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Can You Get Life Insurance Without a Medical Exam?

Published March 22, 2021

5 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

For most people, life insurance is an important financial backup. After all, everyone wants to ensure that their family will be financially taken care of if they are suddenly gone. Unfortunately, most major life insurance policies require a fairly thorough medical exam. That typically means filling out a questionnaire about your (and your family’s) medical history, a blood test, a urine test, and a basic recording of your height and weight. For many Americans, the results of these exams can mean much more expensive life insurance premiums. For others, it can mean not qualifying for life insurance at all. That begs the question: can you get life insurance with no medical exam?

A Personal Story

I luckily cannot tell you from personal experience. However, I’m willing to bet that every fully insured patient on their deathbed is glad they diligently paid their policy premiums all those years. It’s probably not a stretch to say that those worried about their health get a bit jealous of hearing how others have policies that will protect their loved ones.

I still remember overhearing a family talk about their dad’s life insurance policy. It was when my dad was in the hospital for back surgery a few years ago. You see, my dad was in a shared room before his surgery. If you know what those are like, you’re aware how little privacy they provide. You will definitely hear anything going on in the room.

The actual details are a bit hazy to me now. However, it was another family’s reaction to that conversation that stuck with me to this day. Shortly after the conversation ended, the wife of the other patient in my dad’s room started crying because they didn’t have a life insurance policy in place. It was painful to hear. I still remember the mood of the room as she recounted all the hardship she’s faced (and would face) if her husband becomes incapacitated.

That episode really drove home  the importance of protecting my family’s standard of living. That bit seemed obvious to me, even back then. But I also remember thinking at the time, could that husband even get a life insurance policy now? I mean, he’s just having back surgery. It’s not like he’s on his deathbed with terminal cancer.

Most Life Insurance Applications Require a Medical Exam

To answer that question, I did a little digging. Life insurance policies usually require a medical exam. It’s an inconvenience, at the very least. It normally involves an in-person visit and takes about 30-to-60 minutes. Life insurers know this. That’s why the companies usually try to accommodate you. Some will even dispatch someone to your home to do the medical exam. Still, I doubt our friend from the above example would pass the exam if he’s in a hospital bed.

There are some insurance policies that don’t require in-person medical exams, but it’s really just another way of qualifying applicants. You still have to answer a pretty thorough medical questionnaire or conduct a phone interview. Those answers can be just as revealing as a blood test.

Personally, I think an in-person visit may even be more convenient. The lack of a face-to-face meeting can be helpful during the pandemic era. However, it generally doesn’t help anyone with pre-existing medical conditions become eligible for traditional life insurance policies. Plus most insurance companies will still ask you to do a physical medical exam if the phone interview or medical questionnaire raises any red flags.

Is There a True ‘No Medical Exam Required’ Life Insurance Policy?

Luckily, our friend isn’t out of options just yet. There are some life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam. The catch, though, is that these policies usually have a much smaller benefit amount. We are talking about $25,000-to-$50,000 in payouts upon death. That’s much lower than most standard life insurance policies.

Sometimes called burial insurance, guaranteed issue life insurance doesn’t require a medical exam. In fact, the insurer will approve even applicants with poor health as long as they aren’t suffering from a terminal illness. In other words, anyone can qualify as long as they aren’t in their deathbed. There are a few downsides though. These include:

This waiting period can last a couple of years, which is typical of guaranteed issue life insurance. TruStage offers such a policy, and the death benefit is limited to the paid premiums plus 10% for the first two years. Gerber Life is another alternative. The waiting period and terms are exactly the same with them.

What’s Simplified Issue Life Insurance Then?

You may hear about these “simplified issue life insurance policies” in your search for a plan without a medical exam. However, these policies aren’t the holy grail you might think. It’s all in the fine print. Instead of a medical exam, the insurers of these policies will still ask you to fill out a brief questionnaire detailing your medical history.

That may what you prefer. However, you will pay for the added convenience via a more expensive monthly premium. The maximum coverage is also limited, usually capping out at half a million dollars. So why would you want that instead of a standard policy?

There are two main reasons. Simplified issue life insurance policies usually ask more simplified questions. Therefore, more people will be able to qualify for them. The other major advantage is that these policies take less time to get approved. A traditional policy takes at least a couple weeks to set up (and typically takes six-to-eight weeks to get approved), a simplified issue policy can be approved in less than a week.

Don’t Forget Your Group Life Insurance

It didn’t seem like the gentlemen from our example had a group life insurance plan. However, you shouldn’t forget about that option if you happen to have that coverage yourself. Aside from the fact that you are guaranteed coverage (and won’t need a medical exam), most employers pay for a significant chunk of the monthly premium. Some companies even pay for all of it. Sure, the coverage is relatively low — usually one-to-two year’s salary. Still, getting any kind of subsidized life insurance coverage is always a really good deal.

This changes for those who want supplemental coverage through their employer. If you want more coverage through your employer provided insurance, it starts to look like a normal life insurance policy. You’ll be paying the premium and you’ll likely have to qualify. Yes, that means a medical exam.

The Bottom Line

Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. If you don’t want to go through a medical exam, they can only assume it’s because you are trying to hide a serious medical condition. Luckily, there are a couple life insurance options for those who don’t want to deal with passing a thorough physical exam first. Unfortunately, those options almost always include higher premiums for less overall coverage. There’s really no such thing as a free lunch.

Still, something is better than nothing. Even taking out a small final expense insurance policy can go a long way to relieving the financial stress that your family might otherwise feel when you pass. If you’re struggling with a medical condition that makes it hard to get life insurance, don’t give up. There’s always a chance that your health could improve, making you more likely to qualify for  a cheaper, better life insurance plan.

No medical exam life insurance

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David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs MoneyNing.com, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

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