Liver function tests have been the nemesis of life insurance underwriting for as long as I’ve been in the business and the source of a tremendous number of unfair ratings and declines on applications. Because of a long held leap of assumption that elevated liver functions are usually a result of excessive drinking, I actually had a client declined by Federal Kemper for a GGT of 68 (0-66 is normal), because he had a DUI 30 years prior.
While you won’t find any argument from anyone that excessive drinking can lead to liver damage and disease, it is also common for liver functions to be abnormal in combination with high cholesterol and also in connection with the taking of many prescription medications. Elevated liver functions are also fairly common with frequent use of the drug of choice for my generation, my friend Ibuprofen.
The three liver function tested on life insurance exams are the AST, ALT, and GGT. Each of the tests measures different aspects of how well your liver is working. The thing the tests really leave up in the air for underwriters is why they are elevated. It could be as simple as the body’s reaction to a medication or as complex as liver disease or viral hepatitis. It is not uncommon for life insurance applicants to find out due to the results on their LFT’s that they have hepatitis, something that could have gone unnoticed for some time simply because most people don’t get lab work done on a regular basis.
Prudential has recently taken a new stance on liver functions that relies heavily on the fact that if liver functions are elevated for bad reasons there are usually other lab results that will show as abnormal also. This should be great news for all the people that would have been a preferred rate candidate except for a mysterious elevation in liver functions.
Pru will now offer preferred best rates, their best rate class if:
1. Only one liver function is elevated no more than 4 times normal or
2. If 2 or all 3 of the liver functions are elevated no more than 2 times normal.
These exceptional approvals have three caveats:
1. There are no concerns about drinking. You don’t have a history of DUI that could lead to a suspicion of alcohol abuse. You’ve never been through alcohol treatment and you’ve never been told by your doctor that you need cut back or stop drinking.
2. All of your other labs are normal. I believe this is the key to their aggressive stance.
3. No personal history of or diagnosis of liver disease.
Bottom line. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there are probably hundreds of thousands of people paying far more than they need to on their life insurance due to this one issue. If you’ve ever been told that the rate you were quoted has changed due to elevated liver functions or that you have been declined, check out Prudential. We all deserve to pay a fair price for our family protection.