If you’re reading this article you likely have tested positive for nicotine on your life insurance paramed exam. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. The good news is there are several options you have and I’ll go over those in more detail below.
The Life Insurance Medical Exam Test for Nicotine
As part of the underwriting process for life insurance, most carriers will do a no-cost 30-minute paramed exam to verify your health. The exam will typically include a small blood and urine sample. The urine sample (urinalysis) can detect several items including nicotine or cotinine.
When someone smokes a cigarette, chews or dips tobacco, smokes a cigar, vapes or is exposed to secondhand smoke, the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream. Once this happens the liver breaks down the enzymes which becomes cotinine. This is what is detected on the life insurance medical exam.
How Accurate is the Life Insurance Nicotine Test?
The life insurance nicotine test is extremely accurate and is very rarely incorrect. I had several underwriters tell me the levels they use to detect cotinine are high enough (accurate enough) that they can tell if the applicant actually smoked or sat next to someone who did and inhaled secondhand smoke.
Options if You Tested Positive for Nicotine on the Life Insurance Medical Exam
The good news there are several options you have if you tested positive for nicotine on the life insurance medical exam.
1. Did you smoke a cigar or chew/dip prior to the paramed?
A common reason why someone will test positive for nicotine is they will forget (or didn’t know it would affect it) about the upcoming paramed exam and smoke a cigar on the golf course or at a party prior to the paramed. This will result in a positive nicotine test and the underwriter will think you are a cigarette smoker. If this was the case, the good news that there are a very few select number of carriers that will allow you to pivot over to their company and get a non-tobacco rate if in fact it was a cigar or chew/dip and not a cigarette. (Caveat, you definitely want to be honest. If it was a cigarette and not a cigar or chew/dip/pipe, don’t lie, it’s not worth it. All life insurance polices are contestable in the first two years if you pass away and were dishonest on your application.)
2. Accept a 10-Year Term and Reapply in 12 Months
If you did smoke a cigarette prior to the paramed and tested positive for nicotine/cotinine, you will have to wait 12 months from the date of the paramed exam (if you don’t smoke after that) to receive a non-tobacco rate. If you currently don’t have any life insurance coverage, you still will need to protect your family, business, income, children, etc. for the next 12 months. Many people will accept the shortest term available which is a 10 year term so the rate is more affordable and their family is still protected if anything unexpected were to happened in the next 12 months. Also, if their health changes or you do smoke again, at least the rate is locked in for the next 10 years. Also, you can cancel anytime without a penalty which most people will do after 12 months if they haven’t smoked a cigarette and will reapply for a new policy at that time, which will provide peace of mind knowing their family is protected in the interim.
3. Accept a Coverage Amount and Term That is Affordable and Reapply in a 12 Months
This is similar to number two above, the difference being some people like to accept a 15, 20 or even 30 year term in an effort to “hedge their bets” so to speak. In case your health changes in the next 12 months or however long it takes to not smoke a cigarette for 12 full months straight, and God forbid you develop cancer, have a heart attack or some other unforeseen health event, then you still have the policy locked for the next 10, 15, 20 or 30 years.
The good part is you can still cancel anytime without a penalty and reapply in 12 months since after the paramed, or after your last cigarette and get the better rates. However, if you health changes in the next 12 months your family is still covered for the term you select and the rate won’t change. Many people like this peace of mind.
3. Not Accept and Wait 12 Months and Reapply
This is the least recommend option unless you currently have life insurance and are replacing a current policy.. You do not want to leave your family unprotected, even for a year. You just never know. Not only could you pass away in the next 12 months but your health could change leaving you uninsuranble. If someone doesn’t have life insurance and does have a spouse, children, mortgage, etc. I always recommend to “bite the bullet” and pay the higher premium for a year (and or lower the coverage or change to a 10 year term for the next 12 months) then reapply in 12 months so your loved ones are covered and you will have that peace of mind.
Wrap Up– Testing Positive for Nicotine (Cotinine) on the Life insurance Paramed Exam- What are your Options?
If you applied for life insurance and tested positive for nicotine (cotinine) and your rate increased, you’re not alone. I have helped hundreds of applicants in this situation. The options I outlined above are the ones I recommend. Most people who don’t currently have life insurance will accept a policy that is affordable so their family is covered now. Then they will reapply in 12 months after the paramed exam (a long as they don’t smoke a cigarette in the next 12 months) for the lower rate. You “bite the bullet” so to speak and pay a higher premium for the next 12 months but your family is protected (as well as hedge against in your health changes in the next year) so both you and your family will have the peace of mind knowing they won’t be financially devastated if anything unexpected were to happen to you.