Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Apr 12, 2022

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Insurance Q&A: “What do insurance companies test for life insurance?”

What don’t they test for? That’s probably the question you’ll ask yourself after you apply for coverage.

Life insurance companies are very thorough when evaluating an applicant for coverage, as the benefit paid out in the event of a claim can be several hundred thousand dollars or more. It’s no laughing matter.

That being said, there are several factors that determine how much testing is required to qualify for coverage.

How You Purchase Your Life Insurance Coverage Matters

Group term life insurance purchased through an employer sponsored program may require little more than the completion of a questionnaire…no physical testing whatsoever.

On the other hand, if you’re shopping in the private market, you can expect questionnaires and phone interviews in addition to physical exams.

Death Benefit Amount

Guaranteed issue life insurance policies typically have much lower death benefits, and require almost no information to qualify.

but when you start getting into the $100,000 or $250,000 and up benefit range, you can expect more physical testing.

A paramedical exam may be required. This is where an individual comes to your home or place of work and collects blood and urine samples for evaluation at a testing facility.

Applicant’s Age

Generally, the younger the applicant, the less information may be necessary to issue a life insurance policy. The thinking is; younger people are statistically much less risky to insure…especially when dealing with term life insurance as opposed to whole life insurance coverage.

[Top life insurance companies]

If you’re above 35 and want to purchase a higher-end benefit policy, you may have to visit a medical facility and subject yourself to a battery of tests, including a stress test, used to evaluate your overall health and heart condition.

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What Exactly Are Life Insurers Looking For?

Life insurance is relatively simple in nature. The insurer uses historical data to try to determine how statistically likely it is that they will have to pay a claim.

The more likely you are to die during a particular period of time (if term life) or how many years you’ll be able to pay an insurance premium (if whole life) determines how much they charge for coverage.

[Term vs. whole life insurance]

Naturally, anything in your profile that makes the odds of death higher, the more you’ll pay. So, what are those “red flags?”

Existing Disease

You can expect to be tested for HIV, hepatitis, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, and any other host of immune system disorders.


You will certainly be asked about any medications you are or have been taking. Any medication present in your system is a certain red flag that you may have not disclosed a condition you may have.

The blood and/or urine tests will reveal the presence of these substances, so you should be sure to disclose everything upfront.

Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs can also be detected by blood and or urine samples. As we all know, ingesting these drugs can certainly increase your risk of premature death, so insurers will test for them.

Many of these types of drugs can be detected for weeks to months after ingestion, so again, be sure to be honest on your application. Or better yet, avoid these substances entirely.


The same goes for alcohol. On the life insurance questionnaire, you will be asked if you drink alcohol, and if so, how often. If you indicate that you drink several drinks per day (or even a week), you might see your premium rise as a result.

If you do drink heavily, and lie, the life insurer may figure it out anyway via the blood testing and research they do.

You’d be surprised at the paper trail you leave behind over time. Ever gotten a DUI? Or checked into an alcohol rehab center? Or told a doctor you had a drinking problem?

You should still be able to obtain coverage, it just may not be as affordable as it once was.


This is a biggie, as many people try to get away with not disclosing tobacco use in order to qualify for a lower premium. Specifically, Cotinine is what they are looking for. This is the substance that nicotine turns into after it’s in the human body.

We’ll spare you the speech on tobacco use. Just know that the insurance company will likely be able to determine if you’re a regular tobacco user.

Most insurers will still issue a policy for you if it’s determined you use tobacco but “forgot” to disclose it on the application. Just expect to see a higher premium than what you were quoted as a non-tobacco user.

How Do I Get the Best Premium No Matter What?

Shop for insurance quotes online and/or speak with an independent insurance agent who can shop your profile with several insurance companies at once.

There are a lot of insurers gunning for your premium dollars. Make sure you’re not paying too much for coverage…no matter what your medical history.

Read more: How long does it take to receive life insurance benefits?