So your client is planning a trip outside of the United States. While their travel list may contain things like flip-flops, sunblock, beach towels, and toothbrushes, a life insurance underwriter’s travel list will often include things like political climate, crime rate, access to health care, participation in risky activities, and length of stay. These are just some of the many angles from which an underwriter is going to evaluate your client’s foreign travel risk.
When an underwriter talks about political climate, they are often referring to countries or regions where governments may be unstable or where governments have unfavorable opinions of the United States. Of the many lenses from which an underwriter evaluates a case, this is likely the most obvious, because oftentimes, these areas are the ones commonly seen on the news – the Middle East, Venezuela, the Philippines, and much of Africa.1 While travel to these countries/regions may not eliminate your client from potential coverage, the political climate in these areas raises some obvious red flags in consideration for your client’s safety.
So your client isn’t going to a politically unstable region, they should be good to go, right? Not so fast … The local violent crime rate is a major factor an underwriter takes into consideration when evaluating risk. A prime example of this is Acapulco, Mexico. When most people think Acapulco, they think beautiful beaches, a bustling nightlife, and wonderful golf courses, but when you look under the surface, another amazing characteristic jumps out … Acapulco, in 2016, had the second highest murder rate in the world, checking in at 113.24 murders per 100,000 residents, which is nearly twice as high as the most violent city in the United States.2 This, again, won’t automatically eliminate an individual from coverage, but does have potential to result in an adverse action depending on the client’s plans while there.
Another consideration while examining travel is access to health care. Should the client be injured or become ill during their trip, what is the quality of health care that they would receive? And, how far do they have to travel to receive care? There is a clear risk if health care is substandard or difficult to obtain.
While traveling, will your client be participating in any potentially hazardous activities, such as mountain climbing, SCUBA diving, sky diving, or any other avocations that could add to their potential risk? While many of these activities carry an innate risk in and of themselves, when compounded with possible language barriers and/or poor access to health care, an adverse underwriting action can occur.
Lastly, the length of your client’s stay abroad may affect their potential rating. If a client is planning a trip that is less than six months, then assuming they otherwise qualify based on the above criteria, there is generally no concern. But, if their expected stay crosses the threshold of six months, they become foreign residents and thus are evaluated differently. In some cases, a country can be OK for travel, but not OK for foreign residence, and an adverse action may be taken.
Overall, there are many considerations that go into foreign travel risk. If you have a client who has travel plans in which you suspect may result in an adverse underwriting action, consider that clarity is key and that a detailed cover letter can eliminate many concerns about your client’s upcoming trip. Check out our Foreign Nationals and Travel Questionnaire, a guide that can help you collect all the information you need for underwriting.
Should you have any questions about any of your potential clients, please don’t hesitate to reach out to an Ash Dedicated Underwriter, and we would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have.
Foreign Nationals and Travel Questionnaire: https://ashcmsstorage.blob.core.windows.net/media//Docs/uw/impairment/Foreign_Nationals_and_Travel.pdf
1U.S. Department of State, Travel Alerts and Warnings: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html
2Business Insider, “The 50 most violent cities in the world,” April 8, 2017: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-violent-cities-in-the-world-2017-4/#50-durban-south-africa-had-3443-homicides-per-100000-residents-1
Joe Taulbee has been in the life insurance industry for nearly 11 years with more than five years as an underwriter, and he’s helped numerous families and individuals gain much needed financial security and peace of mind through the procuration of life insurance. He has an Associate designation (AALU) through the Academy of Life Underwriting and is currently pursuing an underwriting fellow designation with ongoing LOMA coursework.
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