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What Does The Life Insurance Blood Test Look For?

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When you apply for life insurance, you will probably be expected to submit to a blood test to assess your overall health, risk of diseases, and drug use.

A blood test is required by the majority of life insurance companies because it paints a more accurate picture of your health than your medical records alone.

What Is the Life Insurance Blood Test?

The life insurance blood test is a medical exam requirement where a third party paramedical company sends a nurse to draw blood (and get a urine sample) from a life insurance applicant.

When you apply for life insurance, the life insurance companies evaluate you as a risk.

Your risk class, paired with your age, gender and base policy information will determine what you pay.

The life insurance blood test results give the carrier very specific health information about you which allows them to make exact estimates of your current physical health.

The less of a risk you pose, the lower your premium will be.

How Does the Life Insurance Blood Test Work?

Once you submit your application, you’ll be prompted to choose a convenient date and time for your exam.

Here’s what you can expect on the day of the exam:

  1. Background info: When your examiner arrives, you’ll need your driver’s license to confirm your identity before proceeding.
  2. Medical overview: You’ll be asked simple health questions about tobacco use, major medical concerns, and the frequency and dosage of your medications.
  3. Measurements: The examiner will then measure your height and weight, followed by your blood pressure.
  4. Urinalysis: You’ll clear your pockets, remove large clothing items, and follow the examiner to the restroom, where they’ll provide a cup for the specimen. They’ll seal and label the sample.
  5. Blood draw: Once the examiner has retrieved a couple vials of blood, they will seal and label them. For some, this takes just a moment, while others may take several minutes.
  6. Signature: You will now sign the examination forms and initial in several areas, which will be added to the vials and specimen containers.
  7. EKG: Your age or policy amount might warrant an EKG under the watch of the examiner, which could last 20 minutes.

Without the EKG, the life insurance medical exam should take no longer than 20 minutes.

The blood profile is then analyzed and sent to the insurance company you applied to for evaluation.

Typically, this is paid for by the insurance company at no cost to you. The exam results are good for up to six months.

Why Are Blood Tests Required?

The blood test aids in assessing your overall risk to the insurance company.

Additionally, the blood test has the following uses:

  1. It confirms the validity of the answers on your application.
  2. It could reveal prescriptions you neglected to mention.
  3. It could reveal the use of any illicit drug use.
  4. It could reveal undisclosed tobacco or marijuana use.

Confirmation

When you start your application, you’re given the benefit of the doubt and start at the best rate.

Based on your answers, that rating moves either up or down. If you describe yourself as healthy, the company will offer you a great rate unless they find a reason not to.

If the medical exam results show something different, your rate will move down. Even if you feel you are 100% healthy and have never been prescribed medication, your blood analysis could reveal an un-diagnosed condition.

Prescriptions

Your blood shows traces of the medications you’re currently taking. Insurance companies can also run a prescription check.

While it may have very little impact on your daily life, the long term use of any medication can impact major organs or bodily functions.

You may not currently have high blood pressure, but the blood test will reveal whether or not that is a result of medication.

This might not increase your rate, but it can alert the insurance company to possible long term concerns.

Drug Use

It shouldn’t come as a shock that the life insurance blood test is scanning for illegal drug use, but it may actually be a little more complicated than you think.

The food you eat, supplements you take, or other extraneous variables can give a false positive, from men and women who work out with supplements to the person who had a poppy seed bagel for breakfast.

To avoid a false positive, talk to your examiner about anything you think might show up.

Tobacco Use

Certain drugs which have changing regulations may not necessarily have an impact on your rates, but you should still tell your agent and examiner.

Marijuana, for example, will not get you disqualified, but it may earn you tobacco rates.

You should never 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.

What Is the Blood Test Looking For?

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, which can flag your life insurance carrier of added risk.

In general, here is what a blood test for life insurance is looking for, and what each component means:

Heart and Arteries

  • Cholesterol: 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, the good cholesterol, offsets LDL 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.
  • LDL: Low-Density Lipoproteins are considered the bad cholesterol, and without the 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: 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: Having enough HDL to offset the LDL in your body means a low likelihood of heart disease. A ratio between 1 and 5 is ideal.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are more common with those who struggle with weight, use alcohol frequently, or who may be diabetic. A number less than 150 is ideal.
  • Diuretic SCRN-U:  A diuretic enhances the frequency or production of urine, sometimes tied to medication that controls high blood pressure. This test is either positive or negative, with negative meaning no presence.
  • Beta SCRN: Beta-Adrenergic Blockers (BAB, or Beta-Blockers) are generally the result of a prescription for heart disease, high blood pressure, and other heart issues. This test is either positive or negative as well.
  • BUN:  A high BUN, or Blood Urea Nitrogen 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: 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: The kidneys best operate with low levels of protein in the urine; high levels can be an early sign of kidney disease. Numbers below 30 mg/dL are considered healthy.
  • Leukocyte: White blood cells fight infection, and Leukocyte Esterase present in urine indicates an infection in the urinary tract or kidneys. This test is only a positive or negative, with a negative indicating no signs of infection.
  • Hemoglobin: Hemoglobin attaches to red blood cells if there is an infection or disease of the kidney, bladder or urinary tract. Note hemoglobin is a normal finding in a woman during her menstrual cycle. This test is either positive or negative.
  • Urine Creatinine: The urine creatinine test measures how much creatinine is being expelled from the body in your urine. This number can vary, especially for those using supplements, but can be considered normal up to 260 mg/dL.
  • Protein/Creatinine Ratio: When the protein and creatinine scores are known, they are compared to see how well the kidney is functioning on its own. Dividing protein by creatinine should result in a number less than 0.2.

