Depending on the type of life insurance you’re looking to buy, you may be required to complete a medical exam, including life insurance blood testing. After you submit an application for life insurance, most carriers will request that you complete a medical exam, depending on the policy type, so the company can accurately determine your premium. Blood tests are typically a standard part of these exams as they can provide key details about your medical history and health.

Why do life insurance companies use blood tests?

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 typically be recorded, as well as other medical information, such as what medications you take. You may have to give a urine sample. In some cases, an EKG may be performed.

All of this information is designed to inform your potential insurer about your health to determine whether you are eligible for coverage and what your premium should be. 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 healthier individuals typically see the lowest premiums. 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, or they may charge you high premiums to compensate for the risk.

What life insurance blood tests test for

Life insurance blood tests have several purposes. They may provide specific information about your health and verify what you have stated in your application. For example, if you stated in your application that you are not a smoker, but your blood test indicates the presence of nicotine in your blood, that may raise a red flag for the company.

Insurance companies may use blood tests to look for the following:

  • HIV or AIDS: HIV and AIDS are far more manageable health conditions for many people than they used to be. 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 have had one, you’ll likely want to include that information on your application so that the company is aware prior to the blood test.
  • Cholesterol: Your insurer is usually interested in your total cholesterol level and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. 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 percent, 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 may be a greater chance you will be turned down for a policy, and you will probably pay more for coverage.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes usually makes it more difficult to acquire life insurance. However, if your diabetes is actively managed, you may still qualify for coverage.
  • Drugs: The presence of illegal substances in your blood will likely cause your insurer to deny your application, especially if it was not disclosed on the application. If you are taking a prescribed medication, you’ll likely want 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 likely lead to higher rates. If you are wearing a patch, use a nicotine vape or chew nicotine gum, you may want to indicate this in your application, since the blood test cannot differentiate how the nicotine entered your system.
  • Liver disease: A blood test will check liver enzymes for various factors, including total bilirubin, protein, albumin and globulin. It can also see if you have any form of hepatitis, which is a liver disease that can affect your health, and may affect your life insurance premium and risk class.
  • Enzyme levels: Checking your enzyme levels can show if there is inflammation around your organs, which could include some cardiac or liver conditions. The results may prevent you from being approved or alter your final life insurance risk group and rate.

How to prepare for a life insurance blood test

The life insurance company or medical examiner may give you instructions on how to prepare for your exam and blood test. Additionally, following these steps may help you get ready for a blood test:

  • Schedule your exam carefully: Many people choose to schedule their exam first thing in the morning so they feel energized and relaxed. You may want to take a couple of hours off work so you can prepare for the exam and not feel rushed.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well: In the days and hours leading up to your exam, you may want to focus on drinking plenty of water and eating balanced meals.
  • Get adequate sleep before your exam: Getting plenty of sleep may ensure you feel well-rested for the exam and might help keep your blood pressure in check.
  • Bring relevant medical information and identification: Even if you have already provided it to the insurance company, you may want to bring a copy of your medical history in case you need the information as a reference during the exam. You may need a government-issued ID to prove you are yourself at the exam.
  • Avoid strenuous activities prior to your exam: A light workout a few hours before your exam may help you feel calm and relaxed, but you likely want to avoid intense activity the day of the exam. Strenuous exercise can change your blood pressure readings.
  • Wear lightweight clothing: Wearing comfortable, loose clothing may help you feel relaxed and could make the blood drawing process easier.

Frequently asked questions

    • Most life insurance companies use medical exams to determine eligibility and pricing for certain types of life insurance policies. However, whether the exam is required and whether it includes a blood test likely depends on the company you’re working with and the policy type you’re pursuing.
    • In some situations, people can get life insurance without a medical exam or blood test. Guaranteed life insurance policies do not require medical exams, although you may still need to complete a health questionnaire. Guaranteed life insurance is a form of whole life insurance that typically has a fairly low coverage level and higher premium to offset the risk of potentially issuing policies to older individuals or those in poor health. Some companies may also offer term policies with no medical exams, although those too typically have higher premiums and lower coverage levels.
    • These blood tests generally look for health indicators, illicit substances and confirmation of information provided on your life insurance application. Blood examinations may reveal signs of high cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, which can indicate potential health risks or conditions. Blood work can also show the presence of nicotine, some medications and controlled substances. Asking your insurance provider about their specific blood test procedures may provide more insight into health factors the company is looking for.
    • How you prepare for a blood test may look different depending on your lifestyle and health status. In general, you may want to eat balanced meals, hydrate, get plenty of sleep and avoid excess stress in the days leading up to your blood test. Speaking with your personal physician may provide details on how you specifically can set yourself up for success before your blood test.