I have felt like my train jumped the tracks, or was intentionally derailed over these past few weeks. I was the victim of lies perpetrated by a large life insurance company and because of that, forgive me, I gave a lot of people hope that they might soon be able to get life insurance where they had always been snubbed in the past. In my defense please know that I am very careful when I approach what seems like any kind of a ground breaking, major shift in life insurance underwriting. I’ve watched life insurance companies roll out the red carpet for various impairments with underwriting that makes sense such as ING Reliastar’s infamous wooing of clients with type 2 diabetes diagnosed after age 60. They promised that with good control these impaired risk life insurance clients in fact presented no risk at all and could get preferred plus approvals. There were a few approvals, enough to keep a lot of agents interested, and then they bailed and backed off to standard rate approvals with the same criteria. Kind of smells like bait and switch. But that has been a business tactic of ING for years and those of us that have seen these breakthroughs come and just as quickly go use the watchful waiting approach to any new offer they make.
For some years now those of us who specialize in impaired risk life insurance have been expecting a break through, an offering in the HIV+ market. I’ve been around since HIV and AIDS first got a grip in the US and have watched with the rest of the country, in horror, as people infected wasted away to nothing and died within a few years, if that. It moved from the gay and IV drug using community to blood transfusions and heterosexual relationships as scientists tried to figure out a way to stop what appeared to be an unstoppable virus. Then, over a thirty year period, came the breakthroughs with new anti-retroviral drugs that if started soon after the HIV virus was detected, could stop it in its’ tracks. It didn’t cure HIV but it has reached the point of being able to stop the progression to AIDS in a large percentage of cases. It has brought people back from a sentence of certain death to a manageable disease. So, when this train started to derail last year was when I was approached by an agency that claimed to have two life insurance companies and backup reinsurance companies that were willing to underwrite and approve, within limited parameters, those with well controlled HIV+.
Having been burned in the past and knowing that this forum is all about reaching people who have been burned or treated unfairly by the life insurance process, I was slow, extremely cautious about taking the step of believing and helping potential clients to believe that traditional life insurance was available. I asked and re asked about the underwriting guidelines, even altering them in favor of the insurance company, making two of their additional criteria guidelines knock out questions. I didn’t want to present anything but the perfect match with the criteria presented and more than anything I didn’t want to fail. Finally after 3 months of back and forth I presented my first informal case and about 10 days later was told that the company we had sent it to was no longer interested. They had said they would write term life insurance up to $1 million and permanent life insurance up to $5 million. When they got an actual request they decided to bail on the whole thing.
Since that client only wanted term life insurance that left one company that still appeared to be on board for permanent insurance only with a maximum of $1 million in coverage. So I plodded carefully on until an absolute poster child for these criteria showed up.
1. HIV+ diagnosis was made 3 or more years prior to application.
2. Client has received Anti-retroviral treatment consistently for 3 or more years.
3. Viral load is undetectable.
4. CD4 lymphocyte count is within normal range. Baseline CD4 and nadir will be requested.
5. Client has NO history of Hepatitis C.
6. Client has NO history of IV drug abuse and is a non smoker.
7. NO history of AIDS defining illness.
In addition to the above criteria, below is an example of an ideal scenario:
1. Client was diagnosed between the ages of 20-39.
2. Client has been HIV positive for 5 or more years, with consistent treatment documented. Serial blood work and medical surveillance is documented.
3. CD4 Count was HIGH at time of diagnosis. (Note: CD4 count between 200-500 is considered the intermediate phase; CD4 count less than or equal to 200 increases the risk for AIDS- related opportunistic infection/cancers). The CD4 nadir (lowest value) is predictive for long-term mortality.
4. Client’s viral load is low at time of diagnosis.
5. Routine blood work, including renal and liver function, is consistently normal.
6. Hepatitis B surface antigen is negative.
7. If HIV virus was contracted from unprotected sexual contact, client is currently practicing safe-sex and/or is in a monogamous relationship. (Client is not regularly treated for non-HIV sexually transmitted infections).
8. Client has no signs of early coronary artery or renal disease.
I reviewed labs and medical records and everything was a go, but in order to avoid the previous experience, I had an associate speak with an underwriting director with the company and go through the criteria one by one and confirm that this is what they were looking for. There was question in anyone’s mind that this life insurance application should fly to approval. No informal application. They wanted a formal application so we moved ahead with the application and exam with the company, client, examiner and me all fully aware of his HIV+ status. They got the medical records and declined the application.
Bottom line. The story gets sicker and more twisted but we’ll save that for part 2. Call or email me directly if you have any questions. My name is Ed Hinerman. Let’s talk.