Applying for life insurance is a multi-step process. One part of the process for most policies is the medical exam, which includes a blood test. This occurs after the application is submitted and helps the insurance company decide if they will approve your application and what rate you will pay.

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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 generally 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 likely 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, especially if it was not disclosed on the 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, use a nicotine vape or chew nicotine gum, indicate this in your app, since the blood test cannot differentiate how the nicotine entered your system. Keep in mind that any presence of nicotine or cotinine in your system, regardless of how it got there, may cause you to be classified as a tobacco user. Learn more about how tobacco use can affect your life insurance application.
  • 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 could prevent you from being approved or alter your final life insurance risk group and rate.

Things to consider before your life insurance blood test

There are things you can do to prepare for your life insurance blood test prior to your appointment. Following these steps can help you get ready for the exam:

  • Fast for 8 to 12 hours prior to your appointment. Scheduling your exam for early morning can make this easier if you are not used to fasting during the day.
  • Stay hydrated and flush out toxins by drinking plenty of water.
  • Consider bringing a copy of your life insurance application. If you get nervous before an exam, it could help you remember your health information and medication details.
  • Bring a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport.
  • Do not take over-the-counter medications. Things like diet pills or decongestants can cause false readings for illegal substances. If you have to take something, be sure to disclose it to the medical professional administering your test.
  • Avoid strenuous activities prior to your exam. Intense activity can change your blood pressure readings.
  • Get adequate sleep before your exam. It’s important to be well-rested, and it can also help keep your blood pressure in check. Experts recommend getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Do not take anything that could change your blood pressure. Things like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can affect your blood pressure prior to your exam.

Frequently asked questions

    • 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 2022 listing.
    • 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.
    • 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 permanent life), the length of the policy and the amount of the death benefit also impact your cost.
    • 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 or use a life insurance needs calculator to help you get a general idea.
    • Before a blood test, you should not take part in strenuous activities, smoke, overeat or eat or drink certain foods, such as herbal tea, alcohol or smoked meats. Avoiding medications (except those prescribed to you), supplements and sexual activity can also help you prepare for your blood test.