Presidential Life Insurance Underwriting

Avatar Jimmy McMillan
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Posted in Risk
Last updated on August 14, 2019

What if the living current and former presidents needed life insurance?

Many jobs can be stressful, but being the president of the United States can be as stressful as a heart attack.

Short term stress can make you angry. However, long term chronic stress can cause, accelerate or aggravate many serious health conditions.

After you have the most stressful job in the free world, how does that affect your chances for life insurance?

Put on your underwriter hat, because we are going to take a look at the current health conditions of presidents who are still living and see if we could qualify them for life insurance.

A Note About Poetic License

For our underwriting decisions, we will use publicly available sources to gather our information about the presidents and their health.

Obviously, we do not have access to Barack Obama’s attending physician’s statement (APS) and we didn’t put Donald Trump through a paramedical exam.

An astute reader will notice that the older presidents also have the worst underwriting outcomes.

This is normal, for health problems start to stack up as we age.

It’s the natural way of things, and this is why we advise getting your life insurance at a younger age (in your 50’s, perhaps).

This is not an article about a president’s policy or their political party affiliation; politics has no place in life insurance.

This is just a fictional exercise in underwriting. Let’s go!

The Health of Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter is the second-oldest living former president. He was born on October 1, 1924, and was president from 1977 to 1981.

A few serious health issues have come to light since Carter’s job as president ended. Earlier in life at age 55, he collapsed during a race, but it turned out to be heat exhaustion. In August 2015, he had elective surgery to remove a small mass on his liver.

Just nine days later, Carter announced a cancer diagnosis.

Later that same month, he revealed that melanoma had been found in both his brain as well as his liver. In December 2015, Carter said that medical scans showed he was free of cancer, and people worldwide hailed the success of immunotherapy for cancer treatment.

His doctors concluded his cancer treatment and he receives quarterly screenings to make sure the cancer stays in remission.

Carter seems to be healthy now, and he even attended the latest inauguration in January of 2017.

Why Would Jimmy Carter Need Life Insurance?

When he dies, he might need money for estate taxes, charitable endowment and business continuation.

After leaving office in debt, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter gained their fortune through book publishing and speaking. Currently, his net worth was estimated to be about $8 million, over the personal exemption for estate tax yet under the marital exemption.

The Carter Center has an endowment of $600 million and he might like to add to that through life insurance. He encourages others to give in this manner.

No longer a peanut farmer, his family owns land around his hometown of Plains GA that they use for wildlife conservation and a sustainable tree farm. He is also invested in a solar energy plant near his home.

These land holdings certainly have expenses and taxes, and they may have mortgages. Business continuation through life insurance could pay these expenses.

Probable Health Class for President Carter

  • Recent Metastatic Melanoma Cancer History
  • Significant Family History of Cancer

***Declined Traditional Coverage

Metastatic melanoma is very bad for underwriting. Carter’s recent battles with cancer follow an extensive family history of cancer. His mother died of breast cancer, while his father and two siblings died of pancreatic cancer at an early age.

These are all negative ranking factors for Carter’s health class. On the positive side, Jimmy Carter maintains a healthy weight and he focuses on diet and exercise.

Jimmy Carter would be declined or postponed traditional life insurance coverage due to his recent cancer history. After the removal of aggressive tumors, life insurance companies need 5 – 10 years worth of remission to consider a case.

If he applied earlier in life before the bout with cancer, Mr. Carter could have qualified for rates that were standard or better.

The Health of Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, and he was president from 1993 to 2001.

Clinton had various heart problems since his presidency ended. In September 2004, Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery on his heart. Then in March 2005, he had surgery for a partially collapsed lung.

In February 2010, Clinton’s heart problems began again when he was rushed to the hospital with chest pains. He had two coronary stents implanted in his heart in 2010.

After this latest incident, Clinton took a hard look at his health and adopted a vegan diet to lose weight. He later adopted a paleo diet and is still adhering to this plan today.

Why Would Bill Clinton Need Life Insurance?

President Clinton wasn’t rich when he won the White House, however, he has done very well for himself after leaving.

In 2005, Clinton earned a $15 million advance on his book “My Life.” In March 2014, the former president was paid $500,000 alone to speak in London to Bank of America – 24/7 Wallstreet

Bill and Hillary Clinton currently have an estate estimated to be worth $75 Million. Under current estate tax rules that nets an estate tax of over $25 Million.

Life insurance could handle that estate tax through an irrevocable life insurance trust and distribute more to the heirs of the Clinton estate.

