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Medical records

All you need to know about life insurance and medical records

Rachel Ditchburn
Written by  Rachel Ditchburn
5 min read
Updated: 20 Feb 2024

If your insurer has asked to see your medical records, there’s no need to panic.

The medical records inquiry: A necessary step?

When you apply for life insurance, the provider isn't just taking your word for your health status; they're looking to verify it. This is where your medical records come into play. Insurers typically request details of your health history to assess the risk of insuring you. They're particularly keen on any serious illnesses you may have had in the recent past, usually focusing on the last five to ten years. This period provides them with a snapshot of your health that's relevant to the policy they're considering offering you.

nurses walking up some stairs

Accessing your medical past: A matter of consent

Do life insurance companies have free rein over your medical history? The short answer is no. They can only peek into your medical records with your explicit consent. This is a safeguard to ensure your privacy is respected. Moreover, while they can share this information with other insurers, it must be relevant to your application, and you must be aware of the exchange.

Why your medical records matter to insurers

The reason life insurance providers ask to see your medical records is straightforward: risk assessment. They want to know if there's a high chance they'll need to pay out the policy sum prematurely due to your early death. Serious illnesses from the last couple of years are of particular interest to them because they could indicate an increased risk.

The consequences of withholding information

While you're not legally bound to grant access to your medical records, refusing to do so can lead to a denial of coverage. Pre-existing conditions, as detailed in your medical history, can bump up the cost of your policy. Some insurers may even exclude certain conditions from coverage. It's a precarious balance – provide access to your records and potentially face higher premiums, or refuse and risk not getting insured at all.

The dilemma: To share or not to share?

The decision to allow an insurance company to access your medical records is a personal one. However, it's important to remember that you're protected by laws such as the Data Protection Act (2018) and the Access to Medical Reports Act (1998). These laws ensure that your medical history cannot be accessed without your permission.

The process of obtaining medical reports

Insurers need your formal consent to request a medical report. This is usually obtained during the application process for a policy. Once they request access, you'll be notified and given 21 days to review the report with your GP before it's sent to the insurer. You have the right to know what's shared and can refuse disclosure at any stage.

Your medical records: A transparent reflection

Your medical records are a comprehensive account of your health history. They include your personal details, health conditions, treatments, medications, allergies, and any visits to your GP or hospital. Importantly, they will also list any pre-existing medical conditions you have. Not disclosing these conditions can lead to your claim and policy being invalidated, which is why transparency is crucial.

The long reach of medical history

Insurers are typically interested in the last five to ten years of your medical history. This timeframe gives them enough information to determine the risk of insuring you. It's also worth noting that the retention period for medical records varies, and insurers may inquire about the duration of recovery from specific conditions.

After the fact: Medical records post-death

Life insurance companies may request medical records after the policyholder's death, but they'll need permission from someone authorised to act on behalf of the deceased. They use this information, along with other documentation, to determine the validity of a claim.

Who else can peek into your medical history?

Apart from insurance companies, there are certain public bodies like the police, social services, and the DVLA that can legally access your medical records without your consent under specific circumstances.

Life insurance without medical records?

It's possible to obtain a life insurance policy without the provider seeing your medical records. However, withholding information about pre-existing conditions is a risky move that could lead to a refused claim. There are insurance options available that do not require medical information, such as guaranteed life insurance and some over 50s life insurance plans, which offer a lump sum payout upon death.

Finding affordable life insurance

For those looking to find a more affordable life insurance policy, comparing quotes from leading providers is a smart move. You can easily search for life insurance on MoneySuperMarket and compare quotes within minutes, ensuring you find a policy that meets your needs and budget.

Kara Gammell says: “Any request for personal information can understandably be uncomfortable. But significant protections are in place, enshrined in law, that support financial product customers.

Remember, you can withdraw your consent at any stage, but don’t be tempted to be creative or quiet about relevant information – it’s rarely worth the risk of voiding your policy in return for a few quid off your premiums.”

The bottom line: Honesty is the best policy

It is important to make informed decisions that balance your privacy, your health history, and the need for financial security. With the right approach and understanding, you can secure a policy that offers peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

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