Healthy and Turned Down for Life Insurance? Here’s What to Do

You are in good health and you see your doctor regularly, so what should you do now that you were turned down for life insurance based on the results of the medical exam?

The first step is not to panic. While it is possible that a life insurance medical exam can reveal serious health problems of which you might not have been aware, in many cases you may be denied insurance or charged higher premiums simply because the medical underwriter found something troubling that he or she could not explain from your medical history.

Medical underwriters specialize in classifying risks, and when they find something abnormal  high levels of liver enzymes or blood sugar results that are off the charts, for example  in many cases they will decline or postpone a decision rather than make a guess as to the nature of the problem and the medical risks involved.

“We are in the risk-assessment business, not the diagnosis business,” says Dr. Stephen Zimmerman, chief medical director for American General Life Cos.

Your Next Steps

First, ask the insurance company for the specific details of your life insurance application denial. All states have laws requiring an insurance company to provide the specific reasons for any declination.

Some states permit the information to be sent directly to the applicant. In other states, any medically related reasons must be sent to a physician of your choice. If the reason you were denied life insurance was lab work done as part of your application, a copy of the lab work will be sent to your doctor. If the reason was information contained in a physician’s report, the specific reason, and possibly a copy of the report from which the information came, can be sent to a doctor to be reviewed with you.

Once you know why you were denied life insurance, go to your doctor. You and your doctor should find out if there is something wrong with your health, and stories abound about life insurance applications that have saved lives by alerting the applicants to serious medical problems. Even if all tests come back negative, you may face some challenges in buying life insurance in the future unless the trouble area is cleared up.

You see, insurance companies have access to the results of your previous insurance exam through the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), a clearinghouse of medical information that insurers share, and while you can request your MIB file and have outright errors removed, the results of your test, although unfavorable and perhaps unexplained, may not be wrong.

When you next apply for life insurance, you will probably need to make an argument to the insurer as to why it should offer you a policy (or a policy at a better price), even if you apply to a different insurer. Fortunately this may not be hard.

Providing the life insurance company with the results of tests that show you do not have medical conditions associated with the results of your insurance medical exam can go a long way toward helping you go from no life insurance to being able to buy an affordable life insurance policy.

“The tests you’ve taken will allow the insurer to exclude some serious diseases,” says Dr. Robert Gleeson, a vice president and medical underwriter at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. “Each negative result on a medical test would make me feel better and better about underwriting a case like this.”

It is up to you, however, to make sure that the insurer has that information because even favorable tests can sometimes slip through the cracks. So be sure that your doctors have sent all of the relevant tests to the life insurance company, and that the insurer knows how to contact all of the doctors who treated you.

You should also make your case to your insurance agent. Life insurance agents can help you argue for a better-priced policy and can make sure all of your medical information gets to the right people.

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