Those alarming rumors we've been hearing that Santa Claus will not make his usual rounds Saturday night because he can't get insurance are false, the Deseret News has learned.

A life insurance executive who has given considerable thought to the problem of insuring Santa, says the jolly old elf will take to the airways this weekend whether he has coverage or not. Meanwhile, underwriters are busy evaluating his insurability and how much to charge in premiums.It's a thorny problem, agrees Jerry Moorbeck, manager of new business underwriting for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., the Milwaukee-based firm with offices nationwide, including Salt Lake City.

"In evaluating the risks of insuring Santa, our underwriters would scrutinize the more hazardous aspects of his work - risks he shares in common with private pilots and sky divers," said Moorbeck.

As a veteran pilot who earned his "wings" a long time ago, Santa would likely fall into the "acceptable risk" category of most experienced pilots. However, the rooftop landings present a special problem, Moorbeck concedes.

Santa would likely have to pay a hefty premium for those late-night drop-ins, if he could be insured for them at all. Lest anyone pout or cry, however, Moorbeck says Santa's long accident-free record would work in his favor.

That business about Santa being a "sky diver" seems a little far-fetched, but that's the only way Moorbeck can think to classify his penchant for dropping down chimneys. Still, it's not an insurmountable problem.

"We are more concerned with the beginning sky diver,"Moorbeck said, pointing out that Northwestern Mutual requires five freefall jumps before sky divers can qualify for life insurance. The hazards of Santa's sky diving would be carefully weighed, and he would probably be assessed only a modest extra charge.

Of more obvious concern, judging from recent public appearances, is Santa's weight problem. With what we now know about heart disease, insuring anyone classified as "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf," entails obvious risks.

The fact that children seem to prefer him that way makes no difference - one shudders to think what his cholesterol count must be. Also, said Moorbeck, Santa's propensity for shaking when he laughs, "like a bowl full of jelly," only draws attention to his need to slim down.

Surprisingly, Santa's pipe smoking does not affect his insurability, although it's obviously a nasty habit that he should break. Perhaps he has already. No one has reported seeing him with a stump of a pipe held tight in his teeth since a certain Mr. Moore, but that was a long time ago. In any case, Moorbeck says Northwestern Mutual considers only cigarette smoking when writing life insurance.

Ultimately, Moorbeck concludes, Santa would be difficult to underwrite for a very basic reason: insurance companies insist on knowing the age of the policy holder and no one seems to know how old Mr. C. really is. "Ageless," is not specific enough.

The computer kicks it back every time.