The Canadian Medical Association published a report this week that indicated Canadians are quickly becoming an obese majority, and this province leads the charge. Personally, I fail to see why this made the evening news. Was anyone really that surprised? It’s certainly not a good thing, but it’s also certainly not breaking news.
The spin off from that story that actually did catch my attention was an interview that Mark Hiscock of Shanneyganock did with CBC news anchor, Jonathan Crowe. In the clip, he talked about his incredible weight loss journey of 130 pounds! When Crowe asked what prompted the lifestyle change for this musician who has battled being overweight a lifetime, he answered, “I was turned down for life insurance because I was overweight. That was enough for me to realize that obesity is something major. I decided three years ago to commit to losing the weight.”
Hearing this, I was reminded of my very first life insurance client.
He was a little heavy, but certainly not obese…not by Newfoundland standards anyway. He smoked, but only “socially.” And he needed insurance to cover a mortgage that he and his new wife had just built.
We went through the usual pre-screening questions. Like Mark, I suspect my client underestimated his weight that first meeting. But he was not on any medications, worked in an active (although stressful) career and had no family history that raised any red flags. So we completed the paperwork and I ordered up the medical requirements.
Two days later, I received a panicked call from his wife. “The nurse was here today to take our vitals and she said she has to come back again to recheck my husband’s blood pressure. Is that the norm?”
I assured her that the nurse was likely wanting to confirm the reading, since some people get a little anxious around people in white coats. He’d be more familiar with the process on her second visit and that would help him to relax and her to get a more accurate reading.
I hung up the phone and called the nurse. “Is this the norm?” I asked, as panicked as my client.
“It happens,” was all she could tell me.
Before leaving my client’s home on the second visit, the nurse advised him to go straight to the Emergency Department. And to get his wife to drive him. His blood pressure was actually off the charts. Turns out he was suffering from acute hypertension and likely would have had a stroke if it had continued to go undetected.
Fortunately, in his situation, I was still able to get him coverage. But at rates two and a half times what he would have normally paid! However - with some convincing on our part - the insurance company did agree to reconsider the rating in one year.
A year later, my client was 60 pounds lighter, no longer smoking and on a low dose of blood pressure meds that kept his levels well within the normal range. Life was good.
On his second application, he actually got a standard rating and I now affectionately refer to him as my poster boy for why I do what I do.
I truly believe applying for life insurance may have saved his life.
How’s that for ironic, Alanis Morrisette?
It’s not just weight issues that can he addressed when applying for life insurance. Everyone knows that smokers will pay higher premiums than their non-smoking counterparts. But when you see how much more (and especially when you actually have to pay those higher premiums), the choice to “butt out” can seem a lot more appealing.
I know a senior advisor who delivers this news by saying, “The bad news is, you’re going to pay more. The good news is, you probably won’t have to pay it as long.”
Reality check, anyone?
A young client of mine just called last week to say he has quit after seeing the additional insurance premiums his smoking will cost his family.
“Make a note to call me this time next year,” he said. “We’ve taken the coverage, but I’m planning to reapply when I hit my anniversary date. Non-smoker rates, here I come!”
That’s one call I'm looking forward to.