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As life insurance agents we are provided with a set of underwriting guidelines for each company we represent. It tells us, rate class by rate class, what cholesterol, build, blood pressure, family history and so on are acceptable.

In the good old days which ended a few years ago, the guidelines were truly guidelines, not hard and fast rules. If for instance someone has a total cholesterol of 203 and and cholesterol/hdl ratio of 5.1, well, logic would lead the underwriter to see that while 5.0 is their guideline, 5.1 is very close and since 220 is also their guideline, 203 is better and trumps the 5.1.

Not so these days in far too many cases. They still call them guidelines but many life insurance underwriters are treating them has hard and fast rules, not to be breeched for any reason.

And then there are companies, like ING Reliastar, who like to give you a range of guidelines to hang yourself with. What follows is an example that I am currently jousting with them about.

Their guidelines for cholesterol for the preferred rate class read as follows, “Age 0-70: Chol max 240 + ratio not > 5.5 OR Chol max 260 + ratio not > 5.0′. I have a client whose lab results showed a total cholesterol of 253 and a ratio of 5.12. They, using the two examples, say that my client doesn’t fit into preferred. Being a logical kind of guy I created the following graph.


Being techno challenged, my graph needs to be spun to the left. That done, the line is a logical line between the guidelines stated by ING and the lone dot is my client. Being to the left of the line and below the top it seems to be safely resting within their guidelines.  In this case it seems that even if ING wanted to make their guidelines into rules, my client should still get preferred.

With all the changes in the way reinsurance companies treat insurance company underwriting, wiggle room is hard to find these days. It no longer matters in many cases whether the decision makes sense from a mortality standpoint. Decisions come down every day that defy logic and therein lies the value of a good independent agent. We can debate the case up the line and if we don’t overcome the forces with that company, we can shop it until we find someone who agrees.

Bottom line. If the war is to get affordable life insurance for all who want it and need it, above is a snapshot of the kind of battles we fight.