If you've ever applied for life insurance, you probably were asked to undergo a medical exam to prove your insurability.

Insurance companies typically need to verify the exact state of your health. They consider your height, weight, blood pressure and lab test results before they give you life insurance quotes.

But some insurers offer what's known as "no-exam" life insurance.

Several names, one key feature

Many no-exam policies are called "simplified issue" life insurance because you provide information about your health over the phone, online or via a paper application.

Other variations of no-exam insurance are referred to as "guaranteed issue" or "graded benefit" insurance. With both of these, you fill out an application, but there are no health questions asked. You can be relatively certain of getting coverage, even if you have various health issues that otherwise might make it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain traditionally underwritten insurance.

Graded benefit policies do not pay out the full benefit amount if you die within a few years of buying the policy; the policy's terms will tell you how much your beneficiaries will receive depending on when you die.

Despite the variety of names, all types of "no-exam" life insurance share one characteristic: You do not need to undergo a medical examination to buy coverage.

No-exam policies can be obtained in as little as one to three days, compared with one to two months for a policy that requires a medical exam and medical underwriting.

Drawbacks to no-exam life insurance

There are some drawbacks to no-exam life insurance.

Some no-exam insurance policies have a two-year waiting period or exclusions tied to certain conditions, meaning no death benefits are paid to your beneficiaries if you die during within the first two years as a result of certain specific conditions, such as cancer.

There are two other downsides to no-exam insurance. First, coverage is usually capped at $250,000 to $500,000.

Additionally, premiums on no-exam policies are usually higher, since the insurance company is taking a bigger risk to insure you without knowing the full details of your medical history.