When I got my briefs in a bunch earlier this year in a little spat with ING Reliastar, on the surface it would seem that we were arguing semantics. Just underneath the surface is a gray area about half the size of the universe where life insurance companies seem to make underwriting decisions just because they can, and because it makes more money for the company. In their mind there is no overriding need for logic.

And I scream, “Show me the mortality risk”!!!!! Back in the day (been wanting to say that) I distinctly remember being taught as a new agent that underwriting decisions were based on mortality tables and mortality experience. Forgive me, but there is no stinking difference in mortality experience that anyone can show me between a cholesterol ratio of 5.0 and 5.1. In this particular instance we were fussing about a guy whose total cholesterol was 253. His HDL was 49.6 and they said it needed to be 50.6 in order to get preferred rather than one rate class difference. That one rate class change would have made his premium 30% higher. Show me the 30% higher mortality risk!!!

I realize that there have to be lines drawn in the sand. There are readings that can change a little and truly do have a noticeable, dramatic mortality experience impact. Someone with prostate cancer whose grade was a Gleason 6 can get good rates on life insurance and a Gleason 7 is scratching to get any offers at all. That’s because the difference between those two grades is like the difference between an earthquake Richter scale 6 or a 7. One shakes you up and the other knocks your house down.

I have never been one to fuss with underwriters when they have a legitimate reason for changing a rate. I can handle the fact that they have guidelines that they need to follow, but when they call them guidelines and to the detriment of common sense, they treat them as hard and fast, set in concrete rules, we have a problem. This may just be the world according to Ed, but if a company can’t show the difference in mortality experience between their “guideline” and, for instance, a specific lab result, the default should go to common sense.

Several states have already force companies to take this approach when it comes to foreign travel. Unless a company is willing to supply mortality experience that shows travel to a certain destination is an additional risk, they can’t decline or rate someone for that travel. Some states have even taken the stance that absent mortality tables for foreign travel, a company can’t even ask about foreign travel.

Bottom line. While I do occasionally fuss, the truth is that most life insurance underwriters are willing to give a fair hearing and make a fair decision, but for those that won’t or don’t, again I scream, “Show me the mortality risk”.