I was just doing a double check on underwriting results today and decided to compare how we’ve done in placing policies with clients who have bipolar disorder versus those who have a history of an eating disorder.

Now remember we’re talking about life insurance company perception of mortality risk! Over the past several years we have had better luck placing cases where there is a current diagnosis and treatment for bipolar than for even those who have a history of an eating disorder in the past. Even several years out from treatment for an eating disorder there seems to be an underwriting mistrust of the situation. It’s almost as if, and I don’t know for sure, but almost as if there is a very high incidence of relapse with eating disorders.

It points out an area of comfort for life insurance underwriters and that is that if something, whether bipolar, blood pressure or diabetes is well controlled and well monitored by regular checkups and if a person is compliant with their treatment, surprises don’t seem to pop up much. It’s a lot harder for them to wrap their hearts and minds around a disorder, whether eating or substance abuse, where there is a period of treatment and then because treatment stops and monitoring tends to drop off, relapse is a very real concern.

Remember the list we’ve developed that is kind of a checklist to approval for those with bipolar disorder?

1. Someone who has not been hospitalized for bipolar disorder other than for diagnosis?
2. Someone who has not attempted suicide or had bouts with suicidal ideations?
3. Someone who is compliant with their treatment, both medications and regular followups?
4. Someone who is leading a stable family life or social life?
5. Someone who is exhibiting a stable work life?
6. Someone who is not on disability for bipolar and does not have issues with drinking or drugs? If there’s a problem here, then the answers to 3, 4 and 5 are no.
7. Better rates come when someone can be successfully treated without anti psychotic drugs.

With an eating disorder you could use the same type of check list and almost always run into a problem with #3.

Bottom line. From a life insurance underwriting standpoint it is always going to be a health issue where compliance and control are measurable that will get the best results. That is not to say that a history of an eating disorder will always prevent you from getting life insurance, but it should lead you to an agent who has a large number of companies to choose from and who has experience in the underwriting of your particular issue.