The availability of technology in the way of the computer and knowledge in the medical technology field have made myriads of information available at a much faster pace than ever before.
Some people might say that there is too much information available, but it all depends upon who is using the information.
The medical community knows so much more about the cause and effects of various medical conditions and diseases than was known just a few short years ago.
When medical knowledge gets down to the molecular level where medical procedures can be effective miracles can happen.
As far as life insurance underwriting, all this knowledge opens doors for granting more favorable ratings just as often as it does for clamping down and rating the premiums for applicants.
As mentioned, information is useful or not, depending on who is using the data and for what purpose.
Learn more about the blood testing involved in applying for life insurance below and make sure to use our free comparison tool above! Just enter your zip code and start comparing rates today!
The Answer is in the Blood
Life insurance companies are more and more interested in knowing what the condition of our blood is regarding our overall health.
When we are asked to take a physical exam for a life insurance policy we are applying for, one of the prime indicators that are requested is a blood sample.
Blood tests show whether the levels of different substances fall within or outside of a “normal” range.
Although these ranges can vary based on age, gender, race and other factors, there are known indicators that can indicate that we may or may not have a certain condition.
– The Makeup of Blood
Blood is made up of liquid/plasma, antibodies, hormones, glucose, enzymes, fat particles and salts. Blood also has red cells, which contain hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin binds to oxygen, and this is how it gets the oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the cells in our body.
White cells in the blood are a part of our immune system by engulfing infection, attack foreign substances, control inflammation, and ward off other attackers. Blood also contains platelets, which cause our blood to clot if needed.
Medical blood tests help doctors to diagnose the current condition of a person’s health, and they also help to monitor the body’s functions by noting different contents of the blood as about various organs.
The life insurance companies employ doctors to be on staff so that blood test results can be interpreted first hand.
– The Life Insurance Underwriting Process Concerning Blood
Today many life insurance policies are written without the applicant having to undergo a formal medical exam.
This is because of the availability of medical records very easily by getting permission from the applicant to access medical records that already discloses full information.
It is only when a medical examination is called for that a blood sample would be taken.
Medical exams are only called for with most life companies if the amount of life insurance being applied for requires it, or if there is an ongoing medical condition that would require a blood test.
For example, if an applicant were to apply for a million dollar life insurance policy, which is not all that unusual, it is likely that a blood sample would be requested.
A million dollars would not be an excessive amount of insurance, given that most people earn more than that during their lifetime of employment.
Blood samples, along with other proofs such as a urinalysis, prior health history and current health data such as blood pressure, heart rate, pulse and current medical records will all be used in the determination of the insurability of the applicant.
Blood samples, however, can be a determining factor depending upon what is found in the blood sample.
What Specific Blood Test Results Can Be Factors in the Decision in Underwriting A Life Insurance Policy?
Blood samples that are analyzed to detect an excess of certain substances can lead to the conclusion that there may be problems with a person’s heart.
For example, if excess electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, albumin, protein, and creatine, which comes from kidney function are released, and strain on the kidneys and liver are indicated. These items shown in excess can indicate heart failure.
Blood tests can predict a possible impending heart attack. If the blood has higher levels of a protein called NT-proBNP, a person is highly predictive to have a heart attack.
These particular individuals are more than eight times more likely to have a heart incident than people who lack the increased level of the protein.
NT-proBNP is a peptide that is released by the ventricles of the heart when it is under strain.
When an applicant has a blood test for a life insurance policy application, it will show the different levels of lipids and fats that are in the blood.
The levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and other proteins can be suggestive that there may be future heart difficulties, and these factors can cause an underwriter to rate the insurance policy.
– The PSA Blood Test Can Indicate Prostate Cancer
The Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is routinely screened from blood tests taken for life insurance purposes. Although it can indicate other prostate issues, it is of major concern if the test reads above a score of four, the normal reading.
A PSA of between four and ten would indicate a 25 percent chance of having cancer, and a reading above a 10 gives a 67 percent chance of having cancer.
– Blood Tests That Indicate Liver Problems
There are several tests that give results on liver function. One is called the coagulation panel which measures the blood’s ability for clotting normally. Clotting factors are produced in the liver.
The albumin levels indicate a normal liver function or the possible presence of cirrhosis or chronic disease of the liver.
The levels of bilirubin, a molecule showing the natural destruction of red blood cells, indicates a problem if that destruction level is high.
– Blood Tests That Can Indicate Cancer
A blood test that is used to indicate cancer is the Complete Blood Count or CBC. The CBC panel measures most of the types of markers as well as red and white blood cells. If any of the markers or levels of red or white cells are not within their ranges, possible cancer can be suspected.
For example, an overabundance of white blood cells can indicate leukemia.
Different cancers may have more specific markers, but any indication of possible cancer will cause an underwriter to take note and rate a policy accordingly.
Moreover, these tests can indicate further testing by the applicant’s personal physician and specialists, perhaps finding cancer before it gets too serious.
– Blood Test That Can Diagnose Graves Disease
A blood test can tell if your thyroid is producing too much in the way of hormones, particularly the TSH, T3 and T4 hormones. The levels of the hormones will indicate the possibility of an individual having the disease.
If left untreated, Graves disease can result in heart problems and can be fatal. People who have Graves disease will normally have too much T3 and T4 in their blood, and this can be found in a blood test.
