It’s Friday night and depending on where you live, there’s a good chance that at least a few of your clients are getting ready to slip into a booze-induced fog for the weekend.
Alcohol abuse is a major health problem in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics recently released its findings on alcohol use in the United States. The survey asked participants how often they engaged in heavy drinking, defined as five or more drinks in one day for men and four drinks in one day for women, at least once in the past year.
The results, which are part of the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data for 2015, varied widely among the states. Alaska residents led the happy-hour crowd, with 8.6% of its residents qualifying as heavy drinkers. At the “dry” end of the spectrum, West Virginians were the picture of sobriety, at 3.5%.
The 2015 survey results were the most recent available at press time.
Excessive alcohol consumption has a direct impact on health insurance claims, and it also affects consumers’ ability to buy life and disability insurance. Trying to hide the problem from underwriters just doesn’t work.
Leslie Beck, a Certified Financial Planner and the principal at Compass Wealth Management L.L.C. in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, points out that insurers routinely ask about alcohol and drug consumption on any insurance application.
Wine (Photo: Thinkstock)
“Questions typically ask if you use any alcohol or drugs, and if so the type and frequency,” Beck explained by email. “They will also ask if you have been treated for drug or alcohol abuse in the past 10 years. Note that most insurers will ask for your doctor’s medical records and notes, so you can’t get away with lying here!”
Even if the applicant hasn’t disclosed the problem to his doctor, an underwriter can still request a carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) blood test to spot a possible alcohol problem.
Beck reviews clients’ life applications pre-submission to identify possible problems. The information helps her decide which insurance company is most likely to give a favorable underwriting result. In some cases, though, she advises the client to wait. “If it looks like a client could have a potential problem, we will definitely ask them to postpone the application process until they have the problem under control,” she says.