The Clintons have philanthropic involvement in two foundations, the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton Family Foundation.

They have a history of personally donating to these charities, and it is likely they would use life insurance to boost their endowments.

Probable Health Class for President Clinton

  • Quadruple Bypass, 90% Blockage
  • Follow up Coronary Stents

***Moderate Substandard Rates

Why do people undergo an invasive, risky quadruple bypass surgery? Usually, it is because of significant arteriosclerosis of those coronary arteries (most significantly the left main artery).

Clinton’s medical team did not think medicine was enough in 2004 when he was experiencing chest pains. They did not explore a less invasive stent surgery, and this suggests that the left main artery had a significant blockage.

Having a stent surgery less than 6 years later suggests (but does not prove) that the arteriosclerosis was progressing. The quadruple bypass and progressive arteriosclerosis are negative factors in deciding Clinton’s health class.

He did change his lifestyle significantly, changed his diet dramatically, and continues to exercise. Since leaving office, he’s also dropped more than 30 pounds. These are positive factors for Clinton’s case.

Ultimately it will depend on his heart’s function and the current stenosis of his coronary arteries. Life insurance underwriting will take a look at an angiogram or stress test before a final offer is obtained.

Our best guess is moderate substandard rates due to these heart conditions, and worse if the left main artery still shows signs of a significant block.

George W. Bush and His Health History

Former President George W. Bush was born on July 6, 1946. He was president from 2001 to 2009

Health-wise, a younger Bush suffered from alcoholism until age 40 and there were rumors of cocaine use.

Like his father and former President Clinton, George W. also has problems with his heart. He had a history of smoking and high cholesterol, and doctors found a significant coronary blockage after a stress test.

On August 6, 2013, he was treated for a coronary artery blockage with a stent. At the time of Bush’s surgery, it is rumored his artery contained up to 95 percent blockage.

We do not know which artery has the stent, and this would be an important detail for a life insurance underwriter.

Why Would George W. Bush Need Life Insurance?

The children of George and Laura Bush are married and independent, however, he could still leave an inheritance to them or his two grandchildren. He publicly shows his affection and spoils his granddaughters whenever he can.

His estate is valued at $39 Million, and it’s estimated he has earned nearly $30 Million in speaking engagements since leaving the White House.

He still There is a need for life insurance to protect both his future earning potential and to prepare for future estate taxes.

Bush raised almost $500 Million for his library on the Southern Methodist University Campus. It is fair to say he would include the center in his charitable giving plans and could use life insurance for this purpose.

Probable Health Class for President George W. Bush

  • Coronary Stent Surgery – Severe Blockage
  • Previous problems with Alcoholism

***Moderate Substandard Rates

Having a blockage of 95% in any coronary artery is alarming. Depending on the artery, stenosis that significant is enough to decline a file at many life insurance companies.

There is a high likelihood of significant plaque buildup in Bush’s other coronary arteries as well due to a prior history of smoking and documented high cholesterol.

President Bush only had one stent procedure. His cardiologist chose angioplasty versus a cardiac bypass, and this is very important because it suggests the stented artery was not the left main artery or the left anterior descending.

This is a good thing for “#43,” and it is a good thing for his life insurance prospects.

Men’s Health called George W. Bush one of America’s fittest presidents, and in retirement, Bush has remained active. He continues to exercise multiple times per week and he even spent his 70th birthday on a mountain bike.

This high level of activity could qualify him for lifestyle credits and lower life insurance rates.

Without access to recent test results like a coronary angiogram, our best guess for Bush’s health class is moderately substandard rates.

If we were able to prove his coronary arteries had less severe plaque buildup and his left ventricular ejection fraction was higher than 55%, he could qualify for mild substandard rates.

The Health of Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961. He is the youngest former president who is still alive. He was president from 2009 to 2017.

Men’s Health calls Obama the most athletic of all the former presidents. His last presidential physical in 2016 noted his strong health, noting a low resting heart rate of 56 beats per minute.

He also has low blood pressure (110 / 68), perfect vision, and low cholesterol without the use of medication. The former POTUS maintains a good diet and exercises six times per week.

The only issue he currently has is mild acid-reflux symptoms, though his health was not always been perfect. Obama did admit to using illicit drugs during his youth.

He famously battled a smoking addiction until 2011, and has fallen off the wagon since then. When President Obama last smoked a cigarette is unclear.

Why Would Obama Need Life Insurance?

