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This is a theme I have pounded on for some time. There are the obvious cases where, for instance, someone with bipolar disorder who goes to their Farmers insurance agent should not expect a good outcome. Wrong agent with the wrong company.

In that case there is no competition for the agent’s business. A Farmers agent can only write for Farmers. They only have an underwriter who can review the case through the lens of Farmer’s philosophy and Farmer’s reinsurance agreements. They get one opinion for their clients when there are hundreds of opinions available to an independent agent. They are also stuck with the fact that property/casualty companies like Farmers, State Farm, and Allstate just to name a few, have life insurance available but they are very conservative because it isn’t their area of expertise.

Then there is the independent agent who has contracts with multiple companies but either doesn’t know how to shop a case or just doesn’t shop a case before applying. Not knowing how is usually a matter of not understanding the health issue and what underwriters need to know in order to evaluate the case. It is also a matter of not understanding the power of the trial offer. This combination which can either be sort of the right agent/wrong company or wrong agent/right company also ends in failure.

When all of the facts that an underwriter cares about are presented prior to a formal application and they approve a trial offer at, say, standard rates, they have painted themselves into a corner of sorts. The trial is only as good as the information presented and this is where it is essential that an agent understand what underwriters need to know and understand the underwriting issue and are dogged about making sure they client presents all the information accurately. If all the information needed is presented accurately and a trial offer is given, an underwriter is hard pressed to approve the application differently. If they find new information in the medical or psych records that wasn’t presented, all bets are off.

Not shopping a case on impaired risk cases is simply not doing your job if you are an independent agent. Many agents will simply send the application to their favorite company or the one the pays the best commission and hope they can make the sale when the bad news comes back. In this instance there is a fine line being walked that smells like bait and switch, but could just be ignorance or laziness on the part of the agent.

The right agent using the right company for each client has a high degree of success in getting cases approved at the rate initially quoted. The agent knows what underwriters need to know and insists on having the information before shopping the case. Many times when a certain part of a client’s health history isn’t clear to me I have told them that I need to see the medical or psych records in order to make sure that we present everything accurately on the trial. I’ve had customers walk when I ask them to go the extra mile. I’ve also had customers who had been declined several times get approved because we were able to present the facts on a trial to a wide range of companies.

Bottom line. How do you know it’s the right agent? If you have a serious health or mental issue, whether it heart disease or chronic depression, your agent should be able to understand what you’re talking about and should be able to ask intelligent questions about your condition. If they quote without asking questions or digging for more information you are, in all likelihood, talking to the wrong person.