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By Nathan GoldenRuben Ramos and Amarilis Yera
Updated: March 4, 2022 6:17 PM ET

No-exam life insurance lets you apply for coverage without undergoing a physical exam. This can make it a faster and more convenient option, especially for people with pre-existing conditions who wouldn’t qualify for standard life insurance, which requires checkups and lab tests. However, these policies do have some drawbacks when compared to traditional ones, such as lower coverage limits.

Read on to learn more about no-exam life insurance and whether it’s the right fit for you.

And, for more information on other types of policies, check out our guide to the best life insurance companies.

Table of contents

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What is no exam life insurance?

Life insurance companies typically require you undergo a medical examination to determine if you qualify for coverage and the cost of your premiums. No-exam life insurance, on the other hand, doesn’t require a checkup. However, depending on the type of no-exam life policy you choose, the insurer might still ask medical questions or request access to certain health records.

No-exam coverage is available as term or permanent insurance, including universal and whole life policies. It can be a suitable alternative for people with medical conditions that make them ineligible for standard policies. It's also worthwhile for those who'd like to avoid doctor visits or and the lengthy risk-assessment process known as underwriting.

Underwriting for traditional life insurance may take up to six weeks, during which the insurer waits for and then evaluates your exam results. Sometimes, they will request follow-up tests, extending the process even further. No-exam providers, on the other hand, may be able to grant you approval in as little as a day.

Types of life insurance policies with no medical exam

There are three main types of life insurance policies that don't require a medical exam: simplified issue, guaranteed issue and accelerated underwriting.

Simplified issue life insurance

Simplified issue policies let you skip the medical exam but require a health and lifestyle questionnaire. Insurers will want to know about the following:

  • Past and current health conditions
  • Biological family’s health conditions
  • Recent hospitalizations
  • Smoking habits and history
  • Drug usage (prescribed or recreational)
  • High-risk hobbies (skydiving or motorcycle riding, for example)

Most simplified issue policies have maximum coverage of no more than $100,000. The exact coverage amount and monthly premium depend on how the applicant answers the questionnaire, as well as on their age, gender and — in the case of term coverage — the desired term length.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance skips both the medical exams and the questionnaires as well. As the name implies, approval is all but guaranteed as long as you meet the insurer's age requirements — this is usually between 50 and 80 years old, although some providers raise that limit to 85.

This type of life insurance plan is a good option for those who may be ineligible for standard life insurance policies due to advanced age or serious health issues. However, terminally ill applicants may be denied by some insurers.

Guaranteed issue policies have the lowest coverage limits of all life insurance options, with most capping the death benefit at around $25,000.

Additionally, these policies often feature a graded death benefit. This means that, if you were to die within the first two or three years after obtaining the policy, your beneficiaries wouldn’t receive the full payout, only a refund of the premiums that you paid, plus interest (rates that vary between insurance providers.)

Accelerated underwriting life insurance

Accelerated underwriting uses algorithms or artificial intelligence to assess your health risk, rather than standard physical exams and questionnaires.

With this application process, people in good health, with stable finances and no family history of serious medical conditions, could potentially get approved for up to $1 million coverage in a matter of minutes.

In this process, insurers could evaluate your motor vehicle record, prescription drug history and an MIB Group report, which includes information you might have submitted in previous applications for life, health, disability or long-term care insurance.

Insurance providers may also check your credit report for evidence of bankruptcies or defaults. These negative items are considered possible indicators of poor physical and mental health.

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How does no exam life insurance work?

Traditional life insurance providers assess your weight, height, and blood pressure, along with other details of your lifestyle and medical history. You may also have to provide blood and urine samples.

With no-exam life insurance, insurers forgo the medical test altogether — although some companies might still ask you for information through:

  • A questionnaire: Questions may include those about your current health and smoking status, as well as your family’s medical history
  • Databases: Underwriters may obtain details about your prescription history as well as results from previous life insurance health exams
  • Driving Records: Insurers typically research your speeding tickets and at-fault crashes. A history of dangerous driving may trigger higher premiums
  • Your doctor: Underwriters may request a statement about your health from your primary care doctor

What does no medical exam life insurance cover?

