“Life insurance companies are just trying to figure out a way to raise my rates. My doctor says there’s nothing wrong with my …….”.

It’s a real dilemma. Who do you trust? The doctor that’s known you for years and you pay the big bucks to on an ongoing basis to monitor your health, or the life insurance underwriter who gives you a free second opinion with a twist, a picture of your potential mortality experience.

Although it happens, the ball almost always comes to rest in your doctor’s end of the court. There is that relationship after all, and how could an underwriter who’s never even met you know more than your old friend, the family doc? Buried in this conflict is the rub. Somehow for the person applying for life insurance they see doctors and life insurance underwriters having the same job, sort of. They both know about medicine, illness and health, right?

The reason this gets messed up is that your doctor is there to make sure you feel good, take care of illness and do their best to help you live a long, healthy life. But you will ever hear a doctor say that “you’re doing just great and unless something else pops up, you can expect to live another 23.2 years”. They stop at the doing just great part and tell you when they would like to see you again.

A life insurance underwriter really doesn’t care how you feel. They simply use the law of large numbers to estimate your potential impact on a pooled risk of life insurance owners and assign a rate or decline you accordingly.

I had a client today who had been rated up by a company due to a liver function test called a GGTP. Insurance companies all use this test and I doubt if you can find any doctors that use it. When the client told his doctor that he had to pay a higher rate due to his elevated GGT, the doctor dismissed as insurance company nonsense. He told the client that it was an irrelevant test.

And it may be to the doctor. Doctors usually depend on the other liver function tests, the AST and ALT and because the GGT is a non specific test, they don’t use it. While there are a lot of things that can cause an elevated GGT, what it does show without any doubt is that the liver is under some source of irritation. While there are plenty of things that can elevate the GGT without affecting the other liver functions, one of the most common is over indulgence in alcohol.

Your doctor isn’t going to test for something like that. He’ll ask you about your drinking habits and leave it at that. A life insurance underwriter will see a significantly elevated GGT and order an alcohol marker called a CDT. A positive CDT is an automatic decline with every company I know of because it means you drink a bunch of alcohol. The likelihood that you are going to tell your doctor that you are a lush is pretty slim, about as slim as you telling a life insurance agent. But, that’s important information for life insurance underwriting. Drunks simply don’t have the same mortality experience as sober people in general so they shouldn’t get the same underwriting consideration and result.

Having been the person caught in the middle on a large number of occasions, I can tell you that there is no easy answer. I think it is important not to dismiss as irrelevant the information that comes from life insurance underwriting. Even when it goes against what your doctor says, it is worthy of some personal education and study.

Bottom line. Are life insurance companies out to find ways to raise your rates? The answer really is no. Are they out to make sure they aren’t tipping the balance of the risk pool by ignoring information? The answer is absolutely yes.

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