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Family history is one of those issues that just isn’t much fun to explain and frankly, from a life insurance underwriting standpoint, is a little hard to make a mortality risk case for more often than not.

Now I’ll give the actuaries the benefit of the doubt when, let’s say, a male age 40 is being treated for blood pressure and cholesterol, and maybe he’s a bit on the obese side and his father died in his mid 40’s from a heart attack. I can see the link. I can see how an underwriter can foresee a possible progression in that story.

But when that scenario gets the same treatment as a male age 40 in perfect health whose father died at, say, age 58 or 59 of a heart attack, is that really right? Can’t we give the guy that’s got his health locked in the benefit of the doubt?

Let me clear a few things out of the way before we come back to that. Family history of cancer doesn’t have to be an issue. ING Reliastar doesn’t factor cancer into their underwriting. Sibling family history doesn’t have to be an issue. American General and ING Reliastar don’t underwrite sibling history. The family history of a parent dying of a heart related issue prior to age 60 can be ignored by West Coast Life if the proposed insured is over age 60 or with Genworth Life and Annuity if the PI is over age 65. Those things don’t take exceptions.

Occasionally you can get a guy like the second one I described above some slack if he has had a full cardiac workup to rule out any heart issues. That would be an exception and it is an exceptional day when we can get an underwriter to buy it.

But today I spoke at length with an underwriter with an A+ rated company (different A+ company than the aviation post I wrote earlier) and he said that if a client would qualify at preferred select (best rate class) in all other ways (without a cardiac workup), they will ignore the parent dying at age 58 or 59 of a cardiac event. Small window of opportunity, but it’s huge. With all other companies, unless you can get an exception with a cardiac workup, that would be their third best rate class.

In real numbers! Let’s say the client is 50 and wants $500,000 of 15 year term. At the third best rate class they would be looking at $1100 to $1200 a year for that policy. With the company I am talking about, if that parent died at age 58 or 59, less than $800 a year. That’s not chump change.

Bottom line. Like I said, small window, but… many people get shoved into the wrong company over this issue, and they don’t have to. If you fit the criteria above and your agent insists that the third best rate class is as good as it gets, you have the wrong agent.