No exam life insurance generally only covers death due to natural causes, although some insurers might offer an accidental death rider or add-on. This type of benefit provides your beneficiaries with financial protection should you die from a car accident, drowning, poisoning or other mishap.

Who is eligible for life insurance with no medical exam?

Eligibility criteria for no-medical-exam life insurance policies differ between providers. Maximum age limits vary, for example. Some companies may also deny coverage to applicants with a terminal disease diagnosis.

Benefits and downsides to no medical exam life insurance

Benefits Downsides
Quick access to life insurance, sometimes within a day. Premiums may be twice as high as for traditional policies with the same payout.
No check-up required — although some insurers might ask you to answer a medical questionnaire. Policies may have a graded death benefit. If you die within the first two or three years after buying the policy, your beneficiaries won’t receive the full payout.
Available to applicants with chronic disease who wouldn’t pass a standard medical exam. Coverage options are usually limited to $500,000 or less, while traditional policies can offer as much as $3 million.
Available to older applicants (over 60) who may not be eligible for a traditional policy. Approval isn’t guaranteed for all applicants.

Term vs permanent life insurance

No-exam policies are available as term or permanent life insurance. Term life insurance covers you for a specific term length, usually between 10 and 30 years. By contrast, permanent life coverage (such as whole and universal life insurance) never expires as long as you pay its premiums on time.

Term life insurance policies are more affordable than permanent ones, sometimes costing up to $300 less per month. However, permanent policies have the additional benefit of a cash value account. With this type of account, the insurer invests a portion of your monthly payments in stocks, bonds or mutual funds and your gains grow tax-deferred. (Alternatively, insurers may offer a fixed rate of return on the accumulated cash value.)

You can tap into this money by withdrawing funds, taking out loans or using it to pay the policy’s premiums. Note, however, that making withdrawals and failing to repay loans reduces the total payout your family receives upon your death.

If you'd like to learn more about the coverage and benefits of term and permanent life policies, check out our article on Term vs. Whole life insurance.

Costs of life insurance policies with no medical exam

The average cost of life insurance without a medical exam varies according to your age, the amount of coverage you want, whether you choose a term or permanent policy and your answers to the medical questionnaire (if required).

For example, a simplified issue policy with a 20-year term and $100,000 coverage from Haven Life can cost around $10 a month for a 31-year-old woman who doesn't smoke and is in excellent health. The same woman might pay $20 or more for a policy of the same term length and coverage if she is a smoker and has high blood pressure.

The provider you choose also impacts your monthly premium. Following the above-mentioned Haven Life example, the 31-year-old woman who doesn't smoke and is in excellent health would pay around $18 for a 20-year term policy with Bestow Life.

Do note that no-exam policies are generally more expensive than standard ones. Coverage limits are lower as well since companies are taking a greater risk by insuring you without a medical checkup. So, no-exam life insurance may not be the best choice if you qualify for standard policies.

No exam life insurance might not be worth it if:

  • You're young and healthy: Applicants under 45 and in good health usually get better rates with traditional policies.
  • You need a high coverage limit: The coverage limit for no-exam policies is usually around $500,000, and guaranteed issue policies may offer no more than $25,000.

No exam life insurance may be worth it if:

  • You’re a smoker or have a critical illness: Many traditional life insurance providers might deny coverage based on either of those factors
  • You’re older: Buying traditional life insurance costs more as you age. For example, a 70-year-old male applicant might pay around $750 per month for a 20-year term policy with a $500,000 coverage limit. A 30-year-old purchasing the same policy would spend closer to $17 per month.

To keep monthly premiums low, older applicants may consider purchasing a no-exam guaranteed issue policy. These policies can cost $400 or less per month depending on your age. However, they have low coverage limits — often about $25,000.

