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What everyone should know about no-exam life insurance policies

It's possible to buy affordable, quality term life insurance coverage online and without a medical exam. Understand your options to get the right life insurance plan for you.

I remember my life insurance medical exam. It was relatively painless, but if it would have taken longer than 30 minutes or required me to sit in a waiting room, I might not have gotten the coverage I needed. What can I say? I know myself.

The need to take a medical exam can understandably encourage people to push “buy a life insurance policy” further down their to-do list. The medical examination itself is not a big deal, but it’s a hurdle that takes time out of your day. It gets personal. And frankly, no one likes needles.

These days, there are several options available for buying term life insurance online. Some online life insurance providers have made progress in using sophisticated underwriting algorithms to remove the need for a medical exam among certain qualified applicants. Other digital options ask minimal medical questions online and adjust premiums as a result of the ambiguity in your health. And still others don’t require you to answer any health questions at all.

If you’re in the market for life insurance and want to know whether you should consider buying a no-exam policy, you need to do a bit of research to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money while also being honest with yourself about whether you’re willing to take time out of your day for a medical exam. To help you pick the right type of policy for your needs, and understand what your options are, here are a few key questions to consider.

In this article:

What are the tradeoffs with no-exam life insurance?

It’s always the right question to ask: What’s the catch? Well, it’s how much you are willing to pay for life insurance. Medically underwritten or individually underwritten coverage is usually less expensive than an entirely no-exam life insurance policy, especially if you’re already fairly healthy, but that means getting a life insurance health exam in many cases. These exams are relatively short, only taking about 20 minutes. The upside is that, because you’re providing the most accurate portrait of your overall health, the life insurance company can offer you the best possible rate. The other upside is that in some cases you won’t actually need a medical exam for medically underwritten coverage (more on that later).

If you’re in the market for coverage and know you don’t want to take a life insurance medical exam, do a bit of research to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money—and for your health. Or, that you are comfortable with the tradeoffs.

How much life insurance can you get without an exam?

Ultimately, life insurance companies and agencies are in the risk-management business. Because of that, they will limit how much coverage you can get without an exam, just as a way of protecting themselves. We’re not implying you would lie on a medical questionnaire; it’s just that you might have a condition you’re not even aware of (like high blood pressure) that would affect your rates if discovered in a medical exam. Your insurer will factor in the unknowns when assigning you a rate for no-exam coverage.

The coverage limits will vary depending on the type of policy you buy. For example, at Haven Life, if you qualify, you can buy a medically underwritten policy without a medical exam for up to $1 million. If you were to go with Haven Term Simplified, a simplified issue product, coverage is available up to $500,000.

What kind of life insurance does not require an exam?

There are a few types of life insurance policies that don’t always require a medical exam. Medically underwritten life insurance allows you to skip the exam in some situations. Simplified issue life insurance and guaranteed issue life insurance never require a medical exam. Learn more about these types of policies:

Simplified issue life insurance

True to its name, a simplified issue policy is fairly, well, simple. You fill out a short questionnaire about your health. The insurer makes a coverage decision. You skip the medical exam.  And boom, you either have or don’t have life insurance. [Keep in mind that issuance of the policy or payment of the benefits may depend on the truthfulness of answers provided in the application.]

What’s not simple is the cost. Here’s something to keep in mind when shopping for coverage: The less an insurer knows about you, the less affordable coverage can be. Case in point: Simplified issue life insurance. Because an insurer will know less about you — and won’t have detailed information about your health history and other relevant lifestyle decisions — you are generally going to pay more for a simplified issue policy than you would with a medically underwritten one.

One other thing: You might not get as much coverage as you would like or need. Maximum coverage amounts are often limited to $500,000 or less, and you might even be limited to  term lengths of 20 years or less. With Haven Term Simplified, you can get a policy up to $500,000. Here are some examples of the cost of coverage for a Haven Term Simplified policy, issued by MassMutual subsidiary C.M. Life for nonsmokers.

