When buying life insurance, you’ll need to provide information about your medical history. Learn what to expect in a paramedical exam and how to prepare.
If you’re at all familiar with life insurance, you know that part of the process is a medical exam. Whether you’re looking at term or whole life insurance, the company will want to assess how healthy you are and how likely it is that you will stay healthy in the coming years and decades.
A paramedical exam is a term used by insurance companies, usually because it doesn’t require a clinical physician. Instead, the meeting is a bit less formal – it’s more of a question-and-answer session with a few medical tests involved.
Although the exam isn’t very intensive, it can have a significant impact on your rates and coverage options. For that reason, we want to dive further into what you can expect in a paramedical exam and how you can get prepared for this test.
The Basics of a Paramedical Exam
Each insurance company is different, and not all policy types require a full examination. However, we’re going to cover all of the various pieces that may be part of the test so that you know what to anticipate. Let’s break it down, step by step.
The insurance company wants to know how healthy you’ve been in the past, as well as be aware of any potential red flags. For example, if your medical history shows a stronger likelihood of cardiac problems in your family, that can affect your premium rates.
Usually, the insurance company can contact your physician and get copies of your history with your consent. Due to HIPAA regulations, they can’t get access to these documents without your approval. So, you don’t have to worry about sharing personal information until you’re ready to move forward with insurance.
During the paramedical exam, the clinician will take a variety of measurements. These will include age, height, weight, blood pressure, and heart rate.
If you’re nervous during the exam, be sure to notify the clinician so that they can take multiple readings to get an accurate result. In most cases, waiting a few minutes between measurements should give your body time to calm down.
Not all paramedical exams will require a blood sample, but many of them do. The primary reason behind this procedure is that it will show any potential underlying problems that may not be apparent.
For example, if your blood sugar is high (your A1C rating), then you might be pre-diabetic. If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, this test will give you and the insurance company a heads up.
Typically, blood work results will take a few days to process, so you won’t know anything right away. To avoid any potential misreadings, you will need to fast for about 12 hours beforehand so that any food or beverages won’t throw off your results.
For the most part, urine sampling is done to test for any significant health problems (i.e., diabetes or kidney disease) as well as drug use. Anyone who is caught taking narcotics or illicit substances will be denied coverage immediately. Also, if you drink excessively, that can sometimes show up in your urine, even if it’s been a couple of days.
Your heart health is critical to the insurance company, particularly if you have a family history of cardiac problems. An EKG test measures your heart’s electrical activity, and it can show whether you have an irregular heartbeat or other issues.
Usually, you don’t have to take an x-ray during a paramedical exam unless there is a specific reason (i.e., you were a smoker). X-rays are excellent at showing any abnormalities inside your body, such as inflammation and various growths.
However, because it’s such a specialized test, your insurance company needs a valid reason to administer it. Be sure to ask why before getting an x-ray.
Overall, these procedures are designed to provide a snapshot of your health. While one exam won’t provide a complete picture, it will serve as a baseline for your insurance coverage. If everything is looking good, then you should be able to get preferred rates. However, if the results are bad, then you’ll have to weigh your options. We’ll cover what to do in that case later on.
How to Prepare for a Paramedical Exam
It’s natural to be nervous before getting tested. Not only do some people hate being poked and prodded, but knowing that the results will impact your life insurance rates can make it even more nerve-wracking. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and painless process.
Avoid Eating and Drinking 24 Hours Before
Urine and blood samples can be easily thrown off by food and digestion. For example, if you eat a plate of wings or nachos the night before, you may have elevated sodium levels. As a rule, 24 hours should be the cutoff, but it depends on what you eat.
Be sure to ask the clinician for a recommended time frame so that you’re sure. To make it easier on yourself, we recommend scheduling the exam first thing in the morning, so you don’t have to wait too long before eating again.
Wear Loose and Comfortable Clothing
The clinician will need to access various parts of your body, including your chest and elbow. So, wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt is a good idea because it’s easy to move and take off as necessary. Not only that, but wearing tight or heavy clothing can impact your blood flow and heart rate, so it’s good to stay as comfortable as possible.
While you want to avoid drinking flavored beverages (i.e., coffee, soda, tea) before the test, water is fine. In fact, it’s better to be well-hydrated as it makes it easier to draw blood. Not only that but drinking plenty of water will ensure that you can provide a urine sample right away.
Don’t Work Out the Day Before
If you have a regular gym routine, be sure to avoid strenuous exercise at least 24 hours before the test. As with eating, a workout can alter your readings by adding excess protein into your bloodstream and urine.
