood test. A diuretic is something which might enhance the frequency or production of urine, sometimes tied to medication used to prevent or control high blood pressure. This test is either positive or negative, with a negative showing no presence.
Beta SCRN – This is a test strictly to detect the presence of Beta Adrenergic Blockers (BAB, or Beta Blockers) which are generally the result of a prescription to treat things like heart disease, high blood pressure and other heart issues like murmurs or irregular beats. This test is either positive or negative, with a negative showing no presence.
BUN – BUN is short for Blood Urea Nitrogen, the direct result of the breakdown or metabolism of proteins in your urine. Urine chemical tests are to evaluate the health of the kidney and bladder functions. A high BUN score can be an early sign of kidney disease, bladder disease or other more general health concerns. A score less than 25 but at least 10 is considered optimal.
Kidney and Bladder
Creatinine – Another function of the kidneys, creatinine is expulsed into the urine after muscle or protein breakdown has occurred. Usually this test is alongside the BUN score, and ideal ranges are 0.7 to a max of 1.4.
Urine PH – PH is a measure of acidity, so the urine PH is a direct measure of how acidic your urine is. Ideal ranges are between 4.0 and 8.7. If you are dehydrated when you take your life insurance blood test and urinalysis, this number may be poorly represented.
Protein – Aside from the excretions of breakdown in proteins in urine, the overall protein score measures the total amount of protein in your urine. The kidneys best operate with low levels, and high protein in urine can be an early sign of one of the many kidney diseases. Numbers below 30 mg/dL are considered healthy.
Leukocyte – White blood cells are the cells in your body which fight infection, and Leukocyte Esterase present in your urine would indicate an infection in your urinary tract or kidneys. If you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), for example, this measurement would indicate so. This test is only a positive or negative, with a negative indicating no signs of infection.
Hemoglobin – As red blood cells move throughout your body, they are gathering and distributing oxygen, a key component. Attached to these cells may be hemoglobin if there is an infection or disease of the kidney, bladder or urinary tract. It should be noted for women of the presence of hemoglobin during her menstrual cycle, which is normal. This test is either positive or negative.
Urine Creatinine – Tied somewhat to the BUN score and creatinine test, the urine creatinine test measures how much creatinine is being expelled from the body in your urine. This number can vary for a number of reasons, especially for those using supplements, but can range as high as 260 mg/dL and still be considered normal.
Protein/Creatinine Ratio – When the protein and creatinine scores are known, they are compared to eachother to see how well the kidney is functioning on its own. Dividing protein by creatinine should result in a number less than 0.2.
Alkaline Phosphatase – AP, or alkaline phosphatase, is a simply a commonly occurring enzyme within both the liver and skeletal system. Although elevated levels tend to lend themselves to detecting liver or bone disorders or diseases, they occur naturally higher in children, pregnant women, and those who have recently experienced a broken bone. Less than 125 U/L is ideal.
Total Bilirubin – When red cells are broken down inside the body, a byproduct is bilirubin. Somewhat common in newborns in their first days of life, it causes the yellowing of skin called jaundice. If persistent, it may a cause of concern with either the liver or gallbladder. An acceptable range is 0.2 to 1.5 mg/dL.
AST – Aspartate Aminotransferase, also just AST, is a naturally occurring enzyme in both the heart muscles and liver. Indicative of muscle, liver or even heart diseases, it also rises after long durations of intense exercise. Optimal range is typically under 33 U/L.
ALT – Alanine Aminotransferase, also just ALT, is a liver enzyme created when liver disorders or diseases are present. High ALTs can be present with inflammation of the liver, where optimum range is between 0 and 45 U/L.
GGT – Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase, or GGT, is the third type of liver enzyme reviewed in your blood test, and it might indicate high activity or workload of the liver from drinking alcoholic beverages, high dosages or long exposure to medications, and liver disease. Numbers below 65 U/L are best.
Total Protein – Protein in the liver is viewed somewhat differently than urine, although it can still indicate disease or disorders with the liver. Both albumin and globulin (below) are used for the calculation, and a total or individual number outside the normal range could mean poor liver health or function.
Albumin – A measure of protein in the blood, it may mean several different things. Malnutrition is the most common, but it can also present liver disease. 5.2 g/dL is the maximum, with a minimum needed 3.8 g/dL.
Globulin – The other measure of protein, next to albumin, globulin measures separate health concerns. Commonly attributed to indications of immune disease, allergies or more, globulin should fall between 1.9 and 3.7 g/dL, no more or less.
Hepatitis B Surface Antigen – The first of two hepatitis tests, the Hep B surface antigen is the main detector of Hepatitis B. Chronic occurrence is a signal of liver disease, where a negative test results means there is no presence.
Hepatitis C Antibody – The second of the hepatitis tests, the presence of Hep C antibody in your blood would mean the Hepatitis C virus is in your liver. This could be both acute and chronic, but may be the initial sign of liver disease.
Serum HIV – To test whether someone has HIV/AIDS, the presence of this antibody would mean HIV, or it’s more advanced stage, AIDS, is present. It should be noted that a test of negative may not be fully correct, as the time to develop varies from person to person.
Blood Glucose – Glucose is sugar, so your blood glucose is the exact measure of how much sugar is present in your blood. High blood glucose scores are primarily used to diagnose and monitor diabetes, and those who are diabetic must closely watch this number on a regular basis. Your blood glucose should remain between 60 and 99 mg/dL, where a low number is hypoglycemia, and a higher is hyperglycemia.
Urine Glucose – Another indication of diabetes, if not found in blood, is sugar in urine, or urine glucose. Where the blood glucose level needs to remain a constant, urine glucose should test a negative. Positive notes cite diabetic complications or some other type of health condition.
Fructosamine – Fructose is another sugar, and fructosamine is a measurement of this blood sugar level over a longer period of time, like 2 or 3 weeks. For those with diabetes, fluctuations or out of range numbers mean the diabetes is not controlled, and could result in changes of diet, prescription or units of insulin. Acceptable ranges are 1.2 to 2.0 mmol/L.
You can see the life insurance company is looking at main organ function, major illnesses, or levels of blood or urine which are well outside of common ranges. Even if your numbers are slightly high or low, the cumulative of each category may be more indicative than the individual measurement.
Yes, there are alternatives to buy life insurance without doing the blood test. No exam life insurance policies can be purchased, with some limitations, by most individuals who are reasonably healthy. If health is a concern, burial insurance may be the best solution.
What are the limitations?
- Higher Cost Per Thousand
- Limited Death Benefit
- Lower Carrier Availability
But there are certain benefits, as well:
- Coverage can be obtained in days, instead of weeks!
- There are no needles to worry about!
- There are no visits by an examiner!
- For those who haven’t been to the doctor in a while and aren’t sure about their internal health, they can secure no exam coverage first before going through the blood test for fully underwritten term life.
While you may not care much about the life insurance blood test (most don’t), you may need coverage faster now, and settle into another policy after you have more time to review your options. If you’re on a deadline for coverage, like divorce, business loans, or otherwise, you may want to start with this type.