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I was reading an article on MSN Health yesterday about how to talk to your doctor. It struck me that the same things would hold true for how to talk to a life insurance (or health insurance) agent. It also reminded me of previous posts where I’ve talked about how the average medical records are full of misinformation and should be monitored.

The crux of the article was a guide for how to help your doctor do the best possible job for you. It talks about how to help them know what’s really going on with you, how not to steer them in a certain direction with self diagnosis and the importance of being honest about how you are sticking to (or not) their treatment plan. Consider these seven steps to being a better life insurance applicant.

1. Holding back on important information. The article talks about the importance of being up front with important information because it may very well be more critical to the rest of the doctor visit than just a general checkup. Just because a life insurance agent asks a specific set of questions, don’t assume that a medical condition you have is not meaningful information.

2.You didn’t really stop smoking! Not quite being straight forward with your doctor can lead them to suggest plans of treatment that are inappropriate because you’re really still smoking. Telling your life insurance agent you don’t smoke almost always ends up coming back to bite you if you haven’t really completely quit smoking. First, assuming you have been honest with your doctor, it will be reflected in your medical records. Second, part of the insurance exam is blood work that will show if you use tobacco or nicotine products.

3.You fake your glucose reading! It’s always tempting to give the doctor good news to keep him off your case. Unfortunately it can lead, once again, to inappropriate recommendations for treatment. On your life insurance exam your glucose and your A1c will be tested, so telling your agent what great control you have with your diabetes needs to match up with the exam results. When it doesn’t it will result in the quotes you were given being too good to be true.

4.You self diagnose yourself with cancer! In the scenario with your doctor this can lead to unneeded and inappropriate testing. Telling the doctor what the symptoms are and letting them make the diagnosis is an easier and usually less costly way to get to the truth. This manifests itself on life insurance applications when you tell the agent what you believe the health issue is even if the doctor has told you differently. If you don’t agree with your doctor, get a second opinion, but what you tell your life insurance agent had better match up with your medical records.

5.You don’t report a family history of cancer! Or heart disease, or diabetes, or mental illness. You gotta give the doctor a fighting chance to help you avoid some of those things that have whacked your family. With life insurance you need to divulge family history accurately also. If company A bumps you two rate classes for family history of cancer and company B doesn’t care at all and you don’t tell about the history and your agent places you with company A, you’re going to pay more than you were quoted.

6.You make small talk! With both doctors and life insurance agents, save the small talk for a non professional setting. It may sound cold, but you want both of these professionals focused on doing the very best thing for you.

7.You don’t tell how you’ve self treated your symptoms! It’s important for your doctor to know what your next door neighbor has told you about how to treat your symptoms. It’s especially important if you are supplementing or replacing prescribed treatment with your neighbor’s advice. With life insurance it’s important to understand that if you are self treating some medical condition, it had better be with the full knowledge of your doctor and your lab results need to show the treatment is working.

Bottom line. So much of this is just about shooting straight with the professional who is trying to help you. A doctor can’t be expected to help you through a health crisis without your full cooperation and a life insurance agent can’t be expected to come through with rates that are based on half truths.