Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, with an estimated 90,000 Canadians living with the disease. On average, 12 Canadians are diagnosed with MS everyday, and are commonly between the ages of 20 and 49. If you’ve been diagnosed and are affected by this condition, it’s important to take a step back and consider what financial options are best for you and your loved ones.
Occasionally, we have clients that have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis who are having trouble finding insurance companies that will accept their applications. A major concern they have is if they can even get life insurance with their multiple sclerosis, much less affordable life insurance.
The truth is yes! You can get life insurance if you’re living with multiple sclerosis. No matter which type of multiple sclerosis you’ve been diagnosed with, there is an insurance option for you. In this blogpost, we’ll go over how a multiple sclerosis patient can find life insurance options for their condition.
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (commonly abbreviated as ms) is a chronic or recurring progressive central nervous system disease that often affects people between the ages of 20 and 50. MS has no established origin, however it could be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunologic factors.
It damages nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, causing people to lose muscle function, balance, and sensation over time.
Types of multiple sclerosis
There are various types of multiple sclerosis. The four listed on the MS Society of Canada are:
- Clinically Isolated Syndrome
- Relapsing-remitting MS
- Secondary progressive MS
- Primary progressive MS
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
Clinically isolated syndrome MS refers to a single episode of neurological symptoms suggestive of multiple sclerosis. This episode, which by definition must last for at least 24 hours, may only be a one time occurrence as people who experience a CIS may or may not go on to develop MS.
When CIS is accompanied by lesions on a brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that are similar to those seen in MS, the person has a high likelihood of a second episode of neurologic symptoms and diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS. When CIS is not accompanied by MS-like lesions on a brain MRI, the person has a much lower likelihood of developing MS.
Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common course of the disease, and is characterized by unpredictable but clearly defined relapses (also known as attacks, exacerbations or flare-ups) during which new symptoms appear or existing ones get worse or permanent. In the period between relapses, recovery is complete or nearly complete to pre-relapse functionality (known as remission).
Most people with relapsing-remitting will eventually transition to a phase of the disease called secondary progressive. This phase of the disease has progressive worsening and fewer relapses, though sometimes there are occasional relapses and minor remissions.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS) is characterized by a slow accumulation of disability, without defined relapses. It may stabilize for periods of time, and even offer minor temporary improvement (figure 3b) but overall, there are no periods of remission.
Can you get life insurance if you have multiple sclerosis?
A common question people have if they have multiple sclerosis is “Can I get life insurance if I have multiple sclerosis?” and the answer is yes! Getting life insurance with multiple sclerosis is definitely possible, though it may be more difficult and more expensive, depending on how far your multiple sclerosis has progressed and how severe it is.
Traditional life insurance policies are rated in three ways: preferred (commonly for those with above average health), standard (people with regular health), or declined. In terms of multiple sclerosis and life insurance, this often means that people who have been diagnosed with the disease will not qualify for standard or preferred traditional life insurance. But, that does not mean you cannot get life insurance.
When it comes to getting life insurance with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, your best coverage option for easy approval is no medical life insurance policies. There are two options for you to consider:
- Guaranteed Issue insurance policies
- Simplified Issue insurance policies
Both policy types do not require a medical exam, but there are slight differences between guaranteed issue and simplified issue. Guaranteed issue policies have no medical tests and no questions to answer meaning you will be guaranteed approval, but will have higher premiums and there always is a two-year waiting period on the no accidental deaths policy as part of the coverage. These policies are also permanent insurance products.
For simplified issue policy, there are no medical tests, but you will be required to answer a short series of health questions that may affect your chances of being approved. However, the benefit of the simplified issue policy is that you pay lower premiums than Guaranteed Issue policies, and you may have a larger death benefit. These policies are typically term products.
Does life insurance cover multiple sclerosis?
