A life insurance blood test is one of the tools life insurance companies use to assess their risk prior to covering an individual. Undoubtedly, you do something similar when you comparison shop or check a company’s financial stability.
You might consult user reviews or a rating guide; insurers order physical examinations and blood work. The goal for both is to determine a safe choice, and helps them price accordingly.
The Times When You Need To Take A Blood Test
Not all life insurance policies require blood work.
For example, if you have an employer-issued or guaranteed issue life insurance policy, you can forgo testing.
However, if you are getting an underwritten policy, you’ll need to have blood tests run. The same things may apply if you’re over 50 or want to increase your level of coverage. It’s an insurance company’s way to assess risk.
Why Do Insurance Companies Run Blood Work?
Insurance companies take on risk when they insure individuals. Their businesses rely on making wise choices.
And while it may seem like a hassle, blood tests are simple, relatively non-invasive ways to assess risk and approximate your life expectancy. An examination and blood work are an underwriter’s way of also determining an appropriate premium and insurability.
Life Insurance Blood Tests, In Detail
Insurance companies use blood work to screen for some of the major causes of death including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Of course, a medical professional cannot catch everything, but many common blood tests provide a lot of information which can give a good indication of present and future health. You probably have many of these tests done routinely at exams.
Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking over 600,000 lives each year.
Major risk factors include:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
Lifestyle, family history, and obesity also play a role. Blood work can assess many of these risk factors, so they are typically included in the routine life insurance blood tests.
Cholesterol testing will determine your good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol. Desirable levels are 60 mg/dL and above; less than 100 mg/dL; and less than 200 mg/dL, respectively. You will need to fast for 9 to 12 hours before this test.
The results will assess your risk for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and your risk of heart disease.
Your cholesterol test will most likely include a reading for your triglyceride levels, another fat found in your blood. The American Heart Association considers the big three—high total cholesterol, high LDL, and high triglycerides—as indications of premature coronary heart disease.
Your insurer may also look at your cholesterol/HDL ratio, the ideal below 5.
Glucose is your body’s source of energy. A complex system in your body regulates its level in part through the action of insulin. Some individuals don’t produce enough insulin to properly maintain blood glucose. With others, resistance to its effects develops later in life.
These people will have elevated levels which may indicate pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes.
The routine blood test measures glucose after you have fasted for at least eight hours.
However, it is not a perfect test because other things can affect glucose levels. Factors such as acute stress or hyperthyroidism can also cause elevated levels. Likewise, severe infections or hypothyroidism can cause low blood glucose. A better assessment is the A1C test.
This test measures your average blood glucose levels over the past three months.
So, if you didn’t fast quite long enough before a routine test, this one will provide a more comprehensive picture of how your body manages glucose. The result is the percentage of blood glucose over this period.
A desirable test result is below 5.7 percent. It also requires fasting.
Insurance companies may conduct tests to determine liver function as well as alcohol use. Elevated levels indicate some type of issue.
It could mean such diverse conditions such as hepatitis or liver and bone disease. They may also order blood work for different liver enzymes which can also indicate the presence of non-liver conditions such as heart or muscle disease.
The tests your insurer may run include:
- GGT for liver disease: normal range, 0 to 45 U/L
- ALT, formerly SGPT, for liver damage: normal range, 0 to 45 U/L
- AST, formerly SGOT, for non-liver conditions such heart and muscle diseases: normal range, 0 to 45 U/L
- ALP for both liver disease and non-liver related diseases: normal range, 30 to 120 U/L
- Albumin for both liver and kidney disorders: normal range, 3.4 to 5.4 g/dL
Insurance companies will also evaluate kidney function.
Diabetes-caused kidney disease is the primary cause of renal failure. Testing for the two conditions goes hand-in-hand. Your insurer may run tests which are part of a routine metabolic panel including creatinine blood test and a BUN (blood urea nitrogen) test.
An abnormal reading may indicate hypertension or diabetes too.
Your insurance company will not likely run widespread screening for cancer. Most cancers are sporadic, meaning they develop as a result of genetic damage over the course of your lifetime. Up to 80 percent of cancers are sporadic.
The exception is the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. A result greater than 4.0 ng/ml may indicate an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Your insurance may also run a nicotine/cotinine test to determine tobacco use. Cotinine is one of the metabolites or breakdown products of tobacco. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use costs the US economy $300 billion a year, over half of which goes to direct medical care.
Clearly, insurance companies have an interest in whether or not you smoke.
Determining the level of nicotine in your blood involves a simple blood test with no special preparation required. It can measure nicotine both qualitatively and quantitatively.
The former detects its presence while the latter distinguishes active smokers from non-smokers—and everything in between. It can also detect secondhand exposure in non-smokers.
It probably goes without saying insurance companies will have an interest in whether you use illicit drugs. They will most likely run a full drug panel for screening. You’ll probably end up with a higher premium at the very least if you test positive for the presence of any of these drugs—if you’re offered insurance at all. Other may impose a time restriction for coverage.
Before you panic thinking of all the needle jabs you’ll receive, bear in mind many tests are included in panels. Your health practitioner will make one blood draw, extracting the necessary number of vials of blood. You’ll likely have all of them run at one time as long as you’ve done the necessary preparation. An overnight fast will usually suffice in most cases.
Blood work is one part of the physical examination process.
Depending on your age and history, your insurance company may run other tests such as an EKG or stress test. A urine test will most likely be part of the testing procedure too. In some cases, urine and blood tests don’t return the same type of results, necessitating both of them.
Rest assured you needn’t fork out the cash for these blood tests. Your insurance company will pick up the costs even if you don’t get insurance with them or they decline your application.
But, there’s no way to avoid the blood work and physical examination if you want a fully underwritten policy. You likely find the bit of discomfort worth the savings in the long run.