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Why Rob Ford can’t get life insurance

Rob Ford, the husky head of hogtown, has been making front page headlines of late. As anyone who owns an internet connection knows, he’s admitted to using crack cocaine. It also appears that he’s potentially an alcoholic. And lastly, he’s got had a history of charges against him. Given all of this, what would happen if Mayor Ford called our office seeking to purchase life insurance?

The answer is, he’d be declined for any type of regular life insurance available in Canada.

First, an underwriter would be privy to all three activities (crack, alcoholism, and criminal charges) as they are all asked about on a standard life insurance application. And because underwriters are relatively savvy, they would do a Google search on him as well and turn up all the media stories as well. I’ve had a client years ago who failed to disclose pending criminal charges that an underwriter turned up through a simple internet search. In addition underwriters have access to ‘additional sources’ that occassionally turn up information. I’m not clear on what all of those additional sources are, but I have seen underwriters mention them – and they then refuse to disclose what those sources are. Mysterious, but useful for underwriters I guess.

Ford’s apparent marijuana useage and old charges for it’s use would likely not be an impediment. Worst case, he might qualify at smoker rates. Marijuana and smaller charges for marijuana use and possession don’t seem to matter much to life insurance companies. As I’m prone to saying, the underwriter reviewing your case likely has an odd puff themselves.

The alcoholism is a likely decline. Alcoholism, without a lengthy dry period, is pretty much a decline for standard life insurance.

The criminal charges Ford has all appear to be 10 years old or older. By themselves, none of them would likely be an impediment for getting life insurance. We have plenty of clients who have charges in their past. Many of the charges stem from what I call the ‘stupid years’ – times when we were young, stupid and rebellious. Lots of people pull a boneheaded move when younger. Then they grow up and don’t do that stuff anymore. Insurance companies recognize this and will normally discard older charges.

The crack cocaine use is another matter entirely. Insurance companies take a very hard line on hard drugs. Using hard drugs in the last 5 years is a hard line – it’s an immediate decline for a standard fully underwritten policy. That alone would preclude Ford from getting regular life insurance.

Neverthless, we can often overcome issues with enough time passed, indication of a change in trend, or additional information. With a typical client, any one of these things (other than the use of hard drugs) we would be able to do some work with insurers and get an offer of coverage. Unfortunately in Ford’s case, there is no corrective trend. Most underwriters are going to see a continued spiral into activities that cause them concern. Even if we argued for any of these specific concerns an underwriter is going to see a combination of uninsurable activities on a sustained basis – he’s continuing illegal activities, he’s continuing his alcoholism, and he’s continuing hard drugs. So even with a bit of an argument ‘for’ coverage, the continued spiral is going to cause a decline.

So what should Ford do if he wants coverage? He really has three options. First, he may be able to qualify for some mortgage life insurance products that we have that have no medical questions. Secondly some of the no medical exam policies available may offer him coverage. And finally, he should be aware that his group life insurance at work offers him an option to convert it to an individual policy within 30 days of his losing his work coverage. So when he gets turfed as mayor and has to, I dunno, go sell life insurance for a living or something, he’s got 30 days to exchange his work coverage for a regular policy.

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