Like most parents, I’m no stranger to filling out forms. You need allergy lists and field trip sign-up sheets? No problem. Passport renewal, summer camp enrollment, tax forms—got it all and more on my desk.
I’m down to tackle the paperwork my family needs, but it’s also a relief when I can skip an extra form here and there. My gut reaction to learning about an attending physician statement was, “Shoot, did I remember to send one with my life insurance application?”
Turns out I didn’t, because I didn’t need to—and you might not need one, either. Here’s what you should know, just in case, and what to expect from the life insurance process.
An attending physician statement (APS) is a short description from a medical provider that provides an insurance company with more information about a health condition and treatment plan you may have.
When you apply for life insurance, the insurance company assesses your health as part of your overall risk profile (higher risk means higher rates on your policy). The aim is always to get as complete and accurate a picture of your health as possible, but the steps can look a little different from one applicant to another.
If you’re in great health, underwriters may be able to get all the information they need from a medical questionnaire. A no-exam life insurance policy is one of the most low-fuss options out there, and it can be a great way to get affordable coverage as simply as possible. In other cases, it’s common for a life insurance application to include an in-person medical exam at the insurer’s expense. And for a small set of applications, the insurance company might ask for an APS to get more detailed information on your health.
Generally, a practicing physician with an M.D., D.O. or PhD fills out the APS. If a non-physician provider (e.g., nurse practitioner, licensed physical therapist) is the most knowledgeable person to answer questions about your condition and care plan, insurance companies will consider these statements as well. But in many cases, insurers prefer to see an APS come from a physician.
An APS is helpful when understanding your health takes more nuance than a brief medical overview can cover.
To be clear, in most cases an APS isn’t necessary. If you don’t have health complaints, or even if you have some health issues that are easy to understand based on a quick medical check-up and blood sample, there’s no need to keep digging.
An APS comes in handy when an insurer needs to understand more intricate details about your health or get clearer context. For example, if you’ve had heart issues in your medical history, that’s something underwriters take seriously. Some health conditions can present in various ways, and your treatment and overall current health assessment can range from relatively mild to very serious. An APS can help insurers know what your medical situation actually means.
As another example, maybe you have a mental health condition that you’ve been managing for a while, like depression. Or you’re in ongoing physical therapy to help manage a condition. Health is complex and multifaceted, and sometimes it’s helpful for underwriters to have more detail to make an accurate consideration of your risk.
You deserve to have a fair rate for a life insurance policy, and in some cases an APS can help achieve that goal.
You don’t need to ask for an APS. If the insurance company needs it to add detail to your application, they’ll let you know. The insurance company might send the APS form to you to bring to a medical provider, or they might send the form directly to your doctor’s office. It’s possible your doctor could complete the entire step without you even being involved. In other cases, however, if your doctor drags their feet, this can delay your ability to get life insurance because the underwriters might be waiting on this document before they can proceed.
If your application requires an APS, the information your doctor offers can have a big impact on what coverage and rates you’re offered. You can take some steps to help make sure your APS is as accurate as possible.
Choose the right doctor: Depending on your health, you may see multiple medical professionals to manage a condition. Choose the provider who can speak in clearest detail about your diagnosis and prognosis. For example, if you had cancer in your history, an APS from your oncologist would likely be more helpful to the insurance underwriters than a statement from your physical therapist.
Bring the APS to a visit: If possible, it can be helpful to give an APS form to your physician in person.An in-person conversation is a good way to get on the same page with your provider about your full health picture, and it may help keep details fresh in the provider’s mind for when they complete the APS.
Discuss any additional materials: In the course of your conversation, you might feel like even some of the questions on an APS won’t capture your whole health story. If your physician is open to it, this might be your best opportunity to ask them for a more detailed letter or note to add as a supplemental statement.
Check with the office: Doctors keep busy schedules, and treating patients comes ahead of some types of paperwork. Part of the reason insurance companies like Fabric try to avoid requesting an APS when possible is that it can add time to the application process. You might need to contact your physician’s office with a gentle reminder to return the paperwork. It may take a few weeks for a physician to review and thoroughly complete your APS.
Review the APS: Look for missed questions and check that your physician hasn’t made accidental errors or missed information that could be important.
Ultimately, most people are able to skip the APS step in the course of getting life insurance. Take your time with medical questions on the regular life insurance application. Giving complete, accurate answers on those forms may give the underwriters all the information they need so they don’t have to get more clarification.
And if you do need an APS, communicating with your insurance agents, underwriters and your physician can answer your questions and make this last step as smooth as possible.
Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Fabric by Gerber Life exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.
Information provided is general and educational in nature and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, financial, legal, or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. We make no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use, and disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information.
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