Quotes for simplified issue term life insurance

Age and gender Health Term length Coverage amount Average quote
30, male Excellent 30 $100,000 $24.30 per month
30, female Excellent 30 $500,000 $80.52 per month
35, male Excellent 20 $200,000 $31.88 per month
35, female Excellent 20 $300,000 $40.83 per month
40, male Excellent 10 $200,000 $26.88 per month
40, female Excellent 10 $400,000 $41.50 per month
Source: Quotes for Haven Term Simplified, a no medical exam term life insurance policy sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency
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Who it may be a good fit for

If you absolutely, positively, do not want to take an exam, a 100% no-medical-exam life insurance policy like Haven Term Simplified is a good option. Again, it will usually cost more than medically underwritten coverage. Interested? Get a quote for Haven Term Simplified.

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Medically underwritten life insurance

This is typically the most affordable type of coverage. Why is that? Because whomever is issuing the insurance policy will know the most about you. Your age, your lifestyle choices, your personal and family health history — all these are factors in determining both your eligibility and the rates or premiums you will pay. In short, it’s personalized. You’ll also have the most robust set of coverage options, from $100,000 to several million dollars.

And here’s a little bonus: Some qualified applicants might still be able to skip the exam, thanks to innovations in the underwriting process at places like Haven Life. Instead, you’ll submit your application and be notified instantly as to whether skipping the exam is an option for you. Again, being honest when answering questions about your health is of paramount importance. If you’re not truthful in hopes of skipping the exam, you run the risk of missing out on the policy or payment of benefits.

And here’s the corollary to what we said earlier: The more an insurer knows about you, the more affordable coverage can be. That’s certainly the case with medically underwritten term life insurance, as you can see from these examples of the cost of coverage for nonsmokers in excellent health for a Haven Term policy, issued by MassMutual.

Quotes for medically underwritten term life insurance

Age and gender Health Coverage amount Term length Premium
30, male Excellent $100,000 30 $13.30 per month
30, female Excellent $500,000 30 $27.40 per month
35, male Excellent $200,000 20 $13.19 per month
35, female Excellent $300,000 20 $14.34 per month
40, male Excellent $200,000 10 $14.26 per month
40, female Excellent $400,000 10 $15.71 per month
Source: Quotes for Haven Term, a medically underwritten term life insurance policy sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency
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Who it may be a good fit for

If you want to pay the most affordable rates (probably), if you have no objection to taking a medical exam if it’s needed, and/ or you and your family require a policy worth $500,000 or more, you’ll want to consider medically underwritten coverage. And you never know: You might qualify to skip the exam, too. Get a quote for the Haven Term policy. 

We have your back (and MassMutual has ours)

The Haven Term policy is issued by MassMutual, an industry leader with over 160 years of experience.

Why Haven Life

Guaranteed issue life insurance

As you might have guessed, this type of insurance means all applicants are guaranteed coverage — regardless of your age, health, or medical history, no exam is required. As you might also have guessed, guaranteed issue life insurance has some significant limits and caveats.

The first limit is coverage. You’re typically limited to a death benefit of $50,000 or less. If you are relatively young and have young kids in the house, that’s probably nowhere near your family’s (or dependents’) long-term needs, which might include a mortgage, education costs, end-of-life expenses and more, not to mention replacing the earnings you would’ve ordinarily brought home. Speaking of end-of-life expenses, that’s what guaranteed issue life insurance is typically used for — it’s often considered a final expense policy, covering any costs associated with you, well, dying.

There’s another important caveat, known as a “graded death benefit.” Essentially, this type of policy will pay out only after a certain number of years (typically three) have transpired. This is to keep people from taking out a policy when they know they might not live much longer. And yes, this includes deaths due to natural causes. Basically, even if you die unexpectedly during those first three years, your beneficiaries may not receive a full death benefit.

Finally, guaranteed issue coverage is a type of permanent life insurance coverage. That means that, if you keep paying your premiums, your coverage will continue as long as you do. The tradeoff there is that permanent life insurance is usually more expensive than term life insurance; as a result, you might end up paying far more for coverage than you would with one of the other policy options outlined above.

Who it may be a good fit for

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a good option if you want to cover end-of-life expenses, like funeral costs, when you pass away. This type of coverage typically sets you back more than a simplified issue or medically underwritten life insurance — and again, it often provides $50,000 or less in coverage.

