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Life insurance and medical records explained

This guide covers what you need to know about life insurance and medical records. We also look at life insurance medical exams.

Your medical records contain information about your health history. The file includes things like test results, allergies and previous illnesses. If you’re applying for life insurance, the insurer might ask to see this information.

Can life insurance companies access medical records?

With your permission, insurers can access your records and they may ask to view them when you apply. But they’ll ask you first and then contact your GP.

Life insurance medical records requests are often restricted to specific information. They might ask your GP for medical records in the past five years. Or they might ask for details on any inherited illnesses. Your doctor will only provide the information they ask for. But sometimes they’ll want to see the whole record.

Either way, your GP will produce a statement about your health, which gets sent to the insurer. You can also ask to view the report. It might be possible to make changes if there’s anything you disagree with. But your doctor may refuse to make any alterations.

When would an insurer request your medical history documents?

There are a few times when a life insurer would ask to see your entire medical records. These include:

• Initial application
Providers might ask for life insurance access to medical records if you tell them about recent illnesses when applying. For example, if you say you had cancer three years ago and recovered. The insurer might ask to see your medical records for more information.

• Contestability period
Many life insurers have a ‘contestability period’. This is a one or two-year period after the cover starts. If you pass away during that time, they might want to check for undeclared illnesses.

How far back do life insurance companies look at medical records?

A life insurance medical records request usually focuses on the past five to ten years. The insurer wants to find out if you recently had illnesses or treatments. They’ll also want to know if you’ve been clear of any illnesses for a couple of years.

The insurer may also look for information on your general health. Perhaps you used to smoke but quit a couple of years ago. They ask for this because this information might affect your premiums. Occasionally they’ll want to look even further back, but this is unusual. 

Will the records contain details of pre-existing health conditions?

If you’ve ever been to see the doctor about a health condition, this will be in your medical records. The insurer will be able to see this information. They can use it when calculating your quote.

Pre-existing medical conditions are illnesses you’re currently living with. They include things like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. It also includes illnesses you’ve recovered from.

Your medical history could affect your life insurance costs. Even if you’ve recovered from an illness, the insurer may believe there’s a risk of it returning. This means your policy might become more expensive. That can be frustrating. It’s usually possible to find cover even if you do have pre-existing medical conditions.

You might forget to mention health issues you had in the past while applying for life insurance. If you realise you’ve not included something, it’s worth contacting the insurer right away. Not doing so could mean your policy doesn’t pay out.

Life insurance without medical records

Many providers are happy to offer life insurance without medical records checks. They usually provide cover without asking to see this information.

Remember that life insurance companies may check your medical records when you pass away. This is to see if you had any pre-existing medical conditions when you originally applied. If this is the case, they may refuse to payout. So, it’s always best to double-check your life insurance application.

What is a life insurance medical exam?

A life insurance medical exam is a two-part health check that some people need to do before their coverage begins. It’s more common for older people or those who’ve got pre-existing medical conditions.

There’s a questionnaire section that might be done over the phone or online. For the physical part, a nurse will visit you to do some tests and take some samples. They might measure your height, weight and waist. They could also do a blood test or take a urine sample.

If you’re asked to complete a medical exam, it’s a quick process. It can also be done in the privacy of your own home. It can speed up your application too (depending on the insurer).

Do life insurance companies check medical records after death?

Life insurance companies do sometimes check medical records after someone passes away. But, they will need permission from the individual authorised to act on their behalf. That could be a lawyer or a close family member.

Insurers are more likely to check medical records if someone passed away during the ‘contestability period’. This is could be if someone died from an illness, such as cancer or a heart attack.

Relevant guides and articles

  • Life insurance and cancer 

    Read our comprehensive guide to getting life insurance as a cancer survivor and how to make a claim after a diagnosis.

  • Life insurance for diabetics 

    Wondering how diabetes could affect your life insurance policy? Find out more about life insurance cover for type 1 and type 2 diabetics in this guide.

  • Life insurance and mental health

    In this life insurance and mental health guide we explain how life cover works if you have a mental illness like depression or anxiety.