Living with a medical condition like sickle cell disease is never easy.
In addition to impacting your day to day life, such conditions also impact your life insurance eligibility and the rates you’ll pay for this important service.
That’s why understanding how life insurance providers assess those with medical conditions is so important. A window into the underwriting process will help you target the right kinds of life insurance and find the best coverage for you.
Unfortunately, most of those with sickle cell disease will find it difficult to qualify for traditional coverage. The condition is often severe and chronic, throwing up a lot of red flags for life insurance providers.
There’s still hope though. Some of those with sickle cell disease (as well as those with simply just the sickle cell trait) can still qualify for traditional coverage. Those that can’t still have plenty of valuable life insurance alternatives to choose from.
Below we provide a comprehensive review of everything you need to know about finding life insurance if you have sickle cell disease.
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
You must first know exactly what sickle cell disease is before applying for life insurance with the medical condition.
An understanding of your condition and the most common symptoms will help you understand how underwriters at a life insurance company will judge and categorize your application.
One of the most important things to understand about sickle cell disease is that the name is a blanket term for several related disorders.
Each type of sickle cell disease is inherited and affects the red blood cells. The differences between disorders largely related to the way the red blood cells are affected.
For example, all people with sickle cell disease have an abnormal amount of hemoglobin in their red blood cells.
The abnormal amount of hemoglobin is caused by an abnormal hemoglobin gene that’s passed down through families and inherited.
Some people only inherit one abnormal hemoglobin gene. This is known as sickle cell trait. Others inherit two abnormal hemoglobin genes. This is known as sickle cell anemia.
Though both situations are serious, the second situation is generally much worse. Those with two abnormal hemoglobin genes have a type of sickle cell disease called sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell anemia is not only the most common form of sickle cell disease, but it’s also the most severe. The symptoms are more severe and the long-term outlook is less positive.
There are two other forms of sickle cell disease, although these are much less common than sickle cell trait and sickle cell anemia.
Because those with sickle cell trait often never experience symptoms, we’re going to mostly focus on sickle cell anemia below. We will use the term sickle cell anemia interchangeably with sickle cell disease.
Those with sickle cell disease experience an interrupted delivery of oxygen throughout the body thanks to the abnormal amounts of hemoglobin interpreting the flow.
The symptoms are often severe. They include regular anemia, periodic periods of pain, painful swelling, frequent infections, and vision problems. Some children and teenagers even experience delayed growth, including delayed puberty.
A variety of complications can stem up from sickle cell anemia, including stroke, acute chest syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, organ damage, blindness, leg ulcers, gallstones, and priapism.
It’s important to seek a doctor’s attention as soon as you first notice any of the symptoms related to sickle cell disease.
Fortunately, because it’s an inherited disease (it can’t be caught or transmitted), it’s most often diagnosed in infancy.
This early diagnosis is pivotal in providing the proper treatment to the person with the disease as they age and begin to experience the symptoms of the disease in full.
Who Gets Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle cell disease only affects those that inherit it from their parents.
To inherit sickle cell disease, both parents must carry a sickle cell gene. This means that both parents either have sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease.
Those with sickle cell trait usually don’t experience the negative symptoms associated with sickle cell disease. This means that many people with the trait don’t even know they have it.
Because of this, many people are unaware that their child is at risk until after it’s born and the symptoms have started to show themselves.
Though sickle cell disease can affect anyone, it’s most common in black people in the United States.
Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease
Though there are effective treatments for sickle cell disease (however, there is no cure), the best course of action is prevention.
That’s why couples that know they carry a sickle cell trait should always talk to a genetic counselor before having a child.
There is also a lot you can do to prevent complications from arising if you’ve already had a child with sickle cell anemia. Chief among this is health maintenance in the form of immunizations, taking penicillin, and otherwise working to prevent infections.
Screening tests and evaluations are also of utmost importance. These enable doctors to pinpoint the specifics of your sickle cell anemia to provide the best treatment possible.
Actual treatments for sickle cell disease largely include prevention of complications. Medications and blood transfusions are most common. Sometimes a bone-barrow transplant is an option.
Questions You’ll Be Asked
The bulk of applying for life insurance is spent answering a number of questions.
These questions largely relate to your overall health (including any medical conditions) as well as your family health history and lifestyle.
Those with sickle cell disease can expect to answer a variety of questions specifically relating to this medical question.
First, the life insurance company will ask what type of sickle cell disease you have. They specifically want to know whether you simply have the sickle cell trait or if you have sickle cell anemia.
Those with sickle cell anemia will be asked several follow up questions, including:
- When were you diagnosed with sickle cell anemia?
- What are your symptoms?
- Do you have any complications from sickle cell anemia?
- What treatments and preventative measures have you taken?
- What is your sickle cell anemia prognosis?
Those applying for traditional life insurance coverage with sickle cell disease will also be required to submit to a current medical exam.
The medical exam is used by the life insurance company’s underwriters to ensure that the information provided in your application is accurate.
The Application and Approval Process
Know that you know what type of questions you’ll answer in your application, it’s time to talk about what you can expect after sending the application in.
Simply put, it involves a lot of waiting. The underwriting process at most life insurance companies takes anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.
The 4 to 6 week underwriting period consists of the underwriters examining your application and medical exam to assess your risk.
You’ll be told whether or not you’re eligible for coverage after this process is complete. If you’re eligible, you’ll also be told how much you’ll have to pay per month for the coverage offered.
Your Life Insurance Options
We’ll be upfront with you: if you have sickle cell disease, your life insurance options are limited.
That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to qualify for traditional coverage, just that it’s much more difficult.
In fact, those with sickle cell anemia have a very low chance. Those that have experienced complications from the medical condition won’t have much of a chance at all.
However, those with a sickle cell trait should be able to qualify for traditional coverage, at a preferred rate, as long as they’re otherwise in good health.
Luckily, there are several options available for those unable to qualify for traditional life insurance coverage. These include common alternatives like a guaranteed death benefit.
Finding the Best Life Insurance with Sickle Cell Disease
Your best bet to find life insurance if you have sickle cell disease is to apply to several different companies.
Applying to several different providers allows you to compare your options. It also increases the chances you’ll qualify for coverage in the first place.
Though finding life insurance with sickle cell disease is very difficult, it’s certainly not impossible.