There are plenty of people who would argue that 2009 could have been flushed down the toilet and not missed, and my prayers go out to all of those whose lives were derailed by the recession. For those I wish a dramatically better new year.

But, when it comes to life insurance underwriting of the impaired risk variety, it was a year that started strong and improved from beginning to end. When I started working with clients with bipolar disorder two years ago my goal was to simply find a few good companies that were open to the idea of approving policies. Nothing earth shattering, just approvals. Working with about eight different companies the picture soon started to come together that not only were approvals possible, but given certain criteria, very good approvals were not out of the question. The criteria below seemed to be the crux of what meant the most to those companies that were willing to admit that not everyone with depression or bipolar disorder was an imminent mortality risk.

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. The best rates came when multiple meds were not involved and anti psychotic drugs were not part of the treatment plan.

We continued to see some leeway creep into underwriting for type 2 diabetes. One company stepped up and decided to stretch underwriting of late onset (post age 60) diabetes within certain guidelines to include, absent other risk factors, preferred plus rates. While age of onset is still a big factor for anyone with diabetes, compliance and control as measured by the A1c was still the benchmark with 7 or below being favorable and below. We saw one false positive when someone at Transamerica apparently misunderstood what they heard at a meeting and announced to the world that Trans was no longer looking at early onset as a negative. Not sure where they are working now, but hope it works out better for them.

Bottom line. We always have been able to and still can get the best rates in the country for the perfectly healthy, but for the rest of us it’s all moving in the right direction as well.