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Saturday, January 30, 2010

What to expect at a medical exam

When you are buying either term or whole life, there's a chance you will be asked to go through a medical exam. It will not be necessary for most young people who are only asking for small amounts of coverage. So, for example, a 30 year old only asking for $50,000 will usually be allowed to self-certify good health. As age and the amount to be covered increases, you will move through a simple paramedical exam to a full examination by a physician.

A paramedical is licensed professional employed or hired by the insurance company. The physicians and paramedicals are independent and their only role is to make a basic assessment of your medical history and current condition. Some operate a mobile service and will come to your home or office with all the necessary equipment. Others will ask you to attend at a laboratory or clinic. The cost of all medical exams is met by the insurance company. For the record, almost all insurers insist on independent exams and refuse to accept information provided directly by your own physician.

The process of underwriting is all about assessing risk. Hopefully, you are in perfect health and there is no likelihood you will follow in the footsteps of your parents or other close family in contracting a disorder or disease. But all insurance companies have strict guidelines about who to accept and on what terms. The companies therefore give the examiners sets of questions to ask you about your medical history. These questions will usually be answered face-to-face but, in some instances, the questions are posted online for you to answer. This saves time. The extent of the tests is then determined by your age and the amount of insurance cover you have requested. The older you are and the larger the amount to be insured, the more careful the exam, moving from paramedical to physician as the person responsible for assessing you.

The paramedical or physician starts by collecting basic physical information about you, measuring your weight, height, pulse and blood pressure. There are questions about your lifestyle, particularly if you are carrying excess weight, smoke or drink. There are follow-ups if you have any of the more interesting hobbies or play contact sports. You will be expected to provide samples of blood, urine and and oral fluid. Most people over the age of 50 will be expected to go through an EKG, a test to record the electrical impulses generated by your heart. With sums over $5 million, older proposers will be asked for a treadmill test which assesses the whole cardiovascular system, lung capacity, stamina, etc. The point is to identify any underlying health problem that could shorten your life. The blood and urine samples are used to eliminate a range of problems with your liver and kidney, identify immune disorders and check on your sugar levels for diabetes, and so on. There are even tests for the presence of standard medications and street drugs like cocaine.

All this is taken with the information you gave when asking for the life insurance quotes. Always get as many offers of a policy from different companies as possible. Sitting with the life insurance quotes alone is not enough because every company has different guidelines on who to accept and at what premium rates.