If you have life insurance in place before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it will have no effect on the cost or coverage of your policy, which is one reason to get a policy in place as soon as possible if you believe you are at risk of developing one. If you’re currently not diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but are worried you may develop it, having a critical illness insurance policy or critical illness rider on a traditional insurance policy can provide extra relief and benefits in the event that you do develop it.
Multiple sclerosis is one of the conditions a comprehensive critical illness product will cover, so you will receive the lump sum benefit after being diagnosed.
What Insurance Companies Look For If You Have Multiple Sclerosis
When applying for life insurance with multiple sclerosis, insurers will consider your overall health, and the severity of your condition.
Specifically, insurers will consider the following factors for underwriting:
- Age/Date of diagnosis
- Whether a definite or possible diagnosis has been made, the progression of the disease
- Current symptoms
- Date of last attack and frequency of attacks
- Details on treatment
- Health Complications, if any
- Degree of disability
All these factors are used to evaluate how severe your condition is. The more severe your condition, the higher the risk associated with insuring you will be, meaning the premiums you will pay will be more expensive, and in some severe cases, you will be declined.
Getting Life Insurance Coverage With Multiple Sclerosis
Depending on what stage or type of multiple sclerosis you’re diagnosed with, getting life insurance coverage may be more difficult. But generally, a tentative diagnosis of MS with no signs or symptoms for 2 years can be considered for fully underwritten insurance. Or, if your multiple sclerosis is stable with moderate symptoms for more than a year since diagnosis, you can also be considered for fully underwritten coverage.
If you’re not sure how your situation would be treated, talking with a life insurance advisor can help you navigate your life insurance options.
What if I get declined because of my multiple sclerosis?
Even if your life insurance application was declined by an insurer, you could still purchase life insurance through a guaranteed issue policy. These policies ask no questions about your health, meaning you are guaranteed life insurance despite your health or medical condition. However, there is often a deferral period with these types of policies, where if the insured passes away during the first 2 years, the full benefit will not be paid out.
What is the best life insurance for multiple sclerosis?
The best life insurance for multiple sclerosis will depend on your own situation – some insurers will fit your needs more than others, as some will have insurance companies will cover multiple sclerosis patients while others don’t and will not approve of your application. Additionally, with those that do consider applicants with multiple sclerosis, they will have different requirements, but most often they will ask for an attending physician’s statement (APS).
Some insurers that do cover multiple sclerosis are:
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Multiple Sclerosis
Yes, critical illness insurance covers multiple sclerosis as one of the commonly covered conditions. You can read more about covered conditions in our blogpost about critical illness. If you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and pass away as a result of it while you are under your policy’s protection, your life insurance company is still entitled to provide you with your life insurance payout.
If you have a critical illness insurance that covers over 20 illnesses and multiple sclerosis is part of that list, your life insurance will provide the lump sum benefit equal to your coverage upon diagnosis. If you have a regular traditional life insurance policy, your insurer will pay out to your beneficiaries upon your passing.
The average life span after an MS diagnosis is often stated to be 25 to 35 years. Some of the most common causes of death in MS patients are secondary complications resulting from immobility, chronic urinary tract infections, compromised swallowing and breathing. Because of these complications, those that are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are riskier for life insurance companies to insure.
Stay protected in any scenario
Whether you’re actively treating and living with your multiple sclerosis or are worried that you are at risk of developing the condition, you can still find affordable life insurance for any situation you may find yourself in. Working with an experienced life insurance advisor can help you find the right insurance you need.
At Protect Your Wealth, we work with and compare policies and quotes from the best life insurance companies in Canada to create the best solution for you and your needs. We’ve been providing expert life insurance solutions since 2007, including no medical life insurance, critical illness insurance, and permanent life insurance, to build the best package to give you the protection you need.
We’re proudly based out of Hamilton, and service clients anywhere in Ontario and British Columbia, including areas such as Prince George, Abbotsford, and Ottawa. Contact Protect Your Wealth or call us at 1-877-654-6119 to talk to an advisor today!