While I believe it would be characterized as mild, there seems to be quite a bit of evidence pointing to the fact that most life insurance companies have gone through a manic period of underwriting mood disorders. For the past several years depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder have had exceptionally fair treatment. When I call it a manic period, it didn’t seem abnormal or overly rewarding, but more as if the life insurance mood disorder underwriting community had found a balance where those who were well controlled and compliant in their treatment were rewarded. Those who were living normal lives; those who would actually have surprised friends by telling them about their mood disorder, were being given rates commensurate with any well controlled issue.
In the last six to nine months the pendulum seems to have lost momentum in that direction and is going a bit depressive on us. This shouldn’t, by any stretch, be construed to be a 180 degree shift in the underwriting of mild to moderate mood disorders, but maybe more in the sense of the stock market, a market correction. Those approved before the correction got some great deals and there are still good deals out there, it just takes more thorough shopping and searching than it did this time last year. So what’s up?
Banner Life claims that their percentage of suicide related death claims is up so their reaction was to start underwriting mood disorders more strictly. American General seems to agree with that although they haven’t said anything about increased suicide claims. But we’ve talked about this quite a bit recently and how an increase in suicide related claims is highly unlikely to have any connection to how well controlled mild to moderate mood disorders are underwritten. Suicide tends to come out of a sense of hopelessness and when I describe a CEO with bipolar purchasing life insurance, we’re talking about people that are successful, upbeat and full of hope for the future. These folks aren’t whacking themselves.
I’ve reviewed my database to see if there was any strangely manic underwriting going on these past years and honestly it seemed like the underwriters were well grounded in the facts that led to the decisions they made. That coupled with the fact that I suspect I have as many clients with mood disorders as any agent in the country and in 15 years there have been no suicide claims come from my client base leads me to believe that the underwriting shift is not well founded in facts.
Companies could blame me if they want. I’ve made an annual practice of writing about the number of suicide deaths that never end up in life insurance claims either due to the ignorance of the company’s duty to pay or out of misplaced shame. After two years, one in a few states, life insurance companies have to pay for death due to suicide. It’s not something you hear talked about much and I would guess that insurance companies would prefer it stay that way, but they put that language in their policy and should be anxious to live up to it. Not anxious to hear about suicide but very anxious and accommodating to do the right thing at a family’s worst time.
So, is there a suicide epidemic and if so, is the cause mood disorders? There is very little current, as in this and last year, data but it seems plausible that suicide is up. If suicide comes out of hopelessness and I would have to believe that hope for the future of our country and world and finances and family units is at an all time low, or at least as low as it’s been since the depression of the 30’s. With all of the revelation about just how bad our government sucks at governing and how intrusive they’ve become in our personal lives, hope is something that needs to be blown up on a daily basis like a tire with a slow leak.
Bottom line. Whoa, off that soap box. What I’m getting at is that an increase in suicide can be more logically linked to the state of our world than some sudden shift in the mortality risk of well controlled mood disorders. In fact I would challenge any life insurance company to show the data that shows that shift has occurred. If you have any questions or have run into underwriting backlash against your well controlled mental health issue, call or email me directly. My name is Ed Hinerman. Let’s talk.