Liver

  • Alkaline Phosphatase: AP is a commonly occurring enzyme in the liver and skeletal system. Elevated levels can detect liver or bone diseases, but they also occur naturally higher in children, pregnant women, and those with recent broken bones. Less than 125 U/L is ideal.
  • Total Bilirubin: The byproduct of red cells broken down inside the body, bilirubin is somewhat common in newborns, causing 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 is a naturally occurring enzyme in the heart muscles and liver. Indicative of muscle, liver or heart diseases, it also rises after long durations of intense exercise. Optimal range is typically under 33 U/L.
  • ALT: Alanine Aminotransferase 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 is a liver enzyme that might indicate high activity or workload of the liver from alcohol, 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 differently than urine, though it can still indicate disease or disorders. 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: 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 result means there is no presence.
  • Hepatitis C Antibody: The presence of the 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.

Pancreas

  • Blood Glucose: High blood glucose scores are primarily used to diagnose and monitor diabetes. 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 the urine. Where the blood glucose level needs to remain a constant, urine glucose should test negative. Positive notes cite diabetic complications or some other type of health condition.
  • Fructosamine: A measurement of the fructose level over a longer period of time, like 2 or 3 weeks. For those with diabetes, fluctuations mean the diabetes is not controlled and could result in changes in diet, prescription or units of insulin. Acceptable ranges are 1.2 to 2.0 mmol/L.

Other

  • Serum HIV: To test whether someone has HIV/AIDS, the presence of this antibody would mean HIV, or its 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.

As you can see, the life insurance company is looking at the main organ functions, major illnesses, and levels of blood or urine which are well outside of common ranges.

Even if your numbers are slightly high or low, you shouldn’t necessarily worry as the cumulative of each category may be more indicative than the individual measurement.

Can You Access the Results of Your Life Insurance Blood Test?

Due to HIPAA laws, few people have access to your results.

In order to get your results, you have a couple of options:

  1. Request directly from the exam company for them to be mailed.
  2. 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.

However, if you are rated down for any reason, you can request information on why. The company won’t send your entire test results, but they will share the piece of the blood profile which was a cause for concern.

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.

An independent agent should be able to help you arrange this.

How to Avoid the Life Insurance Blood Test

Whether you swoon at the thought of drawing blood or don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of undergoing a medical exam, there are alternatives.

No exam life insurance policies can be purchased, with some limitations, by most individuals who are reasonably healthy.

Just note that purchasing coverage without undergoing the blood test does come with some drawbacks.

  • Higher cost per thousand
  • Limited death benefits
  • Lower carrier availability

But there are certain benefits, as well:

  1. Coverage can be obtained in days, or even minutes, instead of weeks.
  2. There are no needles to worry about.
  3. You don’t have to schedule a visit with an examiner.
  4. If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while and aren’t sure about your internal health, you can secure no exam coverage without going through the blood test for fully underwritten term life insurance.

Even if you aren’t too concerned about the life insurance blood test, you may need quick coverage depending on your circumstances.

Skipping the blood test means you could not only avoid the paramedical exam procedure, but get covered in as little as 24 hours, instead of 24 days.

Tips for the Life Insurance Blood Test

If you do decide to undergo the blood test, you could save money on coverage in the long run.

Here are a few tips that can help you get the best results from your life insurance blood test, from start to finish:

Scheduling the Exam

  • Schedule soon: Have your exam completed on the earliest possible date you can. During those first 2-3 days, motor vehicle records, MIB history, and application processing have begun.
  • 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, just in case. Most of the time, the exam only takes 15-20 minutes, but it could be longer.
  • Keep in touch: Know how to contact your examiner. It is not the responsibility of your agent to make sure the examiner keeps their appointment.
  • Book together: If both you and your spouse are getting life insurance, schedule your exams together, even if you are applying to different companies. Just remind the examiner you are applying for separate carriers so they’ll have the appropriate paperwork.

Preparing for the Exam

Now that you’ve scheduled your exam, there’s still preparation to do beforehand.

Remember, anything you can do to get the best results possible will lower your premiums.

  • Drink water: Within a couple of days of your exam, drink plenty of water. The benefits of drinking water are vast, and 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.
  • Eat smart: Stuffing yourself on fast food, pizza, large portions of red meat or sugars can throw off several different ranges within your blood profile.
  • Continue prescriptions: Forgetting to take your medication or skipping it might result in showing your previous medical concerns are not being taken care of properly.
  • Collect information: Have medical records, doctor’s information, prescription information and your driver’s license handy. Also, remember any important policy details

After the Exam

At this point, there is little for you to do, but there is plenty going on behind the scenes of your pending application.

  • Contact your agent: 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.
  • Contact your doctor: You can also reach out to your doctor(s) to let them know you’ve applied for life insurance. The insurance company will request an Attending Physicians Statements (APS). By contacting your physician, you can attempt to move along the process.

Author:

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Jason Fisher

Jason Fisher is the founder and CEO of BestLifeRates.org, LLC. and a multi-state licensed life insurance agent who has helped over a million Americans seek out affordable coverage, compare quotes, or get their family and businesses covered.

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