Broker Words—September 2021

“There Is Life For The Older Age Market.” So sayeth a somewhat more fully coiffed Robert Goldstone in May, 1990, in his first headline in Broker World. Since January 1991 he has been a monthly contributor with his column Impaired Risk Review… Much to my dismay, and I imagine a quite substantial number of you readers, his most recent communique to me began, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He continued, “The quote is of course Lou Gehrig’s—but the sentiment is echoed for the ability you’ve given me to write for Broker World for 31 years. Steve, it’s finally time.”

He continued, “When I send in September’s, it will make 370. Not quite 2,130. Not quite as significant either. But before I start stumbling around the outfield like Willie Mays long after he should have retired to cap a stellar career, I’m a reserve outfielder on the team now and it’s time to step aside.”

I have a multitude of sentiments to express about Dr. Bob, besides my understandable disappointment, most critical among them the true delight it has been to call him friend for so many years—catching up on each other’s lives as a day brightening addendum to the necessary monthly communication involving his columns. His grasp of the language highlighted his ability to convey extremely complicated processes, conditions and progressions in ways more easily understood, yet the necessary terminology included was a primary factor in why I abandoned the idea of reading the magazine out loud for auditory subscriptions. That said, I can’t improve on his own words describing his journey:

“I finished my Internal Medicine Residency at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, New York and went on to complete a fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism at USC in Los Angeles. Endocrinologists are renowned for their ability to memorize interconnected pathways and figure out virtually any complicated problem. They also generally have hands of stone, ruling out most fields like surgery or where procedures are an integral part of practice. I spent the first six years afterwards in an endocrinology and medical practice at Kaiser Permanente in L.A.

“I loved working with people and teaching, and headed the nurse practitioner program there. This was the time when business was becoming prominent in medicine, and I found it fascinating. With two small children, working nights and weekends also became a lot more cumbersome. When the opportunity came up to work with Transamerica, I took my first steps into insurance medicine. Wanting to be more than just a medical underwriter with a degree, I jumped at the chance to become medical director for MetLife brokerage, at that time in Princeton, N.J.

“The field of brokerage didn’t yet have the progressive image it took on at the beginning of the 1990s and beyond. It was a ground floor opportunity for a physician who could think like a businessman and apply the tools of medicine to benefit both applicants and the insurer. With gifted mentors and the ability to become an Associate Editor for the Journal of Insurance Medicine, I took what I had learned back to the West Coast to work with Pacific Life, where I spent the next 28 years.

“Brokerage was almost like a wild west shootout with guesses at mortality and hopes that advances in medicine would keep the experience at an even keel when I started. But brokerage was on its way to becoming the most profitable arm of business for many companies if it was done with experience and the marketing and the business tools to add to an ever changing medical world, where medical advances made for increased longevity. I’ve been in Insurance since 1987, and I have loved every minute of it. I even tried to retire in 2018 to no avail, as I missed it enough to come back to work for first LGA and now SBLI. I may die in the middle of a keystroke, but it will be doing something I love. Something I have never been adequately able to explain to any lay people (or even most doctors), and something I never dreamed I would be doing when I graduated medical school.

“I can’t tell you what a privilege it’s been to be a part of the team this long. For you to allow me to educate our people. To help give them ways to improve their business. To optimize their placements and to carry on intelligent conversations about their cases with their underwriters. To give my viewpoints on the way things are going, and the trends to try to stay ahead of.”

I’ve been blessed to have Dr. Bob as a part of my working life for so many years. As I’ve shared with him, he is responsible not only for most of my understanding of the importance of impaired risk underwriting, but for instilling in me and deepening my appreciation of how crucial a vibrant impaired risk underwriting system is to the overall wellbeing of the consumers our industry is pledged to serve. As COVID-19 has brought achingly to mind—there are a whole lot of people out there with “underlying conditions.” Those people’s families greatly need, and dammit deserve, to have our industry find ways to help them get protected. Without the crucial drive to service embodied by impaired risk underwriting, and dedicated professionals like Dr. Robert Goldstone, the brokerage industry’s image of truly attending to the wellbeing of the general public slides eerily toward “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” Thank you Dr. Bob. [SPH]