Bring Documentation With You
Although the insurance company can get copies of your medical history, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Not only that, but you want to notify the clinician of any issues you’ve had in the past, such as elevated blood pressure or problems with drawing blood. This way, he or she can adjust the exam accordingly and get the best readings possible.
You will also want to have details handy regarding any previous medical issues. For example, if you had surgery, the insurance company will want to know everything about it – when it happened, what it was for, what your post-op treatment was like, etc. If you don’t have this information handy, it will take longer to process your application and start receiving coverage.
What Else to Expect in a Paramedical Exam
Before submitting to this kind of testing, you want to understand as much about it as possible. Here are some other factors to consider before making an appointment.
Is a Paramedical Exam Required?
It depends on your insurance carrier. In recent years, the trend has moved away from medical exams to focus more on medical history and environmental factors (i.e., age). If one company requires an exam and another doesn’t, it may be worth it to avoid it altogether if you can.
Do I Pay For a Paramedical Exam?
No, the insurance company pays for everything. However, this also means that you won’t be able to retake it if the results weren’t favorable.
Will I Receive Copies of My Results?
Yes, the insurer has to give you a copy of any lab tests and results they did, per HIPAA regulations. So, if they discover a health problem you weren’t aware of, you can see what’s going on and talk to your doctor about it.
Where is the Exam Administered?
Depending on the insurer and the company doing the exam, you should have options. In most cases, you can do it at home or work, or at a clinic. Usually, insurance companies try to be as accommodating as possible.
What Happens if My Results are Bad?
As we mentioned, you probably won’t be able to retake your paramedical exam. If something did come up, your options are:
- Talk With Your Doctor – if the clinician discovered something serious (i.e., diabetes), you’ll want to start treatment immediately. Then, plan on taking a new test with a different company in a few months so your readings will be better.
- Go With a Different Insurer – fewer insurance companies are requiring a paramedical exam, so the easiest solution is to find one that doesn’t and apply there.
- Adjust Your Insurance Coverage – consider lowering your death benefit or shortening your term. In that case, you can possibly get better rates without an exam.
Tests for Older Policyholders
If you’re over 60, then your age will be a deciding factor when determining your insurance rates. In addition to the standard exam tests, the insurer may require some additional testing to check things like mobility, stamina, and mental acuity. Some examples of these tests can include:
- Gait Check – the clinician will have you walk across the room and back to see how well you can move
- Chair Stand – you’ll need to stand up from a sitting position without using your hands
- Word Recall – the clinician will say a variety of words and then ask you to repeat them later on during the exam
Overall, the purpose of these tests is to see whether your health is deteriorating because of old age. Even if everything else looks good (i.e., heart rate, medical history), you may get hit with higher premiums based on the results of older age testing.
Getting Life Insurance With Significant Health Problems
Ideally, your paramedical exam will go smoothly, and you’ll be the perfect image of health. However, you may suffer from various conditions that can limit your ability to get life insurance, either at a preferred rate or at all. Some medical issues that can cause you to get denied include:
- Smoking – as a rule, current smokers are either going to get declined or have to pay exorbitant rates.
- Cancer – anyone currently undergoing cancer treatment will be denied until he or she is in recovery.
- Diabetes – if you’re not receiving treatment for diabetes, then you’ll likely be declined. With treatment, you’ll still have to pay higher premiums.
- Old Age – generally speaking, those over 65 or 70 will have a much harder time qualifying for life insurance.
- Alcoholism/Drug Use – even if you’ve been clean and sober for years, a history of drug abuse can get you denied. Also, you never want to lie on your exam questionnaire, because fraud will also cancel your insurance coverage.
Thankfully, even if one (or more) of these conditions applies to you, life insurance is still possible. That being said, you will have to pay more for coverage, and you will be limited in your options. Here is what you can expect when traditional term or whole life insurance is out of reach.
- Burial Insurance – also known as end-of-life expenses, these policies cover any costs associated with your death, such as cremation or burial. Typically, they cap at $25,000.
- Guaranteed Acceptance Insurance – these plans have much higher rates, and they come with a two-year waiting period. However, as the name implies, you get coverage no matter what.
- Group Insurance – if your employer offers a group insurance plan, you can get covered even with medical problems. The benefit will be lower, but it’s better than nothing.
Contact NextGen Life Insurance Today
Shopping for the right policy can be overwhelming at first, so don’t go through it alone. At NextGen Life Insurance, we’ll do the hard work for you so that you can focus on providing peace of mind for your loved ones. We can also help you prepare for your paramedical exam so that it runs smoothly. Contact us today to find out more.