Life Insurance – Medical Qualification

Sure, you can get just about as much insurance as you're willing to pay for, but first there is that medical exam. Seth Legatowicz of the Pilot Insurance Center gives you the inside track on medical underwriting when applying for life insurance.


My company specializes in providing pilots with the lowest term life rates available … if you qualify medically. Typically, an insurance company requires a life insurance medical exam before they can approve your policy and provide you with a final premium rate. After taking your application for life insurance, your agent will call a paramedical service that specializes in mobile exams to contact you and schedule this exam. The insurance company will pay for the medical examination and nearly all of these exams can be completed at your home or office.

The Insurance Medical Examination

The typical exam consists of a height/weight check, blood pressure reading, blood draw, urine specimen, and a series of medical history questions. An EKG could also be required and is based on your age and the amount of insurance you are buying.Even if you are in excellent health, the insurance medical exam can bring out the worst in you if you let it. Think of the medical exam as a picture of your health that the insurance company takes of you. This one snapshot is what they use to evaluate your current health status. So if you run marathons regularly but decide to have a double bacon cheeseburger with fries the day of your medical exam it could cost you on your results.Eat and drink sensibly for at least the 24 hours leading up to your medical exam. You want the best results possible in order to qualify for the best insurance premium rate available so don’t take chances. As an agent, I remember countless cases where applicants have encountered isolated incidents of high blood pressure, cholesterol, liver enzymes, etc., caused by eating or drinking excessively within the 24-hour period before their medical exams.The difference between one premium class and another is usually 20-30% so give yourself every opportunity to qualify for the very best class that you can.

Disclose Your Complete Medical History

In order to save precious time during the underwriting process, make sure that you provide complete records of your medical history. Don’t even attempt to keep your medical history undisclosed in order to qualify for a better insurance rate. Insurance companies can easily track down your medical records through the results of your insurance medical exam or through the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), a clearinghouse of medical information that insurers share. Matter of fact, each time you apply for life insurance and take a medical exam your results and records are sent to the MIB. This information is accessible by all insurance companies so if you decide to look for insurance through other carriers they will have the ability to view your past insurance medical records and offers.If you have any medical history it is best to provide your doctor’s contact information so that the insurer can request your records from the doctor’s office if need be. Many times, the insurance company will require an APS (Attending Physician Statement) from your doctor that is treating or has treated you in the past if you have had any significant medical history. If you are one of the lucky ones and have been fortunate to have no medical history, simply do not list a doctor on the application — just state None. In other words, do not list a doctor just to list one. Otherwise, you could waste valuable time by triggering the insurance company to hunt down your medical history from the physician you listed when you do not have any such records.

Don’t Let Your Rates Go Up In Smoke

The fact of the matter is that insurance companies see two types of people: smokers and non-smokers. If you smoke one cigarette a week you will be in the same insurance premium class as someone who smokes a pack per day! If you smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day you will pay even more. The premium rates for smokers can easily be two to three times the rates for non-smokers. Through research and medical studies, insurance companies believe that smoking increases the risk of premature death.

What About Non-Cigarette Tobacco Use?

Most insurance companies will treat non-cigarette tobacco use favorably to cigarette smoking. In many cases, non-cigarette tobacco users can actually qualify for non-tobacco premium classes and receive significant savings over the cigarette rates.Non-cigarette tobacco use that may qualify for non-smoker premium classes:

  • Cigar
  • Pipe
  • Chewing Tobacco

What If You Stop Smoking?

For cigarette smokers, you will need to be smoke-free for at least one year before you can qualify for a standard non-smoking rate; two years to qualify for a preferred non-smoking rate. Most non-cigarette tobacco users can qualify for a preferred non-smoking rate after just one year of being tobacco-free.

The More You Weigh, The More You Pay

Being overweight can cost you a pretty penny on your life insurance. Insurance companies use height and weight guidelines to determine what premium class an individual will qualify for. (See chart at bottom of this article.) These guidelines provide a desired weight for males and females based on their height. Each premium class has a certain height and weight maximum to qualify for that given rate. If you are above the maximum, you will be dropped to the next appropriate premium class.Studies from the American Medical Association show that being overweight has a correlation to health problems. Matter of fact, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, excess weight is linked to 280,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Insurance companies decided that if individuals are overweight, they will likely have other health issues, such as high cholesterol or blood pressure readings. Even if you are 10 pounds over the insurance company’s desired height/weight chart, you will be given a higher rate.

If Your Application is Rated or Declined?

If a medical problem is discovered from your medical background or your insurance medical exam results, you may be offered a rated, or substandard, premium. This would result in a higher premium rate if you choose to accept the life insurance policy. If you disagree with the insurer’s analysis of your medical background and the final quote you receive, contact your agent. A good insurance agent should stand up for you and dispute the rating. This could lead to further medical exams or requesting of more records from your doctor but could also provide you with a better rate in the end.If you decide not to accept the rated life insurance policy, this medical information becomes part of your record in the MIB (Medical Information Bureau), which stores information for seven years.Finally, if your coverage is declined due to health, call your agent and request the results of your life insurance medical exam to be sent to you. For one, you should take the results to your physician for review and analysis. Secondly, there are insurance companies that specialize in accepting impaired risk policies and they may be able to cover you. Often these insurance companies will take into account the severity of your condition when deciding whether or not to offer you coverage and for what price.

Desirable Weight Range