When you decide to get life insurance, one of the criteria of getting the insurance is often getting a physical exam and blood tests. Life insurance blood tests check for any diseases, conditions and habits that may cost them time and money in the future. Insurers are looking to detect the signs and major contributors of known risks to your health. Any markers for the top causes of illness and death such as heart problems, cancer, stroke and respiratory problems will get noticed. Markers for heart problems will get their undivided attention.
Applicants for life insurance often do not know what is being tested. They may learn about the benefits and risks later, without proper counseling. In some cases, an insurance carriers' tests carry false positives, false negatives, or may have different results than the person's physician results.
Detecting nicotine is the number one reason life insurers draw your blood. The presence of nicotine in your blood indicates to the insurer that you smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking causes 1 in 5 of all deaths, more than all the other causes combined. Predictably, having detected that you smoke cigarettes, the insurer classifies you as a much greater risk to insure and will give you a much higher monthly premium to pay. Blood tests can detect cotinine, a marker for nicotine use, with 3-10 days of smoking.
Detecting Alcohol and Drugs
The liver function test, the GGT, measures a marker for heavy alcohol use. Excessive alcohol consumption has been found to be associated with liver disease. Results of liver disease can be scarring of liver tissue, difficulty controlling blood sugar, iron buildup, lesions, gallstones and hepatitis. Excessive alcohol use is the 3rd leading lifestyle cause of death in the U.S. Illegal drug use is known to cause damage to the central nervous system, major organs, can cause cancer, and a host of other problems that life insurers want to be aware of.
Predicting Premature Death
Some blood tests check for predictors of premature death, although you may never know exactly what your insurer is looking for. Other tests life insurance blood tests check for are diabetes, hepatitis, prostrate problems, a compromised immune system, and medications.
- HIV - leads to a weak immune system and opportunities for infections, neurologic problems which can lead to impaired thinking, heart disease and diabetes.
- Cholesterol/Lipids - a complete cholesterol check and a high number result may indicate blocked or narrowed arteries, called atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques in your arteries. Heart disease is likely with atherosclerosis.
- Kidneys - malfunctioning kidneys can cause kidney stones and infections but mainly insurers are looking for diabetic implications in the kidneys. Excess blood sugar damages the kidneys filtering of wastes and toxins.
On May 21st, 2008 the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of information derived from genetic tests. Employers and insurance companies cannot discrimate against you on the basis of gene tesing. All testing, and especially gene testing carries risks for discrimination, anxiety and stigma.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking
University of Illinois, Liver Disease