How do I get life insurance without disclosing the skeevy details of therapy?
February 21, 2007 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to get life insurance without the underwriter seeing the complete records of my two-plus years in therapy?

There's nothing earth-shattering: Just a standard-issue case of depression and anxiety that, thanks to psychotherapy with a good shrink and a low dose of Lexapro, is now well under control. But the insurance company won't accept a letter from my doc saying simply that he treated me and that I have responded well. The rep assures me that only the underwriter will see the records of my treatment, and, like I said, there's nothing terribly shocking in there ... but it's intimate, personal stuff that I'd like to keep as private as possible. Any thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Assuming this is individual life insurance -- and not group insurance -- it is my experience that you have to release all records. (I've represented a few people in lawsuits regarding underwriting -- one case about life insurance, one case about disability insurance.)

That being said, insurers do write life insurance policies for people with depression; sometimes they will deny coverage. Whether and on what basis the insurer writes a life insurance policy depends upon a lot of different (not particularly scientific) factors outlined in their underwriting manual.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:56 PM on February 21, 2007

If it was with a psychotherapist/psychologist and not a medical doctor, those records would be exempt, I think.
posted by acoutu at 9:15 PM on February 21, 2007

I've sort of been through this, and honestly I don't think they are probably talking about the same kind of records you think they are, I mean they're not going to be reading your doctor's notes on that dream about frogs. What they likely are looking for are the records on the length and extent of your treatment and specific diagnoses. Beyond this, realize this is some drone in a room powering through about a million of these records with an eye for one thing and one thing only, to figure out what box to stick you in. Personally I'd just sign the release and forget about it - well, actually that's not hypothetical, it's exactly what I did.

Related note, if you get turned down, shop around. Ironically I got a better deal on a more comprehensive disability policy because those other jackasses turned me down for being so irresponsible as to take care of my depression (NOT BITTER).
posted by nanojath at 11:00 PM on February 21, 2007

nanojath, that's great that you found disability insurance! It's way harder to get disability insurance with any psych anything than it is to get life insurance. See Goldman v. Standard Ins. Co., 341 E3d 1023 (9th Gr. 2003). (A case I worked on about disability insurers refusing to cover people with any current psych anything.) If you're willing to tell me a little more, I'd be interested. Email in profile.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:29 AM on February 22, 2007

I may very well be missing the point. But I've had psych doctors offer to lie for me -- making my visists seem less important and non - psychotropic drug related. Basically asking me to tell them "what disorder I would prefer my insurance know about."
Maybe these guys were sweethearts / evil anarchists, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.
posted by Kloryne at 3:08 AM on February 22, 2007

Yes, I would talk to your doc about it. I know a shrink who purposely keeps vague records because she resents the intrustion from insurance companies. Your doctor should be able to provide whatever basic records the insurance company needs, while minimizing the invasion of privacy.
posted by paddingtonb at 2:01 PM on February 22, 2007

I wouldn't lie -- it could come back to bite you in ass in the end.

Depending on the state you live in, the insurance company has up to two years to protest your claim after your death. They can investigate your medical records even after you are dead, and if they find out that you purposely lied, they have the right to deny the claim to your family in most situations. (I know in my state, for example, they return all the premiums paid to your estate plus a small amount of interest, but no big settlement that you wanted from buying life insurance.)

Be honest about it. The worst that can happen? You don't get coverage. Most likely, especially if it's just common depression, you're probably looking at a non-preferred rate. You're never going to meet your underwriter, and like someone else said, you're just one file among many that passes over their desk.

I understand your hesitation, but do remember that you're asking a company to pay your family hundreds of thousands of dollars should something happen to you -- and let's say you don't live very long, you may have only paid them a few hundred, maybe a few thousand dollars. The company has a right to know what risk they're getting into. If the plain and simple fact is that you're likely to kill yourself, or others, due to mental anguish, then they need to know that. If the truth is that you have a tendency to feel blue every now and again, and have recovered well, then they need to know that there's nothing to worry about.
posted by PandemicSoul at 3:53 PM on March 11, 2007

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