Buying life insurance with Multiple Sclerosis can get really frustrating if you don’t know where to apply; not all companies agree on the risks of MS. In fact, many agents and agencies don’t even know what to do.
Fortunately, we can help you.
We’re highly trained in high risk life insurance underwriting, and work with more than 50 of the top life insurance companies for these types of risk.
Affordable Life Insurance With Multiple Sclerosis: Start Here
For those of you who are recently diagnosed, we’ll start with a brief overview of what it is, and why it can impact life insurance underwriting. For those who are already familiar with their MS thoroughly, scroll to the bottom to see our common questionnaire to see how you should proceed.
Multiple Sclerosis, usually just referred to as MS, is an abnormal function of the body’s immune system which is being falsely targeted at the body’s central nervous system, according to the National MS Society. Because there is currently no known cure to MS, it’s considered a chronic illness, although symptoms can be treated and even pause for long durations.
Major chronic illnesses tend to impact life insurance rates because of the possibility of a shortened life span, even if it’s only a few number of years. The way a life insurance company manages risk is by modifying the premiums they charge based on the level of risk they find with each applicant. In this way, folks with chronic illnesses and the possibility of a lesser life span will ultimately pay higher prices, although it can be nominal.
With MS, the common symptoms experienced by patients are:
- Energy drain or fatigue
- Diminishing eyesight
- Muscle atrophy and rigidness, leading to mobility concerns
- Gastrointestinal and urinary concerns
While these are the most common, there are others. And, on the other hand, some people will experience little to no symptoms for long periods of time. This is because there are different levels of severity with Multiple Sclerosis and life insurance is heavily dependent on these types when awarding a risk class. Let’s go through them.
Relapsing-Remitting (RRMS) is where most people are categorized. About 85% of those with Multiple Sclerosis fall here. The most mild of the all the different types, Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is characteristic of periods with no symptoms, followed by relapses, called flare-ups, where the MS presents itself again. Depending on the flare-up, the treatment or medication, they can be short or prolonged, but tend to go away.
Secondary-Progressive (SPMS) is a more severe development from Relaxed-Remitting where the Multiple Sclerosis begins to take on a more aggressive form. Many treatments and medications can keep this progression from occurring for quite a while, but is not guaranteed. There may be times where the symptoms do subside, but are much more far and few between when compared to the RRMS type.
Primary-Progressive (PPMS) does not have a beginning stage where the Multiple Sclerosis is considered Relapsing-Remitting, but rather progressively gets worse from the date of diagnosis. There are rarely ever times where symptoms subside, if ever, and they become significantly harder to treat with the most common prescriptions or treatment methods. Roughly 10% of individuals get diagnosed into this type.
Progressive-Relapsing (PRMS) is the least diagnosed of the different levels of severity, with less than 5% of all diagnosed individuals falling into this category. Like the PPMS, the initial diagnosis is progressive, however there are no remission time periods present throughout. This is the most difficult to treat.
Most people will develop a progressive form over their lifetime. Although, as treatments and medications better perform over time, less and less individuals are being impacted with major implications or disabilities tied directly to their MS. This also means patients are living longer, more stable lives than ever before.
Because of these factors, buying a life insurance policy after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis is becoming slightly easier. Of course, it’s still dependent on your personal health and historical medical records. Let’s get into the underwriting factors.
Multiple Sclerosis And Life Insurance Underwriting
As we get into the underwriting effects of MS and life insurance ratings, it’s important to note that each person will have a unique situation, health profile, treatment and medication regimen, and set of medical records. This means every applicant will likely have a different experience. That being said, we do have significant details which can help us attempt to classify you into a proper rating.
With any impaired risk underwriting category, there is a specific set of questions that will be asked of you and your medical history.
- What is your original date of diagnosis?
- What is your exact diagnosis of type or severity?
- What are your current or most recent symptoms?
- Do you have any residual neurological impairments or restrictions?
- What are the dates of your last flare-ups and remissions? How many episodes have you had?
- List your treatments and medications, including prescription and dose.
- Is your MS stable, unstable, or are you undergoing any experimental treatments?
