Virtually all life insurance companies take your immediate family health history into consideration at some level. They don’t all view it the same and they certainly don’t all treat it the same, but it is in their guidelines and they seldom waiver.

This probably ticks people off far more than finding out something is wrong with their own health picture such as having high cholesterol on the life insurance exam or perhaps high blood pressure. Probably one of the toughest for a client to swallow is when a company penalizes them because a parent who smoked dies prior to age 60 of lung cancer when the client, having watched that whole scene, has never touched a cigarette. Another that is just about as tough a pill is when their rate is effected because their father died of a heart attack at age 48 after drinking, smoking and eating their way into the obesity hall of fame when they don’t smoke, don’t drink and exercise regularly.

So, is it fair? Well, the way I see that is if it happens to me, then no, but if I’m a life insurance underwriter, then yes. I have discussed this at length with underwriters and they understand that taking a black and white stance on family history will be unfair to some. But, any underwriting guideline that is black and white and produces the same result for a rate class for everyone, is going to be unfair to some.

Just a few examples of the latter and then back to family history. All companies use build charts and approve rates based on your build. They know that plenty of people who are 5’10, 250# live to ripe old ages, but they also know that at that weight the chances are much greater of having diabetes, heart disease and cancer. All companies test for cholesterol and approve rates that reflect your cholesterol numbers. They know that plenty of people with high cholesterol never develop heart disease or have heart attacks, but they know that the chances are greater of that happening if you have high cholesterol.

So, family history. Even though your father appeared to have done himself in by smoking, drinking and eating doesn’t mean that you are not genetically predisposed to heart disease. And just because you don’t smoke like your parent who died from lung cancer doesn’t mean that you aren’t genetically predisposed to cancer.

The good news is that, as I mentioned up front, not all companies share the same beliefs, and a good independent agent can usually find a company that will take most of the sting, if not all of it, out of any family history issues.

Bottom line. Rather than taking offense or trying to justify family history, ask your agent how they can take what you have and make it work for you.