If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may be wondering how to get life insurance or if you can even get life insurance at all. While it is possible to obtain life insurance with RA, it will have an impact on how your rates are calculated. Here’s what you need to know about buying life insurance while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
When clients diagnosed with RA come to us they are often concerned that they would not be able to qualify for life insurance. This is especially a concern with clients who have been diagnosed with severe RA. The anxiety around life insurance, premiums, and not being able to protect your family in case of worsening prognosis can intensify your symptoms. A question we commonly get from our clients is “can I get life insurance if I have rheumatoid arthritis?”
Yes, you can get life insurance if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Regardless of the severity of your condition there are products available for you to protect yourself and your loved ones.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by joint inflammation and pain. It occurs when the immune system malfunctions and attacks the synovium, the lining of the joints. The disease typically affects the hands, knees, or ankles, with the same joint on both sides of the body, such as both hands or both knees. However, RA can also affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes, heart and circulatory system, and/or lungs.
RA affects more women than men for unknown reasons, and it usually appears in middle age. Having a family member with RA increases the likelihood of developing the disease.
Symptoms and signs
RA symptoms and signs typically manifest in the wrists, hands, or feet and include:
- Stiffness in more than one joint that lasts more than 30 minutes
- Swelling in multiple joints
- A general feeling of being unwell, symmetrical joint involvement, a low-grade fever, and appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Deformity of the joints
- Impairment of function and mobility
- Shakiness while walking
How Do Life Insurance Companies Look at RA?
When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, life insurers must consider numerous factors. Not only must they consider an applicant’s lifespan, but the fact that many prescriptions used to treat RA have significant side effects. In severe cases, the disease may cause other organs besides the joints to decline. Underwriting is used by life insurance companies to determine how much risk you pose. The cost of your life insurance policy is usually affected by RA. Your premiums are determined by three factors: Family, medical history and lifestyle. It is important to note that health is a major factor in determining how much traditional life insurance will cost you.
Furthermore life insurance companies will want to know the following information about rheumatoid arthritis:
- Date of diagnosis – The longer you have RA, the greater the risk of joint and organ damage.
- Flare Ups – The frequency with which your flare ups occur affects the amount of inflammation in your body.
- Type and Severity – How it affects your ability to live an independent and active life.
- Disability – The inability to work as a result of a RA disability lowers your life insurance rates.
- Medications – Some RA medications are considered red flags by life insurance companies.
- Damage – Joint damage, bone erosion, and organ involvement all have a negative impact on life insurance underwriting.
Insurance Companies will also inquire about your general health and may ask some of the following questions:
Questions about your family’s medical history are also asked to determine if you are at a higher risk. You will be asked if any of your immediate blood relatives have a history of:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
How is RA Categorized?
The severity of the disease will determine the rating given to an applicant with RA by underwriters.
Most underwriting guides categorize severity as follows:
Mild: Mild pain, slight pain or stiffness in peripheral joints, no or minimal swelling, and no deformity. Physical therapy and the occasional use of aspirin and anti-rheumatic drugs. Rheumatoid factor (RF) negative; ESR less than or equal to 30 mm/hr or normal C reactive protein (CRP). On X-ray, there are no erosions. Capable of carrying out all normal daily activities (ADLs).
Moderate: Pain and stiffness, more extensive joint involvement, minor deformity or restriction of movement in affected joints. Drug therapy that is repeated or continuous. RF positive with a moderately elevated titer. ESR of less than or equal to 55mm/hr or slightly elevated CRP Capable of performing most or all ADLs with little difficulty or assistance.
Severe: Chronic active disease, no complete pain relief, moderate or severe deformities with serious movement restrictions and impairment of function. Lesions, such as nodules, and pulmonary fibrosis. Nodules of rheumatoid arthritis In high titers, rheumatoid factor is positive. Continuous use of oral steroids. ESR greater than 55mm/hr or significantly elevated CRP Few ADLs require significant extra time or assistance.
Best Life Insurance for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The types of life insurance available to people with RA are determined by the severity of their condition. Many people with RA are eligible for term and whole life insurance, but there are no medical exam options available as well for those with more severe health issues.
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance is one of the most cost-effective types of life insurance. You can choose your term length and only purchase it for as long as you need it. The most common lengths are 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years.
Term life insurance is a short-term insurance that pays out a tax-free sum to the people or charities you name as beneficiaries if you die within the term you choose. The funds can be used to pay bills, mortgages, children’s education, or to keep your business operating. The payments you make, known as premiums, are fixed for the term you select and will not change during that time.
Depending on how severe your condition is, your ratings will differ and can cause your premiums to be slightly higher than if you didn’t have RA.
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that provides coverage for the rest of your life as long as you continue to pay your premiums. Whole life insurance, in addition to providing a death benefit, also includes a savings component known as the cash value.
Whole life insurance, like all permanent life insurance plans, provides coverage for your entire life in exchange for a monthly premium. Depending on the terms of the policy, this premium can be paid monthly, quarterly, or annually. This premium ensures funding for the death benefit provided to your loved ones upon your death, as well as a cash value component.
