Eric Porter was brokenhearted after his 43-year-old wife, Amy, died unexpectedly while visiting family in Kentucky. He had already checked her in for her flight home when he received the news. American income life insurance.
The couple had lived a quiet life in Mesa since meeting at the University of Kentucky two decades ago, he said, taking yearly vacations to the Caribbean using his flight benefits as an American Airlines employee.
"It was wonderful being married to her," Porter said. "We had a lot of good times, took a lot of great trips."
Porter, 41, believed that the couple's life insurance company would cover the funeral bills. With Amy's death, he was stretched handling household costs himself.
But American Income Life Insurance denied the claim in January, despite company representatives previously assuring Porter the payout would be approved, he said.
"They handled it totally the wrong way when they could have just said ‘No’ from the beginning," Porter said. "This whole time I'm being very patient because I don't want them to think it's all about money. But now that months have passed, people (like the funeral home) are asking me for money."
Policies purchased about 6 weeks before
Porter said he had worried about the claim from the start.
He and Amy had signed up for policies, figuring they weren't getting any younger, about six weeks before she died in her sleep. The underwriting process was supposed to take six to eight weeks, he said.
The policies were offered through Teamsters Union Local 104, the union to which Porter belonged.
"I contacted (my insurance agent) and told him everything" after the death, Porter said. "I asked, 'What's going to happen now?' … He said, 'You’ve already been in the underwriting for six weeks. (Events after underwriting begins are) not supposed to sway the judgment of the underwriting process either way.'"
The agent called soon after to say both policies had been approved, Porter recalled.
20 year term life insurance
"He seemed just as worried as I was while we were waiting for this acceptance. Once we got accepted, he relaxed, I relaxed, everything was fine. The worries were over," Porter said. "We said it was a blessing in disguise and all that heart-to-heart. He seemed so happy for us."
MORE: Her family saved for Disneyland. Then a rental-car company ripped her off
MORE: A veteran wanted a car loan, but the credit bureau said the Arizonan was dead
When Porter finally called the company for a claim update, a representative said the benefits were denied.
The customer-service agent first told Porter that Amy had been denied a policy, then that his wife had failed to sign all the right paperwork, he said.
"If there was something that needed to happen, you think your (insurance agent) would give you a heads-up," Porter said.
The Arizona Republic saw Porter's tweet about the situation and asked if a reporter could help.
The contract appeared to offer partial benefits before finalizing the policy, up to $50,000, if Porter made his first payment during underwriting. Documents show he sent the premium in mid-September, more than a month before Amy died.
The company sent Porter confirmation that the policy was accepted in early November, three weeks after his wife's death, according to the paperwork.
But then the insurance company notified Porter that his bank had rejected his payments, even though he was sure the information was correct.
"As a result your policy provides no benefits until a replacement payment is received," the company's notification said.
Porter worked with his agent to clear up the payment problems, and in January the company said his policy was back in place.
Company pays a portion of the claim
The newspaper contacted American Income Life Insurance, which is owned by the $10 billion Texas-based Torchmark Corporation, to better understand why the claim for Amy was denied. Torchmark spokesman Mike Majors declined to comment.
Less than a week later, however, Porter received the call he'd been hoping for.
American Income Life Insurance agreed to pay a portion of the claim, enough to cover funeral costs and a little extra.
MORE: Why this group wants you to know the cost to bury your loved one
MORE: Arizona fake magazine scam took $550,000 from 250 mostly elderly victims
Porter, whose home is filled with photos of Amy and whose arm has a tattoo of wedding rings with their names, said he felt enormous relief.
"After The Arizona Republic got involved and spoke with the (company), it was only a matter of days before American Income Life Insurance contacted me back and said, 'We will fulfill this claim,'" Porter said. "That was wonderful."
How to make sure your life insurance isn't denied
Term life insurance estimate
Ask for temporary coverage during the underwriting process so you are protected before the policy kicks in. You may be required to begin paying premiums. The payments are refunded if the policy is not finalized.
Keep notes of all conversations with insurance representatives, no matter how minor, including names and dates. Ask your agent for a copy of statements you made during the application interview. These documents can be useful in contesting a denial.
Ask questions anytime you don't understand something and always answer honestly. Life insurance companies can use inaccurate or incomplete information to refuse a claim. Even failing to disclose a minor medical condition unrelated to the cause of death can jeopardize your benefits.
List a secondary address on your policy. If you move or change banks and forget to pay your premium, you have a better chance of noticing the reminders to pay. Most insurance companies cancel policies after 30 to 60 days of missed payments.
If you have a complaint, contact the Arizona Department of Insurance at 602-364-2499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before you buy a policy, check out helpful guides from the American Council of Life Insurers and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Have you been scammed, defrauded or treated badly by a business? Contact consumer protection reporter Rebekah L. Sanders at email@example.com or fill out our online form.