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I’ve certainly questioned the IQ of more than one life insurance underwriter over the years. I may have even insinuated that a few didn’t even make into on to the IQ scale.

But the truth is there are two types of underwriters working on life insurance applications for us. The first, a group we try to avoid, have an underwriting manual in front of them at all times and if they are God fearing Christians, that manual is second in importance only to the Bible. The guidelines in their manual are followed faithfully and without question. If someone has bipolar disorder and the manual says to decline them, there is no room for looking at it from another direction or all directions, it is still a decline.

If two women had a localized breast cancer and one treated the cancer very aggressively, say with a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation, while the other decided that she would do the minimum acceptable treatment, the manual treats them exactly the same. There is no room for the fact that one method has a much higher survival rate than the other. It’s not broken down that way in the manual.

The second group of underwriters believe that the black and white manual provides guidelines and not rules and that since they are guidelines, there must be room to consider extenuating circumstances. These are the underwriters we seek out when we shop cases. These are the underwriters that give people hope that there is in fact intelligent life inside the walls of insurance companies.

It is this unique group that understands what to look for and what questions to ask in order to determine if someone with bipolar disorder is a poor risk, or as in the case of many, a completely acceptable risk. It is this group that understands that obesity in the absence of risk factors doesn’t present the same mortality risk as someone who is overweight and has coronary artery disease. It is this group that we look to for a sane review of a case involving sleep apnea, situational depression or family history. It is this group that sees beyond the health problem and factors in how a person is handling that problem, not inside the manual but in real life.

Bottom line. If you have an independent life insurance agent who has been around long enough to figure out underwriters to go to and underwriters to run from, you have found the path of least resistance and the path to success.