What to Expect During a Life Insurance Blood Test

Updated

Are you familiar with “trypanophobia?” You’re not alone if you aren’t. Trypanophobia is the “persistent and irrational fear of needles.” If you suffer from it, chances are that you’re not going to be applying for a traditional life insurance policy anytime soon (some burial policies require no medical exam but are much more expensive policies).

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If you’ve never had a blood test when you applied for a life insurance policy, this article is going to help. We’ll look at why insurance companies sometimes require a blood test, what the test is meant to find (or not find), how you can best prepare for a blood test, and more.

Why Do Some Life Insurance Companies Require a Blood Test?

If there’s one thing that life insurance companies are good at, it’s crunching numbers. And your blood test results give them a lot of numbers to crunch. Life insurers use the blood test to determine if you’re a risk worth taking and how much they’ll charge if you are. They employ teams of “actuaries,” whose job is to look at your numbers and let their insurer know what the chances are that you’ll die while insured with them and what the potential risk is.

Some life insurance companies don’t require a blood test for some of their policies. You can buy two primary types of life insurance policies if you have an aversion to needles: simplified issue and guaranteed issue.

Simplified issue: These policies don’t require you to have your blood drawn and tested, but they require you to complete a short medical history questionnaire. They use your answers to decide if they are going to offer you coverage. Since the insurer is increasing their risk by not knowing what your blood test results are, they’re going to charge you more for this type of insurance than they would for standard whole life or term life insurance. You can be declined for simplified issue coverage.

Guaranteed issue. These policies have even more liberal underwriting than simplified issue. Not only is a blood test not required, but you also don’t have any medical questions to answer. You cannot be declined for guaranteed issue coverage. Still, you will pay a much higher rate for it, and the face amount the insurance company will approve you for is usually capped, such as having a $25,000 maximum death benefit.

What Do Life Insurance Blood Tests Detect?

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to hide medical information from a life insurance company. There is a central clearinghouse for information on life insurance applicants that all life insurers share data with. This includes the results of previous blood tests you may have taken when you bought life insurance. Insurers place great weight on blood test results when deciding to insure someone or not.

Blood tests can detect disorders such as diabetes and cancer, and indicate if you use substances such as nicotine, tobacco, or other drugs. Your blood test sample is evaluated based on a “normal range,” which is determined by blood levels found in 95% of people in a particular gender, age, or racial group.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has stated that desirable blood levels include:

Blood glucose

70 to 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)

Total cholesterol level

Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)

Less than 100 mg/dL

HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)

60 mg/dL and above

But these numbers are not cast in stone; some life insurers are more lenient than others. For example, one major life insurance company approves applicants with total cholesterol levels of 220, and another approves policies for people with cholesterol levels ranging from 120 to 300, with or without treatment.

Concerning drugs, your application will be denied if your blood test results indicate that you use any illegal drugs, such as opiates or amphetamines. Marijuana is an exception to this rule as each insurer evaluates the consumption of marijuana differently.

Nicotine usage can also be a bit tricky for life insurers. You may have given up smoking but still test positive for nicotine if you’re using a nicotine patch. Someone who has an occasional cigar will also be classified as a smoker, which means an increase in their rates. Remember, the life insurance company can cancel your policy if they find out you are a smoker, so honesty is the best policy.

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What Happens During a Life Insurance Blood Test?

A life insurance blood test is part of a life insurance medical examination, also known as a paramedical or paramed exam. It usually takes no longer than 30 minutes and is paid for by the insurance company. Paramedical companies will come to either your home or office and often offer weekend appointments, as well.

They’ll ask you many questions about your medical history during the exam, take your height and weight measurements to evaluate your height-to-weight ratio, perform a blood pressure check, obtain a urine sample, and draw blood for your blood test. 

The urine test also provides valuable information that insurance companies use to determine your eligibility and your rates. It can detect a wide range of diseases and disorders, such as kidney disease, diabetes, urinary tract infection, and liver disease. It’s also commonly used to detect prescription drugs you’re taking, along with addictive, illegal drugs such as methamphetamine.

The person performing the exam may request that you sign an authorization form that gives the insurance company authorization to request your medical records from your doctor. This provides the insurer with a more complete picture of your health history, which will help them decide on your insurability.

What Happens If You Pass or Fail the Blood Test?

Once the examiner leaves with your samples, the waiting game begins— and it can seem like an eternity. The laboratory that runs the tests on your blood sample will provide the life insurance company with their findings. The results are similar to some exams you took in school—pass or fail.

If you pass the blood test, the insurance company has determined that you’re an acceptable risk. But you’re not entirely out of the woods yet. The insurer may decide to issue you a policy, but at a higher rate than their standard rate because of something they found in your blood work.

For example, the blood test results might show that your cholesterol level is outside of the normal range just enough that they’ll insure you but charge you extra because of it. They may raise your monthly premium rate by 25%, making a $100-per-month premium a $125-per-month premium. This could add up to a substantial amount of money if you were to keep your policy for many years.

If you fail the blood test, the first thing you want to do is find out why. Contact the life insurance company (your agent can’t give you your results because of privacy laws) and request a copy of your test results. If the test shows something that you question, request a second exam from the insurance company.

For example, you may have been to a high school reunion the night before your exam and drank a substantial amount of alcohol, to the point that you were impaired. Because of this, test results from the blood drawn the following day may indicate decreased liver functions, which are a direct result of your celebrating. This would be a valid reason to request a second exam.

Other options you have include asking your agent about companies with more liberal underwriting (you’ll pay more) and companies that offer guaranteed issue policies (you’ll pay a lot more).

You Can Pass Even If You Fail

Even though you may fail your blood test and be denied the life insurance coverage you’re applying for, negative results could save your life. There are many documented cases where serious medical conditions were detected and subsequently treated. They’ve saved applicants from complications of diabetes or indicated the presence of cancer, allowing the applicant to catch it in its early stages.

Many people consider an examination for life insurance to be a “free physical.” By having a blood test as part of your application process, you may not only be issued a life insurance policy, but you’ll have greater peace of mind knowing the results of your test.

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