– Blood Test That Detects Problems With Kidney Function
Believe it or not, statistics show that one out of every three adults in America is at risk for kidney disease. A blood test called GFR, or Glomerular Filtration Rate, measures kidney function.
This test measures the amount of a waste product called creatinine in the blood. This waste product builds up when the kidneys are damaged. Creatine comes from muscle tissue, and the kidneys have difficulty removing it when they are damaged.
The blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test is another test that is commonly performed to measure liver function. This test tests the blood for waste products, such as nitrogen.
Nitrogen is formed when proteins break down. Normally, the kidney takes care of excess nitrogen, and it is excreted in the urine. If there is excess nitrogen in the blood, kidney damage could be suspected.
– Blood Test Can Indicate That Lyme Disease is Present
Lyme Disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of the deer tick. Most people do not remember the tick bite itself, but the tick has to be present on the skin for 24 to 48 hours to transmit the disease.
In most cases, a thorough washing after a trip in the woods will protect a person from getting the disease.
A blood test will either confirm or rule out Lyme Disease. In the latter stages, the symptoms can be very severe, with arthritis-like symptoms, brain dysfunction, and heart rhythm problems.
– Blood Tests Can Reveal Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
Most sexually transmitted diseases are silent, and they do not show immediate symptoms.
They come about by having sex with another person who has the disease, or by coming in contact with infected blood by sharing infected needles or through a blood transfusion.
If STD’s are left untreated, the results can be far-reaching including organ damage, infertility, blindness, cancer, and heart conditions. A blood test is the most common diagnosis tool.
The life insurance company does not test specifically for STDs, but they do for HIV antibodies. Also, if there is an elevation of infection in the blood count, the company may want more investigation because of that.
– Blood Tests Can Detect the Presence of Poisoning from Chemicals, Lead and Other Heavy Metals
Poisoning from chemicals or heavy metals sometimes is evident from a person’s proximity to these substances through work or by accident.
Nevertheless, sometimes a person can become poisoned through the water supply, food, or other environmental factors. Blood tests can indicate poison in the body, but only if the poison is still in the blood, as poison tends to ultimately settle in the fatty areas of the body.
However, if the poisoning is ongoing, then it is likely that there is still poison in the blood stream.
– Blood Tests Can Discover Diabetes
A routine blood test, such as the one required for the application of life insurance, can detect elevated glucose in the blood. This is commonly called blood sugar, and if it is too high, an individual should see a doctor and receive further tests and treatment.
If diabetes is ignored, over time serious problems can occur such as heart disease, eye problems, kidney disease, and nerve damage. Once detected, diabetes can be treated by diet, oral medication or insulin injections.
Depending on the severity, diabetes will cause a life insurance rate up for the premiums or a decline if it is severe enough.
Many times elevated blood sugar is noticed on an insurance exam which causes the individual to seek medical advice where otherwise the disease may not have been discovered until more advanced stages occur.
– Blood Tests Diagnose Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease occurs in black people primarily. For some reason, the individual’s red blood cells are destroyed more rapidly, and many of the survivors take on a crescent shape.
The result is an inability to always have enough oxygen for the rest of the body due to the inefficiency of the red blood cells.
Sickle cell disease is usually diagnosed from the symptoms, such as mild jaundice and anemia.
A blood test then confirms the presence of the disease. From an underwriting standpoint, heart and liver function can become compromised, and a crisis is always looming such as too much stress or activity causing heart dysfunction and other problems.
Blood Can Tell the Whole Story About Our Health, or Give Clues to More Serious Issues
There are more blood tests that can be performed, but in this summary, we see some of them are more common. Not all of these tests are done in a routine life insurance medical examination, but they could be called for in subsequent requests by the home office medical team.
The applicant may be asked to go back to his or her doctor for some of the tests requested, at his or her expense. The thinking is that a person ought to be cognizant enough to be responsible for his or her health to the point that they would seek professional help if something is amiss.
Just because a certain test or more specific information is not requested originally requested does not mean that the insurance company will not request more tests or additional information.
The company will want to make sure that they have all of the information they need to make a good decision. A real story occurred when a man had an elevated PSA score when the results came back from the medical exam.
Consequently, the life insurance company rated his term policy a “Table C” which tripled the premium he had originally expected to pay.
He became upset and called the underwriter and complained, and the underwriter suggested that he consult his doctor just to be sure about his medical condition.
The man did take the policy, and it was a good thing that he did.By the time the man got around to seeing his doctor, his PSA had shot up from a score of 6 to 14, and as it turned out, he did have prostate cancer.
The prostate was surgically removed as it was full of cancer, but cancer had not metastasized out of the prostate yet. Today he is doing well with no sign of cancer. The fact that he had an insurance exam, in the beginning, saved his life.
The blood harbors just about everything a doctor or an insurance company would want to know about our state of health. Although the picture the life insurance underwriter wants is just that, a picture.
If an applicant is suffering from an ongoing illness, a blood test report specific to that illness could cause a more severe rating, or it might offer enough evidence to mitigate a more severe rating, and a milder one might be applied.
Life insurance underwriting is as close to an exact science as possible, based upon the information that is received. An honest attempt is made to be fair and to apply the same principles to all, based on the evidence. Accurate blood tests are significant evidence to that end.
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