If you have scleroderma, you might wonder how it affects your life insurance eligibility. Because of the wide range of types and severity levels of the disease, it depends upon a number of factors.
There is absolutely no need to feel overwhelmed if you don’t know where to begin after your scleroderma diagnosis. There’s a lot of information to consider, but we’ll help sum it up for you.
Below is the most important information you need to know about applying for life insurance with scleroderma.
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What Affects Your Chances of Getting Coverage?
It’s normal to worry that you won’t be able to get life insurance once you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. You may have even been denied coverage already.
But knowing which companies to apply to and what information they’ll require makes a huge difference when seeking coverage after a scleroderma diagnosis.
Some people will be able to easily qualify for life insurance with scleroderma—and at a decent rate—while others will be denied traditional coverage outright.
In short, it depends on the specifics of your case. The underwriters at each life insurance company will look at your application and medical exam to assess your eligibility and determine a rating class (if applicable).
The first step to really understanding your insurance eligibility is to understand more about the disease itself. So, let’s start with an overview of what scleroderma actually is.
What Is Scleroderma?
Scleroderma is a chronic disease affecting the body’s connective tissues, which means it gets worse as time goes on.
It’s classified as an autoimmune rheumatic disease and ranges in seriousness from very mild to very severe.
The most common symptom of scleroderma is a tightening or thickening of the skin, which is not only painful but can also lead to additional problems like damage to blood vessels.
Unfortunately, the chronic nature of the disease means it will likely affect you for life. This is why seeking treatment as soon as you notice symptoms is so important.
Treatment beginning in the early onset of scleroderma will slow down symptoms, making them less painful. It also ensures the progression of the disease slows.
Starting treatment for scleroderma as soon as possible is also essential to prevent any permanent damage from occurring.
In addition to slowing down the progression of the disease, early treatment is also seen as a huge plus in the eyes of life insurance providers.
Your chances of qualifying for coverage—and receiving a good premium—skyrocket when your treatment begins early.
So, what are the symptoms you should look out for?
- Thickening or hardening of the skin
- Pain in the skin or during movement
- Skin feels or appears different than normal
Though there currently isn’t a cure for scleroderma, treatments include a variety of medications that help reduce symptoms.
Types of Scleroderma
Not all people experience scleroderma the same way. Even those with the same type of scleroderma might experience different symptoms and at different severity levels.
The two main types of scleroderma are localized and systemic scleroderma.
- Localized scleroderma tends to affect just a few parts of the body. The affected areas usually suffer only mild symptoms and are almost always restricted to skin or muscles.
- Systemic scleroderma, on the other hand, is more severe. Not only does it affect the skin and muscles, but it can also affect the body’s organs as well as the blood vessels and joints.
Who Gets Scleroderma?
Certain people are at a greater risk of developing scleroderma than others.
But just because you’re at a greater risk of developing the disease, doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop it.
Those at a risk for developing scleroderma should simply look out for it. Regular checkups with your doctor can catch it before it becomes serious.
As for the statistics, around 300,000 Americans currently have scleroderma. Two-thirds of these cases are the localized variety.Scleroderma Foundation
Because the symptoms of scleroderma are similar to those of other autoimmune diseases, a definitive diagnosis can be difficult for doctors to make.
Females are around four times more likely to get scleroderma than men. Most people first notice its symptoms between the ages of 25 and 55 years old.
Though there’s no proof scleroderma is genetic, there is some evidence that shows the risk goes up if you have a family history of the diseases.
Questions You’ll Be Asked by an Insurance Company
The main step in applying for life insurance is answering a number of questions.
These questions span the range from basic information to details of your lifestyle to questions about your medical history.
You can expect to answer numerous questions about your scleroderma. These will include questions such as:
- When were you diagnosed?
- What are your symptoms?
- How severe is your scleroderma?
- What treatments have you used?
- What is your current prognosis?
The life insurance underwriter will use your answers to these questions to assess the severity of your illness.
Their goal is to clearly assess your risk for their company. After your risk has been assessed, they’ll determine which rating class you qualify for.
Most life insurance providers, especially those who offer traditional forms of coverage, will require you to submit an up-to-date medical exam along with your application.
The Application and Approval Process
The life insurance application process starts with, well, the application.
First, you must complete the application and then turn it in. This step takes as little as 15 minutes depending on which company you choose.
The next step takes much longer but requires no effort on your part. The waiting period after applying is generally between 4 to 6 weeks.
During this time period, the life insurance underwriter will look at your application to assess how much risk your scleroderma (as well as other lifestyle/health factors) poses to them.
You’ll receive a response after 4 to 6 weeks letting you know whether or not you’re eligible for coverage.
At this time, you’ll also receive your rating class. Your rating class dictates which type of premium you’ll pay for coverage.
Your Life Insurance Rate Possibilities
It’s very difficult to estimate whether or not you’ll qualify for life insurance with scleroderma.
As mentioned above, scleroderma varies widely in terms of symptoms and severity. In turn, the type of coverage you’ll qualify for will also greatly vary.
However, those with localized scleroderma have a much greater chance of qualifying for life insurance than those with systemic scleroderma.
The reason is localized scleroderma is almost always milder. It also has a far lower chance of spreading and doesn’t affect the organs like systemic scleroderma.
Depending on the severity of your localized scleroderma, you even have a good chance of qualifying for a Standard rate.
Despite it being more difficult for those with systemic scleroderma to find traditional life insurance, it’s not impossible.
As long as your symptoms aren’t extremely severe and you started treatment early, you have a very good chance of qualifying for traditional coverage, though it will most likely be at a lower rating class than those with localized scleroderma.
Note that lower rating classes come with higher premiums while higher rating classes come with lower premiums.
If for some reason, you’re denied traditional life insurance with scleroderma, you can still take out a guaranteed issue policy.
Though guaranteed issue life insurance doesn’t cover as much and is more expensive than traditional life insurance, it’s still a great option for a lot of people.
Finding the Best Life Insurance Coverage
If you’ve been diagnosed with scleroderma, start looking for life insurance now. Research companies most likely to insure those with the condition and start applying.
You can also engage a qualified agent, who has access to a wide range of policies, to help you determine which company is most likely to accept you.
Round up all your medical information. Seek an updated medical exam from your doctor, and ask them to put particular emphasis on your scleroderma, its symptoms, and your treatments.
The more you can do now to start preparing for the application process, the easier it will be to qualify for life insurance with scleroderma.