Life insurance and access to medical records: a guide

While it may feel intrusive, insurance providers can ask to see your medical records when you’re applying for life insurance.

Here’s what you need to know about life insurance and medical records, including how to find the details of your medical history.

While it may feel intrusive, insurance providers can ask to see your medical records when you’re applying for life insurance.

Here’s what you need to know about life insurance and medical records, including how to find the details of your medical history.

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Kara Gammell
Finance expert
Last Updated
18 MAY 2022
5 min read
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Who can access my medical records?

Under certain circumstances, public bodies such as the police, social services and the DVLA are legally able to access your medical records without your consent. However, insurance providers can only see your medical details if you’ve given them permission.

Where can I get a copy of my records?

You can access your medical records for free, from your local GP practice, opticians or dentists. All healthcare professionals have a legal requirement to let you see your records if you ask them.

And anyone aged 16 or over who’s registered with a GP practice in England can register for an online account to view their future medical record.

Why would a life insurance provider ask to see my medical records?

A life insurance provider could ask to see your medical records to assess the risk involved in offering you a policy. By seeing your medical records, a provider can decide how likely you are to make an insurance claim in the future. 

As well as your medical records, a provider takes into account a range of factors before they offer you a price for your policy. These include your age, weight and lifestyle – along with the type of life cover you want to take out.

Will my medical records show my pre-existing medical conditions?

Your medical records will show full details of any pre-existing medical conditions. A pre-existing condition can be any illness, injury or disease that exists before or at the time you take out life insurance. Examples include diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. Read our guide to pre-existing medical conditions for more information. 

You can still find life cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition, although the premium could be more expensive and there might be fewer providers willing to cover you. 

Did you know?
Insurance providers should only take into account ‘relevant’ information in medical records that will help them assess the risk of a specific customer. If they use any information that isn’t relevant to deny you cover or hike up your premiums, then this is unlawful discrimination.

Can I get a life insurance policy without an insurance provider seeing my medical records?

You can get life cover without a provider seeing your medical records. In fact, it’s usually the case that a provider won’t ask to see your medical records when you apply for cover. But it’s really important to understand that a provider could refuse to pay out for a claim if it turns out you withheld (or weren’t fully honest about) any details of your medical history, including any pre-existing medical conditions, when you applied for a policy.

Compare life insurance

Having a life insurance policy in place can help protect your loved ones financially, while offering you peace of mind to get on and enjoy life.

There are many different policies available and the one that works for you will depend on your circumstances. So, it’s good to start with a comparison of deals from a range of providers.

Frequently asked questions

How far do my medical records go back?

Medical records are usually kept for eight to 10 years after a patient’s final treatment. Mental health records are generally kept for up to 20 years or up to eight years after the patient has died. 

However, insurance providers tend to focus on your medical conditions of the past five years. If you’ve recovered from a medical issue, they may also want to know how long you’ve been free of symptoms. They ask for this because the information might affect your premiums.

Can life insurance providers check medical records after death?

A life insurance provider might ask to see the policyholder’s medical records when they die if it’s relevant to a claim. But they can only do this with permission from someone authorised to act on behalf of the deceased – for example, an executor.

What information is in my medical records?

Your medical records contain information about your physical or mental health recorded by a health professional like your GP or hospital staff. Information can include: 

  • your name, age and address
  • health conditions
  • treatments and medicines
  • tests, scans and x-ray results
  • allergies and past reactions to medicines
  • specialist care, like maternity or mental health
  • lifestyle information – for example, if you smoke or drink
  • hospital admissions, treatment and discharge information.

Can I get my medical records changed?

If you believe there’s an error in your medical records or information is incorrect, you can ask your GP to update it. 

You can also ask your GP to change any part of a medical report you believe is inaccurate or misleading. If they refuse, you can add a written statement expressing your views, which must be attached and sent with the report.

Do I need a medical to get life insurance?

It can depend on your age and lifestyle. For example, you might not need a medical report if you’re young and in good health. But if you’re older and smoke, your insurance provider may ask for a medical report from your doctor. 

It can also depend on the type of policy you buy. For example, over 50s life insurance, offers guaranteed acceptance, so you won’t need to take a medical or answer any health-related questions. As long as you pay your premiums, your beneficiaries will receive a guaranteed pay-out when you die, regardless of your health.

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