laboratory testing

A blood draw for a life insurance application is simple, but once the specimen arrives by air, courier or commercial delivery at the testing laboratory, things get quite impressive behind the scenes! Here’s a look from start to finish at how some underwriting decisions start with a simple blood draw. 

risk assessment specimen collection

Specimens are obtained during a paramedical exam at an applicant’s home, work or exam site. The specimen’s journey starts when a trained examiner places a barcode on the specimen tube and all necessary documents including the kit box. Each barcode is specific to that life insurance applicant and helps to ensure all the required tests are reported back on the correct applicant.

specimen transport

Specimens make their way to our Quest Diagnostics laboratory in Lenexa, KS or St. Louis, MO by courier, mail or plane. Upon arrival, a laboratory technician scans the kit’s airbill, automatically loading the information into our computerized tracking system.

specimen tracking

Once checked-in, the specimen is unboxed by the technician, who carefully ensures that all specimens include the applicant’s first and last names. All identifiers on all tubes and kits must match both the applicant and the lab requisition. As the technician scans the barcodes on the individual specimens, they are officially loaded into inventory. At the same time, the technician inspects the condition of each kit component and records it in our system.

risk assessment specimen testing

A conveyor belt speeds specimens into our state-of-the-art testing laboratory. Each specimen type is routed to the proper analyzer; our laboratory’s equipment allows for both speedy and accurate results.A portion of the specimen stays in refrigerated storage at our facility just in case additional testing is needed: 28 days for blood, and 21 days for urine. As soon as all testing is completed to the insurance company’s requirements, results are transmitted as requested to be reviewed for underwriting.

result reporting

Typically, 24 to 48 hours after specimen arrival at our lab, results are received by the carrier (depending on the test profile). For carriers participating in our Inside Look® program, their applicants typically receive their online laboratory results 5-7 days after their paramedical exam.

Every day, thousands of life insurance specimens complete this journey from draw to laboratory testing to results delivery. Behind every one of them is a real person looking out for their family.

heart disease risks

The heart is a tiny but powerful organ whose work is indispensable to the rest of the body. This 1-pound organ pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood every day. This Heart Month, we examine three contributing factors insurers can consider when reviewing a life insurance applicant’s laboratory and medical history.

Smoking contributes to one-third of coronary heart disease deaths

Smoking has multiple health risk factors. In addition to lung and throat cancer, smoking can also lead to coronary heart disease, stroke and/or raised blood pressure. According to American Heart Association, smokers have a higher mortality risk than non-smokers and on average, die more than 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.

In a recent analysis, we discovered that 6.5% of all ExamOne life insurance applicants tested positive for cotinine from 2017 to 2019. Further, we saw a 36.4% non-disclosure rate–meaning cotinine-positive applicants denied their tobacco use, something we refer to as ‘smoker’s amnesia.’ We also found that smokers had an increased risk of positivity for other drugs of abuse:

High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.

It is estimated that tens of millions of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and most do not have it under control. It can lead to heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death for Americans.

Our examiners are trained to take three blood pressure readings during the paramedical exam. Per Mayo Clinic recommendations, documenting a blood pressure reading multiple times helps verify accuracy. Additionally, if an applicant is or has been prescribed a blood pressure medication, results will be found in a prescription history report (up to seven years look-back). This provides insurers with information including the prescribing doctor, prescription adherence, a drug summary and prescription detail.

An elevated A1c could indicate an applicant is prediabetic or diabetic.  

It’s estimated that in 2018, 34.1 million adults aged 18 years or older—or 13.0% of all US adults—had diabetes and over 21% were unaware. Many times, applicants may be unaware they have this condition because they have not been tested and/or diagnosed. In fact, 34% of applicants with tested A1c values of 6.5 or higher stated they did not have diabetes during their telephone interview or on their application. The CDC also states that the risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is higher than for adults who do not have diabetes.

The heart is a vital organ. By keeping it healthy, individuals reduce the likelihood of developing a chronic medical condition(s) later in life. Insurers can use real-time health data and laboratory results during the risk assessment process to better understand potential health risks for their life insurance applicants.

‘Tis the season to protect families with life insurance

December 18, 2019 Applicants

The busy holidays may not seem like the most convenient time to apply for life insurance. However, the time spent with family and friends is a perfect reminder of the importance of protecting their futures with life insurance. Here are three reasons the holiday season may be the perfect time for your prospective client to […]

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Drinking through the life insurance exam: Why insurers should be concerned about an elevated blood alcohol concentration level

October 16, 2019 Carriers

When we talk about alcohol abuse and misuse, we can’t help but talk about the impact on mortality and a life insurer’s bottom line. Traditionally, insurers have primarily relied on applicant self-admission, the MIB, motor vehicle reports (MVRs), and the occasional APS “surprise” to identify potential alcohol-related risks. But how effective are these tools? Alcohol […]

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Ask the Expert: Discover more about historical laboratory data for life insurance underwriting

July 29, 2019 Ask The Experts

Historical laboratory data is of unique importance to insurers because it provides a retrospective view of an applicant’s health. Insights from our LabPiQture report can help insurers build a longitudinal history of an individual’s last seven years. Brian Lanzrath, our Director of Analytics and LabPiQture expert, answers some of the commonly asked questions we receive […]

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Laboratory insights on male life insurance applicants reveal high diabetes and hypertension rates

July 15, 2019 Carriers

Last month we discussed five of the most common diagnoses codes among female life insurance applicants. Now, we are shifting that focus to male applicants and taking a look at their top five diagnoses revealed through LabPiQture™, as well as some of their surprising non-disclosure results discovered through laboratory testing. Top five diagnoses codes among […]

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Incorporating blood tests into older-age underwriting facilitates faster policy issue and decreased costs

May 29, 2019 Carriers

According to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau report, baby boomers are now trailing the millennial generation as the second largest generation today with an estimated 75.4 million individuals. Although the millennials outnumber this aging segment, it is in the 60+ age group where life insurance application activity is rising. Each month, underwriting specialists at the […]

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Ask the expert: Customizing your laboratory results to facilitate faster results

February 19, 2019 Carriers

Now that marijuana is legal in many states, as well as in Washington D.C., some underwriting departments have asked us to update their sensitive test results to allow for positive THC. Several clients indicated that waiting for sensitive test results can cause a delay in their underwriting process. By reducing your number of sensitive tests, […]

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Glycolysis and hemolysis: Does it still matter to life insurers?

November 1, 2018 Carriers

We all know the routine. The examiner draws blood during a mobile exam. Delays in processing allow those hungry red blood cells to gobble up glucose. The underwriter sees an extremely low glucose reading or the dreaded not valid glucose (NVG) on the laboratory report. Or the laboratory report notes hemolysis is present. Then there […]

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Take action on World Hepatitis Day

July 27, 2018 Applicants

Each summer, the World Health Organization commemorates World Hepatitis Day on July 28 to spread awareness and understanding of the disease and its impact. Hepatitis is one of the world’s leading causes of death with 1.34 millions deaths a year. Currently, more than 300 million people are living with the disease. That is why it […]

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