When you get right down to it here in Colorado we are kind of a disgustingly healthy lot. We have the lowest obesity rate in the country, although at just under 20%, I think we can do better. We are one of only a handful of states who has a mental illness rate under 7%. That’s a little over 350,000 of our friends and neighbors and that is low compared to most of the country. Proof positive that lack of oxygen is good for the mind, right?
I’ve always thought mental illness is kind of a harsh title for characterizing with a broad brush all of the mood disorders. We’ve had tremendous success in helping people with mood disorders get affordable life insurance, but somehow I have to believe if I write mental illness on the life insurance application it is going to get kind of a frosty reception at the home office.
Especially when you get into what I call mild or minor mood disorders such as situational depression, anxiety, ADD and ADHD, OCD and Bipolar II, by far the majority of life insurance companies are fairly abusive in their underwriting. Bipolar disorder for instance is an automatic decline with more than 99% of all companies that sell life insurance. They won’t even order the records to see how well controlled and stable the disorder is. You will simply be declined. While personally I find that a moronic way to run an insurance company, it’s a fact of life and the way we’ve dealt with it is to find and work with those companies that don’t use the bucket approach to underwriting. The bucket approach is when they take everyone with a particular health issue, and in spite of the fact that there can be vast differences in how those issues are handled and the subsequent prognosis, they treat them all the same.
What I’ve found is that there are a handful of highly respected companies that use more of a clinical underwriting approach. That’s to say that they pluck you out of the bucket and look to see how you’re really doing. It’s with forward thinking underwriters from those companies that I have been able to develop the following criteria that can get an approval for someone with bipolar in an atmosphere where decline is the norm.
1. A person who has not been hospitalized for bipolar disorder other than for diagnosis and maybe an occasional med change?
2. A person who has not attempted suicide or had bouts with suicidal ideations, or any attempt is long past and stability has been the case since? (Ideations become less relevant with time)
3. A person who is compliant with their treatment, both medications and regular follow-ups?
4. Someone who has a stable marriage and social life?
5. A person who hasn’t had lost time and instability in their work life?
6. Someone who is not on disability for bipolar and does not have issues with drinking or drugs? If there’s a problem here, then the answers to 3, 4 and 5 are usually no.
7. Better approvals come if you are not on anti-psychotic drugs, but there can still be approvals.
While these criteria were created to help people with bipolar disorder know what underwriters are looking for, with slight tweaking the criteria can be accurate with all mood disorders. The criteria aren’t meant to exclude people who don’t meet them all, but are really an optimal picture for securing the best rates.
The real underwriting issue with any mood disorder is compliance with treatment and stability. Never mind the diagnosis. Is a person functional in and safe while they go about their NORMAL life on the front range? I know for me I have my own case of anxiety disorder that has to do with just driving through Denver on the way to visit my Mom in Wyoming. Personally I think anyone who can keep a grip on reality in places like Colorado Springs, Denver or Boulder with a diagnosed mood disorder should get preferred plus rates on life insurance every time.
Bottom line. Not everyone with a mood disorder is going to be approved for life insurance, but reality is that far too many are treated unfairly only because they have used the wrong life insurance agent who applied with the wrong life insurance company. If you have questions, call or email me directly. Let’s talk.