What Should I Expect from my Life Insurance Medical Exam?

If you're in the market for life insurance, you may be overwhelmed by your options. Even after several decades of consolidation, more than 1,000 life insurance companies continue to operate in the United States. Many of these companies are relatively small organizations that cater their products and services to members of particular demographic groups. Other small outfits operate in specific geographical locations. Only a few dozen life insurance companies operate on a national basis. These include recognizable outfits like MetLife, Northwestern Mutual and Gerber Life.

Whether you choose a friendly "neighborhood" life insurer or a national brand that offers immediate name recognition, chances are good that you'll be required to undergo a medical exam before your application for insurance can be finalized. You shouldn't be nervous about this exam. In most cases, it will consist of a routine physical examination, a few perfunctory questions about your medical history and current habits, and a series of blood or urine tests. From start to finish, the procedure should take 30 to 60 minutes of your time.

Your pre-approval medical exam will probably go relatively smoothly. During the physical examination, you'll be asked to perform some basic physical activities. As you're doing so, you'll be subjected to a routine series of measurements. For instance, you'll be outfitted with a heart-monitoring device and asked to walk on a treadmill for a few minutes. The doctor who administers your exam will record the amount by which your heart rate increases and determine whether you're reasonably healthy. Further, you might be subjected to a standard heart-and-lung examination by a trained nurse or doctor. This examination typically requires the use of a stethoscope. You might also be given a cursory reflex examination using a standard reflex hammer.

Your medical questionnaire will consist of a few straightforward questions. Since recent tobacco use will almost certainly raise the cost of your life insurance policy by a considerable margin, you'll be asked about your daily tobacco habits. You may also be asked about your alcohol use, sleep patterns and other basic body functions. If your answers are logical and consistent, this part of the examination should take only a few minutes.

Finally, you'll be required to supply a blood sample for a standard cholesterol test. In most cases, your blood won't be screened for pathogens or other potential contaminants. You'll also be given a urine test that will measure the levels of nicotine and certain drug metabolites in your system.

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