Accidental death insurance

No euphemisms here, folks. You might also know accidental death insurance as accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance. In short, this policy provides a lump sum payout to your beneficiaries if you die in an accident (like a car crash or workplace injury) or in a homicide. Some (but not all) policies also cover dismemberment, paralysis, or other forms of severe injury through some type of living benefit.

What’s not covered? Death from illness, including such common causes of death as cancer, heart disease or a stroke. These limitations can leave your loved ones in a position of financial risk, so make sure you understand the details of this type of policy before you commit. Something else to consider: Many accidental death insurance policies limit their coverage, with $500,000 being a common cap.

Who it may be a good fit for

If you have been declined term life insurance due to health reasons, you might want to consider an accidental death policy.

Life insurance is more affordable than you think

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How to choose the right policy for you

Here are four scenarios that can help you decide whether a no-exam life insurance policy is a good fit for you:

If you want: The convenience of a 100% no-exam life insurance policy

Consider: Simplified issue life insurance

Here’s why: If you under no circumstances want to get a medical examination, then consider a simplified issue policy first. You’ll generally be limited to a face amount of $500,000 or less, so make sure that’s enough coverage for your family’s needs. Use a life insurance calculator to estimate how much coverage you may need. (Remember, life insurance isn’t about the medical exam, it’s about the people you are financially protecting.)

With a simplified issue policy, you’ll have to pay higher premiums to compensate the insurer for taking on more risk by not fully knowing your medical history. But the convenience may be worth paying more.

If you want: the best possible price for life insurance coverage

Consider: Medically underwritten term life insurance

Here’s why: If you are price-sensitive, then you may want to consider medically underwritten term life insurance. This life insurance policy will most likely be your most affordable option.

Historically, most medically underwritten policies require a medical exam. However, thanks to recent underwriting innovation in the life insurance industry, it may not be required for qualified applicants to take a medical exam. Haven Life offers the InstantTerm process in which some applicants ages 18–59 seeking a $1 million death benefit or less might meet the criteria that allows them to finalize coverage without a medical exam, based on the information they provided during the application process. You can complete an application to find out if you qualify to skip the exam. Keep in mind that it’s always very important to be honest in the application process. The issuance of the policy or payment of benefits may depend upon the answers given in the application and their truthfulness.

Whether you qualify for InstantTerm or end up taking the medical exam, medically underwritten coverage will generally provide you with a wide range of coverage options and better pricing than you’d get from a no-exam life insurance policy.

If you want: Coverage and are concerned about eligibility due to significant medical conditions

Consider: Guaranteed issue life insurance and accidental death insurance, but start with a medically underwritten or simplified issue policy if you haven’t applied already.

Here’s why: If you want coverage, but are worried about your eligibility because of health issues, it may still be worth it to apply for a medically underwritten policy first before you consider other options.

You don’t need to be in your 20s or in excellent health to qualify for reasonable rates for medically underwritten coverage. In fact, medically underwritten policies might be your best option because it will take into consideration a range of health information to make a decision, which even includes how you are managing a chronic condition. While it’s time-consuming to think that you might need to apply for multiple life insurance policies, keep in mind that the end goal is peace of mind for you and financial protection for your loved ones. And, you want to get the most value possible.

If you are declined medically underwritten or simplified issue coverage, then you should look into guaranteed issue or accidental death coverage. Cost-conscious consumers with medical conditions may prefer the generally lower premiums of accidental death insurance. One advantage that accidental death insurance has over guaranteed issue life insurance is that you may find coverage up to $500,000. The downside is that accidental death policies only cover death from an accident, not from health-related causes.

If you want: More than $500,000 of life insurance coverage

Consider: Medically underwritten term life insurance

Here’s why: Medically underwritten policies usually are the only type of term life insurance that will provide coverage options in excess of $500,000. And again, with a Haven Term policy, certain qualified applicants may be able to finalize up to $1 million in coverage without a medical exam. Understand your life insurance needs.

Select the policy that meets your needs and budget

Buying the right coverage does not need to be complicated. Consider what price fits into your budget as well as what purchasing experience best fits with your lifestyle and expectations.

Most importantly, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re doing all this research and buying a policy to help financially protect the most important people in your life and give you peace of mind.

Why Haven Life?

The answer to that question is easy (which is exactly how Haven Life makes applying for term life insurance)

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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