Whole life insurance premiums can be quite expensive. They are calculated using factors that determine how much risk the insurance company is willing to take in order to insure you. Whole life insurance premiums, in particular, are typically ten times the cost of a comparable traditional life insurance policy. This money will be used for three purposes:
- Death benefit provided to your beneficiaries
- Fees paid towards the insurance company
- Cash value component
There are a few options for life insurance that don’t require a medical exam if you’re concerned that it will increase your costs or if you’ve already been turned down. No medical life insurance is more expensive and typically provides less coverage for the money, although it does provide some coverage in the case of death for individuals in desperate situations.
Those who do not qualify for either of the two traditional forms of life insurance, term life insurance or permanent life insurance, are drawn to no-medical life insurance. It is intended for people who have trouble finding a life insurance provider to cover them.
The two primary categories of no-medical life insurance are simplified issue life insurance and guaranteed issue life insurance:
Simplified Issue Life Insurance
Simplified issue life insurance does not require a physical examination; however, you will be asked a series of questions about your medical history and current health condition. This type of life insurance is designed for people who want a quick approval process and a short underwriting period. In some cases, you can be insured in a matter of days rather than weeks or months. Depending on the life insurance company, simplified life insurance can be purchased as a term or permanent policy.
This type of life insurance is ideal for people who do not want to undergo a medical exam, are unsure what type of policy they qualify for, or simply need life insurance quickly.
Guaranteed issue life Insurance
Guaranteed issue life insurance does not require a physical examination or a questionnaire about your health and medical history. Your coverage is guaranteed, as the name implies. Similar to simplified life insurance, this coverage can be obtained quickly, so you won’t have to wait a long time or stress over being initially rejected. Sadly, this results in more expensive rates and less coverage. This is because offering insurance to individuals who want it carries a significant amount of risk. The payout process may take longer as well.
This kind of life insurance is best for people who don’t qualify for anything else or who want to at least partially provide for their family in the event of their death.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Life Insurance with Rheumatoid Arthritis
The cause is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by the immune system attacking the joints and, in severe cases, other organs. There is some evidence that people are predisposed genetically to be more susceptible to the disease.
If you have been turned down for traditional life insurance, remember that you do have options. First you should contact us, we can help you navigate your options. Each client is unique, and it is critical that you work with agents who understand the complexities of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, it is possible for an applicant to reapply for life insurance after being denied the first time.
If traditional life insurance is not an option for you, you have other options. A graded benefit life insurance policy, for example, may be appropriate for those who do not qualify for fully-underwritten life insurance.
Possibly. Some insurance companies will require a paramedical exam if you have RA for certain insurance products. Others will not require a medical, up to a certain death benefit amount. This all depends on the life insurance carrier. However, if you want the best rates, you will almost certainly need to take a paramedical exam.
Traditional, fully-underwritten life insurance (the kind that requires a medical exam) can be approved in many cases.
To determine your eligibility to be approved for life insurance, consider the following factors:
Standard Approval – (Approved) To be approved at standard rates, your RA must be well-controlled with mild medications such as NSAIDS. Well-controlled rheumatoid arthritis means few flare-ups of joint pain and swelling, no evidence of RA affecting organs, no disability, and documented regular rheumatologist visits.
Mild/moderate RA – (Approved) Insurance companies will be looking for long-term treatment with medications like steroids and DMARDS, as well as a mild deformity and/or disability. A rated approval means you can still get life insurance but will have to pay a premium surcharge of 25 to 200 percent.
Severe RA – (Declined) When primary organs are involved, major deformity, and/or the inability to perform daily tasks independently occur, standard life insurance typically declines. In this case, we can consider other options.
It is possible for mild and occasionally moderate RA, but only on a case-by-case basis. In comparison to mortgage protection, illness cover, and life insurance, insurance providers strictly underwrite income protection.
Yes, most insurers should provide this type of coverage for people with rheumatoid arthritis. You should be able to obtain a critical illness insurance policy, particularly if your symptoms and medications are minor or infrequent. People with few or no lifestyle restrictions should have no trouble finding affordable insurance.
If your symptoms are more frequent and you take strong medication on a regular basis, your options may be slightly more limited. Insurers will consider this type of application based on any other health issues or conditions.
If your symptoms are severe and standard cover is not available, you have other options for this type of coverage.
Without a doubt, the best time is now. You are most likely the healthiest right now. Furthermore, you will pay the lowest premium available right now. If you wait, you risk paying a higher premium and/or seeing your coverage lapse if your condition worsens.
Finding the right life insurance protection for you
Whether you have mild, moderate or severe rheumatoid arthritis, there’s a life insurance product or package for your situation. A life insurance specialist can help you create the best plan and package for your needs.
At Protect Your Wealth, we work with and compare policies and quotes from the best life insurance companies in Canada to ensure the best solution for you and your needs. We provide expert life insurance solutions, including no medical life insurance, critical illness insurance, term life insurance, and permanent life insurance to build the best package to give you the protection you need.
Contact Protect Your Wealth or call us at 1-877-654-6119 to talk to an advisor today! We’re proudly based out of Hamilton, and service clients anywhere in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, including areas such as Oshawa, Kelowna, and Airdrie.