A question that comes up quite often when we discuss the examination part of a life insurance application is, just what is they are looking for? They are going to take blood and urine specimens so they must be on the hunt for something! I think the best way to answer that question is to say that they are really looking for the tip of the iceberg.

Occasionally something big shows up on an insurance exam, something that the client had no idea about. Occasionally lives are saved because people who never really got physicals  got an insurance exam that tipped them off to a dangerous situation.

For example, a client had an hbA1c of 11.5 on his labs. He had no idea that he had diabetes and with that lab result, he wasn’t just borderline, he was dangerously diabetic. He went straight to the doctor and 9 months later he had his diabetes well controlled and was able to get a good price on life insurance.

It is fairly common for a person to find out their PSA is elevated for the first time on an insurance exam. Many clients who would not have otherwise seen a doctor, took those results to the doctor and found out they had prostate cancer. Many of those have come back post treatment to get affordable life insurance.

Recently a person who had been treated for prostate cancer applied for insurance and on his exam he had a slightly elevated PSA. Since his treatment was a radical prostatectomy, there should never be a detectable PSA again. He has since found out that the treatment wasn’t successful and his cancer was starting to come back.

Many clients find out that they have elevated cholesterol for the first time on their insurance exam. Another common occurrence is the discovery of elevated liver functions.

The tip of the iceberg for most. A problem discovered early enough that people were able to take corrective action and in many cases, save their lives. So, back to the question about what they test for. I have attached a set of labs from an insurance exam.


Most of what you see is the normal stuff. In addition to what your doctor might run in a general physical, insurance companies also test for HIV, nicotine and drugs.

Bottom line. Insurance underwriters are looking for the obvious full blown health problems, but mostly what they find is the first clue that a problem might be brewing.