Life insurance underwriting is kind of like sand dunes. You can take a picture at the beginning of a year and it can be absolutely clear where every grain of sand lies. The exact same picture taken at the end of the year could easily have been taken on another planet.

One of the greatest opportunities of 2009 in term life insurance came from United of Omaha with their “Fit test” life style crediting that allowed clients who could have been rated as high as table 4 to better their approved offer by 2 to 3 tables. This is an underwriting tool that has been used with universal life in the past by a lot of companies, but with no real sound logic attached to it. U of O ties it very logically to life and health style questions that reward those who are doing the kinds of things that really to impact mortality in a positive way.

One of the greatest opportunities in permanent insurance remained the universal life insurance with a no lapse guarantee. Life insurance guaranteed for life without the burden and pitfalls of cash value accumulation. While we have started to see some pullback from the really great deals of 2008, early 2009, there are still companies with products out there that would warrant a complete evaluation and overhaul of a permanent life insurance portfolio. Now that it is clear that the federal estate taxes aren’t really going away, and state death taxes never were, it’s time for high net worth families to get serious about covering that tax burden with one of the best deals in permanent insurance ever, the no lapse guarantee UL.

Another breakthrough is the addition of several companies that are taking a new look at mood disorders and deciding that, from mild depression to bipolar disorder, there is room to separate out those who are taking their treatment seriously and may actually be coping with society better than many of those who choose to just gut it out without any help.

I think one of the biggest missed opportunities of 2009 is the continued failure of companies to recognize the importance of HDL in the cardiac risk factor. They continue to hang their hat on total cholesterol if it’s higher than their guidelines allow, even in the face of high HDL (good cholesterol). There are few, if any, companies out there that will underwrite a case with a total cholesterol of 280 and an HDL of 40 (ratio of 7.0) any differently than a total cholesterol of 280 and an HDL of 80 (ratio of 3.5). Medically there is a huge difference and since life insurance underwriting in this area is all about concern over an impending cardiac event, from a life insurance standpoint customer #2 present a much lower risk than #1. They should get a lower rate, but sadly another year has gone by and nothing has changed.

Another missed opportunity has to do, not with companies, but with those agencies and organizations that offer life insurance. Another year has gone by with AARP still holding fast to its’ stance that the seniors it purports to be “the advocacy group” for, don’t deserve to be offered a fairly priced, meaningful life insurance product. They have the ears of tens, maybe hundreds of millions of seniors in this country and are wasting that opportunity by partnering with New York Life in an obscene life insurance scam.

Selectquote, the self proclaimed largest internet life insurance agency in the country, still continues to advertise on TV in borderline bait and switch manner, quoting 10 year term prices for a couple with toddlers, and now they have added their ridiculously useless text a quote feature, designed more for corralling the masses than meaningful information sharing.

Bottom line. Life insurance underwriting will always be a work in progress and it is important to note that independent agents are at the forefront of positive change. They are the driving force behind competition and with that competition comes change.