I got a call yesterday from a woman who had just been declined for a new life insurance because she had two melanomas in the last 11 years. After the second melanoma she decided she was a little more mortal than she had originally figured and wanted to increase her life insurance.

So, she called the agent who had sold her the current American General policy she had and asked about getting an additional policy. I want to go out of my way here and say just how great I think it is that she could even find her original agent. Only caveat to that is the agent hadn’t stayed in touch with her, he just hadn’t moved. So her agent quoted her standard, the same rate that she had received a few years before, about 8 years after her first melanoma. The application went in and came back out declined due to multiple melanomas and the short amount of time since the last one.

Melanoma is the deadliest of the skin cancers and if not detected early and removed can spread throughout the body. It’s not something to be taken lightly. From a life insurance underwriting standpoint a company will look at the stage and grade and usually some measure of depth like a Clark’s level. The size of the lesion also carries weight. The smaller, shallower and less aggressive the melanoma is the better chance of an approval. Having said that, there are companies that won’t touch melanoma no matter what, others that won’t touch melanoma for several years and very few that will even consider a case like the one above with multiple occurrences.

In this case both melanomas were a Clark’s level II, which means it has penetrated the epidemeris, but not the dermis. It is still contained within the skin. Both cancers were a low stage. The first a stage 2, being 1mm in size and the second a 2A being 3mm in size.

So what happened with her attempt to get life insurance through American General again. First, and this is just a guess, but chances are that the agent just likes American General and happened to hit a sweet spot in their underwriting with the first policy. Second, rather than shopping the case there was some kind of assumption that going back to the same company made sense. I would never go back to the same company with an increased impairment without shopping it. Consider the fact that with the other skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, most companies are very forgiving and will offer their best rate class with one occurrence. A lot of the same companies will go from preferred plus to standard if there has been more than one occurrence.

So if companies will do that with the relatively non lethal types of skin cancer, doesn’t it make some sense that their underwriters might have some guidelines directed at multiple occurrences of melanoma, the one type of skin cancer considered most deadly. An agent that has your back isn’t going to determine that by submitting an application to see what happens. I’ve mentioned in the past that I shop virtually all of my life insurance clients before even quoting. It takes a few days extra but it can save time and money by not bothering a life insurance company who will tell you right up front on a quote request that they are not interested in the risk. It’s a nice thought that a company that approves you once will have your back, value your business and approve you again even though you present an increased risk. That’s not the way it works though

As I wait for this customer to produce a pathology report from her most recent melanoma I am thinking that there are some companies who will overlook the fact that this is her second melanoma, and a few that will overlook how recent the second one occurred. I think there is an approval out there. Once I have that path report and can make sure I shop it accurately, we’ll find out how American General stacks up.

Bottom line. You can count on your life insurance company to have your back on your current policy with them, but you don’t get any underwriting points for being a current customer. I’ve seen too many customers assume that having their home and auto insurance with a company will somehow give them leverage on a life insurance application. I pick up the pieces of those assumptions from USAA and State Farm all the time. If you apply for life insurance after a health change and your agent doesn’t shop your case, they are either clueless or have their own agenda that wasn’t apparent on the first application. If you have any questions or believe you got the wrong results with another agent, call or email me directly. Let’s talk.

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