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Life insurance and medical records explained

Sometimes insurance companies will ask to see your medical history when you apply for life insurance. If they do, here's what to expect.

Giving your insurer access to your medical history might feel like an invasion of privacy. After all, your health is very personal. It’s understandable why you might not want to grant someone access to your medical records.

In this guide, we’ll explain why insurers might ask for a medical report. We'll explain what kind of information is in them and how they can affect your application. Knowing the facts about life insurance and medical records can help put your mind at ease.

What can I expect

When you take out a life insurance policy, you’ll probably be asked some questions about:

  • your health, 
  • your lifestyle
  • your medical history.

Depending on your answers some insurers might want to see your full medical history. Insurers might ask for a medical report to check:

  • if you're a heavy smoker
  • if you're a heavy drinker
  • if you have any health conditions
  • your age

These guides can help you understand more:

Why do life insurance companies request medical records?

Life Insurance policies pay a lump sum of money to your loved ones when you die.

Life insurance provider could request to see your medical records to assess the risk involved in offering you a policy. They want to assess the risk involved in offering you a policy. They'll want to know if you have had or recovered from any serious illnesses.

By seeing your medical records, a provider will then decide how likely you are to make an insurance claim in the future. This may impact your life premiums.

For example, if your medical records show that you are a heavy smoker. The insurer might raise your premium. Why? Because they believe the risk of paying out is higher for a smoker than it is for a non-smoker, so they charge you more.

Can life insurance companies access my medical records?

Yes, but only with your permission. This is a quick look at how it works:

  1. Apply for a life insurance policy. 
  2. Once they have your permission, they will contact your GP for a medical report.
  3. Your GP will then send a statement about your health to the insurer. But, you’ll have 21 days to review the report with your GP before they send it to your insurers.

Can life insurance companies access my medical reports without my consent?

No, the only organisations that can access medical records without your consent are:

  • the police
  • social services
  • the DVLA

They would still need a good reason to see your records.

If you don’t want your insurer to view any part of your medical history, then you can deny their request. But, be aware, this could result in your life insurance application being rejected.

Can my medical history affect my application

Yes. An insurer looks at your medical records and may consider some health conditions a risk. This may push up your premiums. Remember, they are only allowed to use relevant information.

For example, your medical history might show you had cancer one year ago. They could use this information to raise your premiums as it may relate to your life expectancy. But they can't use the fact you have eczema to deny your application.

Find out more in our helpful guide, how life insurance premiums are calculated

Do life insurance companies always check medical records? 

No, in fact in most cases they won’t ask to see your medical records. When you apply for life insurance, they’ll ask you a series of questions about your health and life in general. Your insurer will then assess these before requesting your medical records.

Most answers don’t raise red flags or need more investigation. But, it’s vital that you are honest on your application. If you withhold information because you don’t want to submit your medical records, then you risk voiding your policy. This means the insurer can refuse to pay out in the event of your death. 

When would an insurer request your medical history documents?

There may be times when an insurer will request to see your medical records. These include:

Initial application

Providers may request access to your medical record if your application raised any concerns.

For example, if you disclose that you had cancer three years ago but have now recovered. The insurers may want to know more information about what type of cancer you had, if it is likely to return, etc.

Contestability period

Most life insurance policies have a ‘contestability period’. This is a one or two-year period after the cover starts. If you die during that time, the insurer might want to check for undeclared illnesses.

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

Your medical history can go as far back as twenty years. But, most life insurance medical requests will focus on the last five to ten. This is because the insurer is most interested in recent illnesses and treatments.

They’ll also want reassurance that you have been clear of any illnesses for a couple of years. Sometimes insurers might want to go beyond ten years but this would be unusual.

What information will insurers request in my medical report?

Your insurance company is trying to build a picture of your general health. Then they can assess the level of risk you pose. In light of this, they might request the following information from your GP:

  • Details of any pre-existing health conditions such as diabetescancer or Crohn’s disease
  • Height and weight measurements
  • Blood pressure and cholesterol readings 
  • Any medication or treatment you're currently taking or have previously been prescribed 
  • Test and scan results 
  • Hospital admission and discharge summaries 
  • General lifestyle information such as your smoker status or alcohol intake
  • Consultation details

Remember though, the insurance company can only use relevant information. They might not necessarily request all the above.

Can I get life insurance with no medical records?

Yes. If your insurer regards you as low risk, they may not ask to see your medical records. This is fairly common.

You may come across "guaranteed life insurance" if:

  • you are older
  • you have a pre-existing medical condition
  • you’re considering whole-of-life cover, or over-50s life insurance. These policies will not ask for your medical records even if you’re deemed high-risk.

These are likely to be more expensive as the insurer knows they’re much more likely to pay out.

What if I don’t agree with my doctor's medical report?

If you don’t agree with your medical report:

  1. Raise your concerns direct with your doctor
  2. After your discussion, they may decide to amend the report, though this is unlikely. 
  3. Then, you have the right to submit a cover letter with your medical report. This can explain which aspects you contest and why. 
  4. You can also stop the report being sent altogether. but this may result in your life insurance application being denied.

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 to:

  • do some tests
  • they might measure your height
  • check your weight
  • measure your 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 could be if someone died from an illness, such as cancer or a heart attack. This is typically around one to two years.

Want to discuss life insurance and medical records further?

Call us on 0808 271 8355. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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