Insurance Twisting, Churning, and Sliding: How to Not Let Cunning Agents Twist You Around

September 27, 2023

With over a trillion dollars paid in insurance premiums annually, the ever-growing U.S. insurance industry has long set a “being insured is being protected” standard. Over 91% of Americans can boast of health insurance coverage, among many other types of insurance, including life, home, car, travel, pet, and even a nose job. If you can imagine something being insured, it most likely can be insured.

Depending on the age, occupation, and whims of fancy, you may have different insurance demands, but the main point is that you would want to be insured. And if so, then it would only be logical to do your homework before taking action, starting with arguably the most egregious phenomenon in the whole affair in insurance twisting.

What Is Twisting in Insurance?

Whether you’re about to get your first insurance policy or change the insurance policies you already own, chances are you’ll ask an insurance agent for help. Depending on the persona, that may be the best experience of your life or a complete disaster.

How come? Unfortunately, insurance agents have much room for maneuvering in the insured-insurer relationship, and some are not afraid to scam their clients for personal enrichment. But let’s move forward to the subject at hand.

Insurance twisting is when an insurance agent intentionally convinces you to switch to an allegedly better insurance policy, although it would only benefit one party – the agent. Simply put, you are deliberately tricked into buying insurance policies you don’t need.

Agents live off commissions, and sometimes the temptation is too high.

Infographic “Health Insurance Fraud: Facts & Figures To Stay Protected On All Fronts”

What Can and Cannot Be Considered Insurance Twisting

Now that you know what twisting is, let’s draw two examples so that you can understand what would not be considered twisting:

  • Twisting: An agent advises you to drop your existing life insurance policy in favor of a cheaper term life insurance without warning you that you’d have to forfeit the cash value of your life policy or pay taxes on it as a result of the change.
  • Not Twisting: An insurance agent advises changing your existing insurance coverage for a more expensive yet broader coverage.

You should never blindly trust insurance agents. Having second thoughts is reasonable because insidious agents may have more tricks up their sleeves than mere insurance twisting.

What Is Churning in Insurance?

If you want to change your existing coverage, you will likely consult with your current agent first. Alas, unscrupulous agents may resort to churning.

Insurance churning is when an agent intentionally convinces you to switch to an allegedly better insurance policy within the same company, although the replacement would only benefit the agent.

Churning is very similar to insurance twisting, with the only exception that you’re tricked by the same company in the former case.

What Is Sliding in Insurance?

The trickiest is insurance sliding, which involves addendums and riders, usually the most overlooked part of insurance.

Insurance sliding is when an agent intentionally omits to disclose the full details of the coverage – including addendums and riders – which results in a higher insurance premium or when an agent knowingly sells a rider that provides no extra coverage.

An example of sliding would be if you weren’t informed about the increase in premiums or the addendums and did not authorize riders.

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Protect Yourself Against Insurance Agents’ Tricks

Most states do provide anti-twisting legislation. For example, life insurance replacement requirements endorsed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are widely adopted. Still, the definitions and terms concerning insurance twisting are so vague that most of the time, it’s unreasonably difficult or even impossible to bring crafty agents to justice.  

Therefore, you have to protect yourself on your own, which you can do if armed with your common sense and the following checklist:

  1. Make sure you’re comfortable with the agent. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and the agent’s language, there’s a chance they want to twist you around. A direct and pushy hard sell is considered a poor technique in the insurance industry.
  2. Slowly peruse all the details of the proposed insurance. It may take a lot of time to understand the nuances of the policy, but a good agent is also a good educator. Any signs of irritation or unclear answers to your questions – no matter how many you’ve asked – would be a huge red flag.
  3. Look for the right balance between coverage level, premium, and deductible. Weigh all the pros and cons of the coverage and make sure to study the disclosure statement. The right balance is what this is all about. A switch to a policy with higher coverage and the same premium and deductible would be a win for you. However, an unreasonably good offer may just as well be twisting.

The Gut Instinct

As preposterous as it may sound, in addition to being educated, it may be a good idea to listen to your gut instinct. Most insurance codes of conduct are based on natural law, which propagates intrinsic human values and makes the most customer-friendly conduct the only natural and logical one. In other words, double-check, postpone, or even avoid the deal if your gut instinct indicates so.


Oleksandr is an expert in deep research. He covers insurance topics across four major insurance verticals – auto, health, life, and home insurance – while taking into account the legal landscape of the state in question. Come rain or shine, you can expect regular quality blogs and timely updates from Oleksandr.

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