What You Need to Know About Life Insurance Blood Testing

In this article...
  • Learn life insurance blood testing is done and what kinds of health conditions are assessed. Knowing how to prepare for testing can help ensure accurate results.

Not every life insurance policy requires blood testing, but many do. Insurance companies use these tests, along with other medical exams, to assess the risk associated with insuring an applicant. Because life insurance policies must pay if the insured person dies, insurance companies are interested in learning about applicants' health.

Blood testing and other medical exams are part of the underwriting process which determines the risk associated with offering a life insurance policy to a particular applicant. Higher-risk applicants may be denied coverage or offered a policy at a higher premium. 

Blood tests, as well as any other required medical exams, are typically done once the insurance company has reviewed a written application and decided to move forward. The applicant's blood is drawn by a life insurance medical examiner and sent to a lab for testing. 

What Blood Tests Are Done for Life Insurance?

Life insurance blood testing can screen for many health conditions and risk factors, including: 

  • Cholesterol, triglycerides and indicators of heart disease 
  • Tests for diabetes such as hemoglobin A1C and glucose levels 
  • Creatine, hemoglobin and urine acidity to check for kidney problems 
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Sexually transmitted diseases 

Insurance companies also use blood testing to confirm the information provided on an application. They may check whether you were truthful about smoking and drug use by looking for the following substances in your blood or urine:

  • Nicotine
  • Marijuana 
  • Illegal drugs
  • Prescription drugs 

Discrepancies between your application and blood test results could lead to a denial of coverage, so be honest and thorough when completing an application. If you occasionally smoke a cigar on special occasions or use nicotine patches to quit smoking, providing an explanation on the application can help avoid surprises and problems. Many life insurance companies won't expect you to be perfect, but they'll still decline to offer you a policy if they believe you weren't truthful when completing an application. 

Preparing for Life Insurance Blood Testing 

You may be able to take steps to increase your chances of receiving favorable blood test results. Eat healthily and stay hydrated in the days leading up to your blood draw. Although a few days can't reverse an unhealthy lifestyle or hide significant health problems, you can avoid short-term problems caused by fluctuations in your diet.

The following preparations can help you get the best results possible: 

  • Reduce your intake of sugar and alcohol, which can cause high glucose levels 
  • Stay hydrated and avoid excess exercise to prevent inaccurate results regarding kidney function 
  • Avoid caffeine and stress to prevent elevating your heart rate and blood pressure 

Be sure to carefully follow instructions about fasting before your life insurance blood testing since eating can cause a false elevation of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose

How Do You Pass a Life Insurance Blood Test?

You don't necessarily pass or fail life insurance blood testing; insurance companies use the results as a factor in assessing the risk associated with offering you a life insurance policy. 

However, testing positive for illegal drugs almost always results in a denial of coverage. While modern medical testing is generally accurate, some substances and medications can cause a false positive for drugs on your blood test. You may wish to avoid these over-the-counter medications in the days before an exam to avoid the possibility of false-positive results for other drugs:

  • Cold medicines containing dextromethorphan and pseudoephedrine can cause false positives for opiates and amphetamines.
  • Allergy medicines and over-the-counter sleeping pills that have diphenhydramine and doxylamine can cause false positives for methadone, PCP and opiates. 
  • NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen may cause false positives for marijuana or PCP.

Prescription medications may also cause false-positive results for illegal drugs, so keep the insurer updated about any prescription drugs you're taking. It's also possible that certain foods like poppy seeds, B12 supplements and protein bars could alter results. Some people choose to avoid these items as part of preparations for blood testing. 

What Happens After Your Blood Test

Once blood test results are processed, the insurance company will use them in conjunction with medical exams and other information to determine the applicant's risk category. Sometimes referred to as the "preferred plus" category, the healthiest candidates are offered the best premiums. Candidates who are not as healthy or who have notable risk factors, such as smoking, may be offered policies at higher premiums or denied coverage altogether.

If there is a problem with your blood results, you may consider requesting a second exam. Even common laboratory tests for health conditions can sometimes return false-positive results. For those generally in good health, this may be an option to correct for a bad day or fluke result.