Beyond the Phone Interview

Get “The Story Behind the Pill”
with an IBU Interview

Depression and anxiety present a unique challenge for life underwriters. These conditions often present no extra mortality risk but, on the other hand, can present very significant risk. APS’s from mental health providers don't usually provide a full picture of an applicant’s depression/anxiety. Is there a better way to underwrite the growing segment insurance applicants who are being prescribed medication for depression and anxiety?

I just returned from the NEHOUA conference in Leominster, Massachusetts where I sat in on a very informative presentation by Dr. Cliff Titcomb of Hannover Re. Dr. Titcomb presented that the literature is somewhat mixed as to whether depression by itself has a negative association with mortality. He also said there are even fewer studies for anxiety.

The point that Dr. Titcomb drove home is that risk lies primarily with the presence of co-morbid factors. Unrelated medical conditions can lead to depression, and depression can exacerbate medical risks. Dr. Titcomb also explained how more and more people are being prescribed medication for depression/anxiety because physicians are spending less time with patients. He described this phenomenon as a trend to "treat ‘em and street ‘em" as it's easier to prescribe a pill than pursue talk therapy or other alternatives.

So how does the insurance industry underwrite this growing segment of the insured population? An APS is often used. However, APS's for depression and anxiety often contain limited notes and merely mention medications and any adjustments. Attending physicians usually don't record the full “story behind the pill” or include details regarding co-morbidities relevant to life insurance underwriting.

Several companies have discovered a better, faster and less expensive way to underwrite depression/ anxiety – a telephone interview by an experienced underwriter. IBU team leader Jodie Pascoe explains why.

"We have found that insurance applicants readily open up to us regarding their depression or anxiety. Once we have listened to their story, they don't seem offended when we ask follow up questions about suicidal ideations/attempts, alcohol/drug abuse or the severity of their condition. This allows us to get details regarding their depression/anxiety condition and ask about other medications as well as several more common medical and non-medical questions.

These additional questions really help us paint a full picture of the applicant for the home office underwriter. Because we are able to develop a rapport with the applicant in discussing their depression/anxiety, they rarely object to answering these additional questions.”

IBU has conducted thousands of interviews since 2000 and depression/anxiety has clearly been the most commonly requested interview. Companies who have used IBU interviews for several years have discovered that additional impairments also are suitable for an IBU interview instead of an APS.

An IBU interview gets the "story behind the pill" as well as information regarding co-morbidities at a cost that is less than half the cost of obtaining an APS. With underwriting departments running as lean as possible, fewer APS’s means faster turnaround time. Better information at a lower cost is what makes an IBU interview the preferred underwriting requirement for underwriting depression/anxiety.