- Do you require the use of any kinds of braces, walker, or wheelchair for mobility?
- Have you experienced any internal organ function failure (kidney/bladder)?
- Are you actively working either part- or full-time? Are you on disability?
These basic questions only pertaining to your MS which can help the underwriter to begin to drill down on where you are currently, what kinds of risks you pose to the insurer, if any, and will help the person reviewing your case to establish a profile for you. Many of these questions will be asked at the time of application, although clarification questions may be asked at any time.
From here, you’ll be expected to undergo a medical exam, your MIB report and driver’s record will be pulled, your prescription report will be accessed, and doctor’s records will ordered. This is considered a fully underwritten policy, and will yield you the cheapest life insurance policy with MS. (If you can’t get approved for this kind of policy, you’ll be forced to look into graded or guaranteed life insurance.)
Only when all your information is gathered can underwriting really begin.
What Ratings To Expect For Each Type
The rate you get approved for is heavily dependent on your overall health, not just the Multiple Sclerosis. While we’ll be discussing ratings and how they are affected by only the different types of MS, please note any other health concern will negatively impact ratings; things like kidney disease, diabetes, or other major health concerns.
|RRMS||Standard||Table 2 – Table 6|
As you can see from the graph above, no companies are currently awarding any of the progressive MS types an approval for traditional life insurance coverage. This also does not necessarily mean someone with Relapsing-Remitting will automatically be offered a traditional policy, either.
For the vast majority, a traditional policy is available, and is based on the assumption of few flare-ups, excellent follow-up records with your primary care physician, and stable use of medication or treatment. Commonly accepted prescriptions for Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis include Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, Extavia and Rebif; all are approved by the FDA.
Something to note in addition to all of the above underwriting guidelines when evaluating life insurance for those with Multiple Sclerosis is the importance of time frame. It works in two ways:
- There must be sufficient documentation since the diagnosis
- Application should be submitted before MS worsens
Timing is crucial because you’ll have to wait long enough to have plenty of medical records for an underwriter to review, but you won’t want too long in case of a progression in the MS, where life insurance is harder to obtain. There is no exact time frame as no two cases are identical, but it is unlikely to be approved for a traditional policy when applying within 6 months of diagnosis.
We invite you to contact us and fill out a questionnaire before applying–you don’t want to have a decline in your profile if you can help it. To avoid an unnecessary decline, we’ll be happy to submit your case to an underwriter at several different carriers, anonymously, to see what kind of rate we can expect from each one. This may not guarantee positive results, but we see significant improvements in ratings and approvals by doing so.
As mentioned above, a traditional policy is highly unlikely with any progressive type of Multiple Sclerosis. Fortunately, you can still get insurance.
Underwriting for a graded life insurance policy is simplified. There are no exams, minimal health questions are asked (sometimes less than 10), and approval can be quite fast. However, the trade-offs are higher premiums per thousand of coverage, lower overall coverage amounts offered, and a 2-3 year period where benefits are delayed or only a portion of the entire applied amount.
Although you are limited to lower death benefit amounts per carrier, you can apply for more than one company.
Other factors which may determine eligibility for both approval and death benefit amount are mobility (use of a cane, walker or wheelchair), current income based on active work (disability isn’t considered active income), and need based amounts to cover debts.
In some cases, one might be able to obtain a graded policy if applied early on, although most applicants in this type will need to resort to guaranteed plans. It will almost always be a result of current treatment, mobility, and disability. Because of the persistent symptoms, it is prohibitive for companies to offer higher amounts, as well.
Just like SPMS, you can buy more than one policy, if necessary and suitable.
Due to the seriousness and expeditious progression of this type, guaranteed policies are the only option. A person under the age of 40 will have an extremely hard time finding any coverage at all, mostly because a guaranteed policy isn’t issued my many companies at this time.
The best case scenario for anyone needing life insurance with MS, regardless of type, is to get it while you can. Life insurance only gets more expensive as you age, but when you couple with impairments, whether physical or cognitive, rates increase even faster. If you would like more information, please contact us.