The internet has come a long way and is an amazing research tool. It is not uncommon for people to make major medical treatment decisions based on their own research even when it runs counter to their doctor’s recommendation.

It has to drive doctors nuts and I know for a fact that it is a discussion ending direction with a life insurance underwriter. The inherent problem with the free second opinion from cyberspace is that as mere patients we honestly don’t have the knowledge to weigh a physician opinion against a research opinion that has made its’ way to the top of Google. Who’s opinion is it? Are they reputable? What is their motive for driving the opinion to the top of Google? Is their opinion valid if they have never examined you? Are you just looking for a way to get out of what your physician has recommended? Do you trust your physician?

I think that last question gets right to the heart of the matter. Do you really trust your doctor? If your doctor says, “I highly recommend you have this testing (or procedure) done, but obviously the final decision is up to you”, which half of the sentence are you going to latch on to? Life insurance underwriters don’t have any question. If you decide to go against your physician’s recommendation without a valid second opinion from another doctor you won’t get approved. Pure and simple. Not following recommendations of your personal physician or a specialist you have been referred to is know in our business as non compliance. Life insurance companies will decline your application or postpone it until you are compliant or have a valid second opinion saying that the recommendation was wrong.

There is a gray area that I’ve gone to war with underwriters over. What if your doctor does, for instance, a stress test, and says there isn’t really anything that would lead him to believe there is blockage or coronary artery disease? But he says, “If you want to look into the issue further we could do a catheterization or we can just treat it with preventive methods like statins. Your choice! And so you don’t come back to see him he writes a referral for the cath.” A lot of underwriters will read that as the doctor telling you they aren’t sure and the cath would be the definitive diagnostic tool.

Even though I will joust with an underwriter over this kind of a situation I really think doctors need to be clear with their patients. Before they write an order for a referral they should discuss if it is truly a necessity and if not, note in the files that they didn’t feel like it was absolutely necessary so they concur with the choice not to move in that direction. The problem here is the CYA attitude of most doctors. They don’t want to not make a referral and then have you die of a heart attack. Heck, it’s why health coverage is sooooo expensive.

Bottom line. When you apply for life insurance do a self inventory first and try to remember if you really follow your doctors orders or not. I guarantee your medical records will tell the story.

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