How to avoid getting turned down for a no exam life insurance policy

An insurance company could deny your no-exam life insurance application based on your age and pre-existing medical conditions. For example, applicants who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, HIV or other medical conditions often struggle to find even no-exam policies because providers worry about their life expectancy.

To increase your chances of getting approved for coverage, you can:

Talk to an insurance agent

Every life insurance company takes a different approach to underwriting. Ask an independent life insurance agent to help you find the right policy or premium for your condition, as they could have access to policies from as many as 10 or 12 companies.

Look into guaranteed issue coverage

Guaranteed issue life insurance is aptly named. Almost everyone who applies is guaranteed approval because the insurer does not ask many — if any — health questions. However, insurance agents call this “last resort” life insurance for several reasons:

  • Low coverage amounts: These policies usually offer only up to $25,000 in coverage, compared with between $100,000 to up to $3 million with a fully underwritten life insurance policy.
  • High premiums: Guaranteed issue policies can cost twice or more what you’ll pay for a traditional one, while also offering less coverage.
  • Delayed coverage: There’s a 2- to 3-year waiting period before the policy kicks in. If you die during this period, your beneficiaries won't receive the full death benefit.

You could also consider what some insurers call “final expense” coverage. These types of policies have low coverage amounts (usually less than $40,000) and are designed to help loved ones deal with end-of-life expenses such as medical bills or funeral arrangements.

Consider group life insurance

Many employers offer life insurance as an employee benefit. In this case, you can usually opt in without undergoing a medical check-up and, as an additional benefit, you might not even have to pay the premiums yourself. It’s a nice perk, but it may have some limits:

  • Low coverage limits: group policies usually don’t offer the same coverage level compared to a simplified issue or fully underwritten life insurance product
  • Temporary coverage: you lose coverage if you change jobs or are fire

What to do if you’re denied a life insurance claim or application

If you want to appeal a denied life insurance claim or application, a life insurance lawyer can help. A lawyer specializing in insurance can offer expert advice and help you reach an agreement with your insurer.

However, you can minimize your chances of getting denied by ensuring your initial application is completely accurate and discloses all your medical conditions and potential risk factors.

Once you have a policy, make sure to pay your premiums on time. If a person dies and is behind on their payments, the insurer might deduct those late payments from the payout or even deny the claim altogether.

The bottom line

No-exam life insurance could be worth looking into if you’re older, have chronic health conditions, need a policy quickly or simply prefer to skip lab tests.

There are important factors to keep in mind though. Because insurers are taking a risk by not requiring a thorough medical assessment, premiums might be higher than for traditional policies — especially for guaranteed and simplified issue policies. These policies can be twice as expensive as fully underwritten ones.

Additionally, these policies might not provide the amount of coverage you need. While some no-exam life insurance providers offer up to $1 million in coverage, most cap it at around $500,000. By contrast, traditional policies that require medical underwriting can give you coverage of $3 million or more.

When it comes to how much life insurance coverage you need, no-exam policies might not provide enough. Experts suggest your life insurance payout should be between 10 and 20 times your current income.

For example, an individual who currently earns $60,000 per year should get around $600,000 or more of coverage. No-exam simplified issue and guaranteed issue policies wouldn’t be enough considering most have coverage limits of $500,000 and $25,000, respectively.

However, not everyone is looking to replace their income. A no-exam life insurance policy might be enough if:

  • You’re getting a loan, and your lender requires life insurance as collateral
  • You’re estate planning and wish to provide liquidity for your heirs
  • You’re an empty nester, your mortgage is paid off, and you have no dependents

However, if you’re in good health and time is not an issue, you can apply for a fully underwritten policy, which usually will get you a better rate in comparison.

If not, no-exam life insurance policies can provide quick and hassle-free coverage for those that don’t qualify for traditional policies, or who prefer not to go through the medical checkups required by most types of life insurance.

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