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I’ve often mentioned that shopping life insurance cases before sending a formal application is important. It saves time, avoids disappointment and, from a customer service standpoint, makes the whole process of approving impaired risk life insurance far easier on the client and the company.

Notice I didn’t say it was easier on the agent. No whining here. It’s just a fact that, done correctly, getting the best rate for someone with a history of cancer for instance, is work. The end result makes it all worth it.

I wrote a couple of posts recently on breast cancer and melanoma underwriting and as a result I am currently shopping cases in both of those areas. I would like to share, generically, what is involved in taking a case from the initial email to quotes presented. With the two cases I am going to follow the first step was to get all the answers to all of the health questions that anyone would answer who is applying for life insurance.

There is a tendency for clients and agents to focus on the big deal and forget the rest of the health history. It may not be relevant in the end, but it’s our job to let the underwriter decide that. So I went through all of the questions with these two clients and then we got down to the cancer. Both of them were pretty knowledgeable about their cancer, but not down to the details of the stage and grade. I asked both clients if they could supply a pathology report and both had emailed them within a day. So, I set up files and sent out email quote requests with the accompanying pathology reports. I’ve changed the personal information to maintain privacy.

The first was a breast cancer case, “PI born 3/14/53, 5’10, 175, pack a day smoker. Diagnosed DCIS breast cancer 11/09, staging pT1aNOMX, stage 1, simple mastectomy. No chemo or radiation. No involvement of lymph nodes. Path report attached. 1 year followup included shows all clear. Looking for $100k term.” The good news on this case is a low stage and grade of cancer with no spread to lymph nodes. The bad news is that she smokes. Smoking will increase the premium by 2 to 3 times.

The other case was a little more complex history of melanoma. “PI born 3/14/53, 5’10, 175, non smoker. Melanoma diagnosed 8/2003 on back, type T1a .44mm, Clarks level III, surgically removed. 2004 nevus mild to moderate atypia on thigh, removed, no recurrence – nothing since. Path report and followups attached. Father had kidney cancer age 59 still living at 65. Occasional recreational scuba to 75′. Travels to Europe business and pleasure 1-2 weeks a year. Looking for $2mm, 15 year term.” This is kind of mixture. Got some family history, scuba, a little foreign travel. The melanoma and ensuing dysplastic nevi will be a challenge.

I should have all the quotes I need back on both of these cases by the end of the week and will do a followup post on both with the results.

Bottom line. There are plenty of agents who “claim to know” that won’t bother you with wanting actual pathology reports or stress tests or pulmonary function tests. They will shoot from the hip and call it good. Most of my business comes from clients who have done business with those agents first.