It’s reported that the Obamas are going to rent a home near Washington D.C., and rent is estimated to be about $22,000 per month.

He also has a new mortgage, and paying down debt (especially mortgage protection) is another top reason to secure life insurance.

After moving out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., former President Obama and his wife reportedly signed a book deal worth $65 Million dollars.

He also commands speaking fees in the $400,000 range, and that should add nicely to their already significant net worth (currently estimated at $12.2 Million).

Even if he only scheduled a few speaking engagements a year, Obama has significant lifetime earnings potential to protect, plus estate taxes to worry with in the future. Life insurance is very attractive to solve both of these issues.

Finally and most importantly – Obama is a father with children who still depend on him. His eldest daughter Malia is about to start college while his youngest daughter Sasha is still in high school.

Providing and protecting your family is at the heart of all life insurance decisions, and this is especially true with minor children.

Probable Health Class for President Obama

  • Above-Average Health
  • Good Diet and Exercise
  • Former Smoker

***Preferred Rates

Obama’s prior smoking history will be a sore spot for life insurance underwriters, however, if he has been tobacco-free since 2011, he can qualify for the best rates.

Multiple physicals prove Obama has a great diet and exercise regime, low cholesterol numbers, low blood pressure and a body mass index (BMI) of 22.8.

He is better than average in every category we could find health information on, only taking medication for acid reflux and a vitamin D supplement. Based on the research Obama would likely receive preferred life insurance ratings.

President Donald Trump and His Health

President Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946. He began his presidency in 2017 as the oldest person to hold the office at the time of his inauguration.

Trump appears to be in relatively good health. In 2016, a medical report from Trump’s doctor showed that his blood pressure (116 / 70), liver and thyroid function were within normal ranges.

He had low overall cholesterol numbers, his HDL was great (63), however, his fasting glucose numbers were borderline pre-diabetic.

Based on reports, President Trump is 6′ 3″ and 236 pounds. Trump’s BMI is in the overweight category at 29.5, and other reports peg this number even higher.

The President acknowledged this and said that he would like to lose 15 to 20 pounds during an appearance on the Dr. Oz show.

His mother lived into her late 80’s and his father into his 90’s. Neither had any history with cancer or cardiac diseases. He has never smoked a cigarette or consumed any other drugs.

Trump does not drink, and this is due to his brother’s death from alcoholism in 1981.

He takes Crestor for his cholesterol and a daily aspirin to lower his risk of heart trouble. His doctor did not report any other medications, and by all measures, Trump seems to be in good health.

Why Would Donald Trump Need Life Insurance?

President Trump has five children, four of whom are older and independent. However, 11-year old Barron still lives with Trump and First Lady Melania and will need financial support until he is an adult.

Trump’s business interests are extensive. He has assets worth anywhere between $1.4 Billion and $10 Billion, depending on which report you read. Most of net worth is real estate related –  like skyscrapers and golf courses.

Many of his buildings are encumbered by mortgages estimated between $500 Million and $1 Billion, so it’s safe to say his estate will have some operating expenses after his death.

Many business owners include life insurance in their business continuation plans and Trump could use it for the same. Also consider the estate tax, which would be massive if Trump had to pay it on the net realized value of his assets.

Of course, he is working on repealing the “death tax,” however as it stands his estate could owe $564 Million in estate taxes if he died tomorrow. How would they settle a debt so high if not for life insurance?

Probable Health Class for Donald Trump

  • In Good Overall Health
  • No Cigarettes or Alcohol
  • Slightly Overweight / High B.M.I.

***Standard Rates

Trump seems to be in good health, especially for his age. No cardiovascular issues, no issues with cancer or diabetes and he has an excellent family history.

The lone sticking point keeping him from preferred rates would be his height and weight. Depending on the carrier, and depending on the medical exam, our best guess is a standard rating due to his BMI.

In Closing

For the men who held the most stressful job in the world, it is comforting to know that the stress didn’t kill them. Even with the medical conditions covered in this article, they are still relatively healthy today.

We have explored the medical history of our living presidents and where life insurance could serve a purpose in their lives. After hypothesizing on their underwriting outcomes it is remarkable the range of rates that they would qualify for.

From “preferred” down to “declined” and everything in between, the living presidents are widely distributed among a health class spectrum just like the citizens they represent.

Underwriting shows no preference to power or politics, it is egalitarian.

Let’s close by wishing the living presidents many more years of wellness. We hope they do not need their life insurance for a long, long time.

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