Broker Words—November 2021

I think we need some sort of HIPAA-like protection from “the internet.” I’m not overly fearful of being exposed as morally compromised due to my internet searches for Fox News articles—at least not quite yet—but I’m fairly disconcerted by the fact that all my wife has to do is bring up my MSN homepage and her devious mind can winnow out my current thoughts on future purchases and suitable “surprise” gifts by simply perusing the ads that pop up. “So, are we getting a new TV? Oh, and that dress wouldn’t look good on me and you already have too many sarcastic t-shirts.” Sure seems like the camel’s nose may already be inside the tent.

Recent tech advances have given our industry the capability to digitally collate greatly useful information for underwriters to utilize in their duty to appropriately price risk and, further, reduce the physical discomfort and/or schedule disruptions of many insurance-seeking clients. These abilities are even easing the strain on and minimizing the delays from currently often overtaxed medical care providers. Information gleaned from outside sources can increase efficiencies, many times reducing the need for extensive medical records and even paramed exams.

Some tools are tried and true, like the Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) and the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). MVRs can reveal to underwriters the “Bold Adventurer” that cuts across three lanes of the interstate right in front of me to hurtle off the exit he almost missed while he was checking his Facebook feed on his cellphone. (Ah Ha! But here’s the rub…we all know too well that there’s “never a cop around when you need one” and he and his ilk are too often able to escape significantly specific DMV notation until the info is perhaps no longer of any personal consequence to him life insurance-wise.) MIB is an entity that collects and stores medical information that its member insurance companies collect during the underwriting process.

I’m assured by this month’s author Greg Horak, from whom much of the real information in this rant was plagiarized, that the Medical Information Bureau “does not collect information from medical records or directly from doctors outside of the reporting done by insurance companies. If an individual has never applied for insurance in the past, then they will not have an MIB record.”

Newer tools include the Clinical Laboratory Database, the Prescription Database (when you go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper), Existing Claims Data pulled from Healthcare Common Procedure Codes, and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). Each has their drawbacks and limitations, but in the aggregate they provide increased efficiencies and thus serve brokers and many of their clients better regarding speed to policy issue. Another plus is that underwriters are increasingly able to more accurately pinpoint cases where further investigation is warranted to form an opinion.

There are rumblings about genetic testing as a potential underwriting tool down the road, and one wonders if and when and how that information will be gathered. But if one takes the Prescription Database, MVR and others as the model for collection, how long before hooking up with, in what you thought was just a harmless though perhaps poorly thought out attempt to explore your heritage, becomes potentially more financially damaging than the unexpected odyssey of contact with unknown distant living relatives and their can’t miss investment opportunities and/or high risk loans?

Further, truly how “helpful” will inevitable genetic predisposition declines be to the client, ostensibly mitigated by the revelation that they’re now statistically likely to be facing the spectre of a heretofore unknown-to-them malady inexorably clotting his or her future? I know some folks, and I’m sure you do too, who seem that they “just ain’t happy unless they ain’t happy.” I’m sure this info is like the end of the rainbow to them, but it would be the end of all peaceful and enjoyable days for me personally. Dad died on an airplane—he is reported to have gone to sleep and simply been unable to be awakened by his row-mate urgently seeking relief via the boa constrictor closet of the airline’s restroom. I’m sure Dad was posthumously delighted to finally be a pain in the ass to the airline for once. It’s just the type of institutional role-reversal that would greatly amuse me as well. Mom passed asleep and comfortable in her own bed in her own home, aware of “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” yet not confined to some sterile room with a bunch of humming and beeping machines hooked up to her.

As technology advances and more and more sources digitally collaborate, are human underwriters to become a disappearing species? Perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about what happens to them. After all, they can simply be retrained to work in green energy. More precarious for our industry and the people we at least profess to serve, does this trend portend a retreat to the captive carrier mindset where primarily just the lowest risk applications are considered for coverage? In the absence of aggressive impaired risk marketing and human underwriter intervention, how will the fitnessly-challenged obtain the life insurance protection that their families will surely need?

“You’re not qualified for preferred or standard and I can’t issue you a policy Dave.” I, for one, am not amused…Hal.[SPH]