One of those set in stone rules that we have lived with for years in life insurance underwriting just got a new look and possibly a question that may not make the answer as black and white as most underwriters would like it to be. I am currently shopping a case where the client, at the request of his wife, underwent a 6 week outpatient alcohol abuse treatment program seven years ago. At the time he was an extremely successful salesman for a Fortune 500 company and as part of that job he was tasked with entertaining clients.

He was a social drinker off the job and a paid social drinker on the job. That part of the job didn’t set well with his wife and she asked him to change positions and go through abuse treatment, which he did. He always felt that he could take or leave drinking but also took his wife seriously and came away with, as he put, “a healthy respect for how out of control drinking can get”. He has since left that company and is now founder and CEO of a very successful company that employs 90 people. His marriage is great. He is active in the community and his church. But here’s the underwriting kicker. If a person has been through alcohol treatment and continues to drink, even a small amount, most life insurance companies don’t even open the underwriting guide. It is an automatic life insurance application decline.

This client now only drinks a few glasses of wine per week with dinner and it has not changed or escalated from that since he completed the treatment program. So, being the died in the wool never say never kind of impaired risk agent everyone should have, I shopped it. I started getting the usual batch of companies that were “unable to offer” or “not interested in participating” due to continued drinking and then I had a life insurance underwriter ask a couple of questions that I found relevant and refreshing. 1. What was pattern of alcohol use prior to 2005? 2. Was an alcohol dependency diagnosed?

I forwarded those questions to the client, ccing the underwriter, so that both understood I wasn’t coaching the answer or the exchange. The answers helped this life insurance underwriter nail down what he wanted to know. He recognized that it sounded (because of the wife’s request for him to change jobs) as though there was definitely alcohol abuse that occurred, but he allowed that if the records showed abuse to be the issue and not dependency, he felt a standard rate was acceptable even with continued occasional drinking.

Now, please hear me. I am not throwing open the door for everyone who has been through treatment and still drinks to contact me. This is a highly successful person that has done all the right things and this is an exceptional underwriter that offered a very small window in which he was willing to consider an approval rather than a decline.

Bottom line. I’m not declaring some new life insurance underwriting breakthrough, but really just wanting to share that everything is not always black and white, cut and dried, dead on arrival underwriting. If you have any questions or feel that your situation is truly exceptional and should get a second look, call or email me directly. My name is Ed Hinerman. Let’s talk.