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I have to admit that if it wasn’t for life insurance applications being declined, we wouldn’t do a lot of business. I’ve shared before that most of our clients come to us because they had life insurance declined elsewhere, or they are afraid that if they do apply it will be declined.

Most life insurance declines come from one of two reasons. Either the client isn’t aware of a health problem that shows up on the exam or they are aware of a health issue and the agent they are using doesn’t know what to do with it.

Let’s talk about clients first. I can’t begin to tell you the number of clients who are diagnosed with everything from simple elevated cholesterol or blood pressure to prostate cancer or, like a cardiologist I was working with, coronary artery disease. He actually went out of his way to show the insurance company how healthy he was and did a stress echocardiogram. Unfortunately for him, or fortunately for him, it showed he had multiple blocked vessels.

Another thing that clients don’t realize that comes back to bite them is that doctors write down everything they talk about in their medical records and they don’t always present a clear story in those records. A good example was a client several years ago who was declined because her records indicated she had a scheduled angioplasty. When I called to ask her about that she was mortified. She had no idea what I was talking about and was adamant that she didn’t have any cardiac issues. After talking to her doctor she was able to determine that she had talked to her doctor during a visit about a friend that was scheduled to have angioplasty. The doctor was doodling as they talked and wrote “scheduled angioplasty” in his notes and circled it.

One last thing on the client side is thinking that somehow old health history isn’t relevant. “Well, that was over 10 years ago” is a common response when the insurance company brings up old health information that wasn’t admitted on the application. Most applications ask “Have you ever been diagnosed with or treated for” and they really mean ever. It doesn’t mean the old stuff will affect your rate every time, but they want to know.

The other side of a declined application is very often the agent. Very often agents have a favorite company or are captive, that is they are contracted with just one company, so they apply with them and let the chips fall. That has about a one in one thousand chance of working out for you. It may not lead to a decline, but it almost never leads to the best rates you could have received.

So, choose your agent carefully, especially if you have any health issues. If your agent doesn’t have a good grasp of your health problems and can’t intelligently ask questions and talk to you about the different aspects of the underwriting of that issue, you’re talking to the wrong person. It will pay to look around and find someone else who understands.

Bottom line. If your life insurance application was declined, understand that the decline can actually be a good place to start. If you’ve been declined at least you know what hurdles you will be facing and a good agent can turn that decline into an approval almost every time.