Skip to Main Content

Understanding Life Insurance Blood Tests

An older nurse drawing blood from a woman.
RgStudio/Getty Images
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . This content is powered by (NPN: 8781838). For more information, please see our

If you have ever applied for life insurance, you may already know that a blood test is part of the application process for most policies. This blood test takes place during the medical exam that is scheduled after the company has reviewed your application and decided to proceed.

The importance of life insurance blood testing

For your life insurance blood test, a representative of the insurer or their medical exam partner will come to your home or office, or you will go to an exam center. The blood test is not the only task of the examiner. Your height and weight will be recorded, as well as other medical information such as what medications you take. You may have to give a urine sample. In rare cases, an EKG will be performed.

All of this information is designed to tell your potential insurer whether or not you are a good candidate for a policy. The life insurance business is built around the concept of risk. The state of your health can place you in one of several “risk groups,” where progressively higher rates are assigned as health declines. If there is a high risk that you will pass away during the life of the policy, companies may not be willing to issue you a policy. If, on the other hand, you are healthy, the risk of death decreases, making you a better candidate for a policy.

So, for example, if your blood test and exam show you to be in excellent physical health, you may be assigned to the preferred plus (sometimes called “super preferred”) group. People in this group will be offered the lowest policy premiums. If you are assigned to the standard or substandard groups, you may still be able to purchase a policy, but your rate will be higher.

What life insurance companies are looking for

The life insurance blood test has several purposes. First, it is designed to determine certain facts about your general health. Second, it will confirm information that you have given in your application. For example, if you stated in the application that you are not a smoker, but the blood test indicates the presence of nicotine in your blood, that raises a red flag for the company.

Blood tests can indicate the following health conditions:

  • HIV or AIDS: AIDS is no longer the death sentence that it once was, and some insurers now consider it a chronic condition. If you are getting proper care for your HIV, you may not be denied coverage, but you may pay a higher premium.
  • STDs: Having a sexually transmitted disease does not mean you will not be able to get a policy. If you have or had one, include that information on your application so that the company is aware prior to the blood test.
  • Cholesterol: Your insurer is interested in your total cholesterol level and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, which is considered good to have. Ultimately, your cholesterol level can have an impact on your risk group and policy premium.
  • Hemoglobin A1C, glucose levels: Hemoglobin measures your long-term blood sugar levels. If it is elevated above 5.7%, you could be at risk of diabetes. Glucose measures blood sugar levels at the time of testing. An optimal range prior to eating is 80-130 mg per deciliter.
  • Kidney disease: As is true for all chronic conditions, if you have kidney disease there is a greater chance you will be turned down for a policy, and you will probably pay more for one when you are able to get it. If you have kidney disease, talk to an agent about the possibility of a policy that does not require a medical exam.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes makes it more difficult to acquire life insurance. You will be more likely to be approved if you have Type 2 diabetes and were diagnosed later in life. If your diabetes can be controlled with diet, you may qualify for lower rates.
  • Drugs: The presence of illegal substances in your blood will likely cause your insurer to deny your application. If you are taking a legally prescribed medication, be sure to indicate it on your application so there are no surprises for the insurer on the blood test.
  • Nicotine: Any sign of nicotine or cotinine in your system will lead to higher rates. If you are wearing a patch, indicate this in your app, since the blood test cannot differentiate how the nicotine entered your system.

Things to consider before your life insurance blood test

You will need to fast for 8-12 hours before your blood test, so it is best to schedule it for early in the morning. You may be asked about information that you included on your application, so be prepared to answer questions about your health. You may also consider talking to a doctor about what to eat in the week leading up to a blood test.

You may also want to avoid taking any decongestants or over-the-counter cold and flu medications, as these could result in false positives for illegal substances.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best life insurance company?

Since there are many factors that determine each premium — your health conditions, budget, the length of the policy and more — the best life insurance company for your neighbor might not be the best one for you. A good place to start your search is with our Best Life Insurance Companies of 2021 listing.

What is guaranteed life insurance?

Guaranteed life insurance is a type of policy for people who have underlying health conditions or other reasons why they cannot get approved for a regular term or whole life policy. Guaranteed life insurance does not require a medical exam or health screening. These policies tend to cost more and have a low death benefit, generally around $25,000.

What factors impact my life insurance premium?

The biggest factor is your general health: whether you have a chronic illness, if you are a smoker or heavy drinker, and more. The type of policy (term or whole life), the length of the policy and the amount of the death benefit also impact your cost.

How much life insurance do I need?

The amount of life insurance you need will be dependent upon several factors, including your income level, debt level, and if you wish to leave money to your family to replace your lost income. Talk to your insurance agent about your specific life insurance needs.

Written by
Mary Van Keuren
Insurance Contributor
Mary Van Keuren has written for insurance domains such as Bankrate,, and The Simple Dollar for the past five years, specializing in home and auto insurance. She has also written extensively for consumer websites including and Slumber Yard. Prior to that, she worked as a writer in academia for several decades.