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16 ways to get better insurance rates -- Page 2

In addition, if you use several different agents or brokers, let them know you're shopping around. That way, "everyone knows what they're working with and it might make them more competitive," says Herz.

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8. Pick your insurance professional carefully
Not every agent is up to the task, especially if you've had some health problems in the past.

"If you're dealing with someone who does this a lot, they can help coordinate and shepherd you along because they are comfortable with the process," says Evans.

If you anticipate problems, it's especially important to have someone who knows the system. This can be an agent or broker who knows which companies are likely to give you the best rates and someone who knows how to talk to underwriters to convey the true risk -- or lack of risk -- you would pose.

"The worse your health is, the more this matters," says Herz.

9. Develop good habits
The insurance company probably won't ask how many times a week you work out, how many grams of fat you consume or how many glasses of water you drink. But all of those things impact the criteria they will examine. So hit the gym, loose those extra pounds and keep yourself healthy.

"These things can make a difference for people, not just in getting coverage but in the price you'll get," says Evans.

Want to drop 30 percent from your life insurance premium? Kick the cigs.

"Smoking can add up to 30 percent to the cost of your life, disability and health insurance premiums," says Johnson.

10. Just say no
If you take illegal drugs, you're not going to find an insurance company that wants to take you, says Johnson.

"If [a person] has a recent history of drug use, they're not going to be able to get insurance," he says.

If you're a recovering alcoholic, "You're probably going to be able to get coverage, but it could be a higher premium," says Johnson. Emphasize, with medical records to back you, how long you've been sober. The insurance company could see a relapse as a risk to them, so the more you can show how unlikely that is, the better for your rates.

11. Prepare for your exams
In some cases, the insurance company will require either a physical or a short exam by a paraprofessional, which can include taking your vital signs and drawing some blood.

To get the most accurate reading, schedule it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. (Obviously, if you have a condition that makes that tricky, talk to your doctor first.) Give up vigorous exercise like that three-mile run 24 hours in advance. Get a good night's sleep. And some experts recommend forgoing your morning coffee, or even water.

12. Follow up on the details of your medical records
Do your records contain a recommendation for a test that you never got? The insurance company could see that as a bad sign, says Herz. "Have the doctor note in your records that you didn't need it after all -- or get it done," he says. Otherwise the company is likely to think that you could have some undiagnosed problem.

13. Think about your future
If you're healthy now and considering buying term life insurance, make sure that it's renewable and convertible, says Evans. "What that means is that you can convert to permanent coverage without a physical. That would be worth paying extra for," he says.

14. Try to get coverage even if you've had health problems
Work with a professional you trust and have him quietly look into what kind of ratings you would get, says Herz. Bear in mind that a number of conditions aren't the black marks they used to be.

"A person who had open-heart surgery used to be declined," says Herz. "Now they can get regular rates."

Ditto for folks who are using medications to control conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"I've seen people who have cancer, heart [problems], all sorts of things, get insurance because they were able to get a favorable prognosis," says Evans.

15. Ask why
If you are declined or end up with rates higher than you were expecting, find out why. Talk with your agent and ask how to get a copy of your records from the Medical Information Bureau, says Evans.

16. Don't give up
"Don't consider a [lower health ranking] or decline in the past as indicative of future events," says Herz. It could be that last time around your agent didn't work hard enough for you, or it could be that today, with new drugs and treatments, your condition wouldn't pose as much of a risk, he says.

And time does heal -- even in the insurance business. "Sometimes, the further you get from [an event]," says Herz, "the better off you are."

Dana Dratch is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.

-- Posted: May , 2005




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