Rheumatoid Arthritis and Life Insurance: What to Know.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Life Insurance

‍Having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and searching for life insurance can present numerous challenges, including managing pain, dealing with mobility issues, and maintaining overall health and well-being. In addition to these daily struggles, individuals with RA may also have concerns about their financial security and the availability of life insurance coverage. Fortunately, options are available for individuals with RA to obtain life insurance that can provide peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones.

In this article, I will explore how life insurance providers assess rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, I will discuss what factors they consider when determining eligibility and cost. Lastly, I will give you the best strategies to secure affordable life insurance coverage.

I will also provide case studies to show how individuals with varying degrees of RA can obtain life insurance policies. Let’s dive in and discover the best life insurance options for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis and Life Insurance

Since you are reading an article on rheumatoid arthritis and life insurance, you probably understand what rheumatoid arthritis is. However, I want to cite a few points to emphasize what life insurance companies are considering when offering life insurance to someone with RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that mainly affects the joints. Joint pain and stiffness, inflammation, and swelling can be the signs of RA. These symptoms can lead to reduced quality of life and disability. While anyone can develop RA, it occurs more in women, with onset typically happening between the ages of 25 and 50. Approximately 1% of the population in the United States is estimated to be affected by RA. 1

Apart from the physical challenges, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis may also face a higher risk of death due to complications with the disease. Cardiovascular problems, breathing issues, infections, and gastrointestinal bleeding are potential problems that can impact the length of life. 2 

When you start a discussion with a life insurance company, they don’t know if your RA condition is mild or severe. That is why they will ask you a lot of questions.

How Life Insurance Providers Assess Rheumatoid Arthritis

Life insurance companies have specific guidelines and criteria for evaluating applications from individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. They consider various factors to assess the severity of the condition, the risk of complications, and the impact on the length of life. Here are the key factors that insurance companies usually consider:

1. Date of Diagnosis

The date of RA diagnosis is a vital piece of information for life insurance companies. More recent diagnoses may be viewed better, indicating that the condition is regularly monitored and managed. Underwriters also consider the duration of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Severity of Symptoms and Deformities

The presence of joint deformities and the symptoms significantly impact the rate at which an individual with RA will pay for life insurance. Underwriters need to know which body parts are affected and the extent of deformities. Severe deformities can increase costs, while milder symptoms may result in better rates.

3. Frequency and Duration of Flare-ups

RA flare-ups, characterized by increased inflammation and joint pain, can contribute to joint damage over time. Insurance providers evaluate the frequency and duration of these flare-ups to assess the overall risk and potential impact on an individual’s health and longevity.

4. Medications and Treatment

The type of medications, dosage, and frequency of use are crucial in the underwriting process. Certain medications commonly used to manage rheumatoid arthritis, such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), typically do not significantly impact life insurance rates. However, more potent drugs like prednisone, methotrexate, and biologics may affect premiums due to potential side effects and the severity of the condition.

5. Body Parts and Organ Involvement

Insurers assess which joints are affected by rheumatoid arthritis and whether the condition has spread to major organs. The involvement of organs such as the lungs can increase the risk and impact an individual’s health, potentially leading to higher premiums or even a decline in coverage.

6. Disability and Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

If an individual with rheumatoid arthritis experiences significant disability or requires assistance to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), it can affect life insurance rates. Insurers consider the level of independence and functionality to determine the appropriate coverage and premiums.

Health Classifications and Life Insurance Rates

After reviewing an individual’s medical history and the factors discussed above, life insurance underwriters assign a health classification or rating. This classification, along with age and gender, determines the premium rates for life insurance coverage. Here are the common health classifications and their corresponding impacts on premiums:

Mild Rheumatoid Arthritis

Individuals with mild rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by minimal joint pain, slight stiffness, and no or minimal swelling and deformity, can often qualify for standard rates. If there is no evidence of joint damage on X-rays and the condition is well-managed with simple medication or therapy, life insurance rates are generally favorable.

Moderate Rheumatoid Arthritis

Moderate rheumatoid arthritis involves more significant joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited movement. It may also exhibit moderate deformity and require continuous drug therapy. Individuals with moderate RA typically receive table ratings indicating a higher risk, resulting in increased premiums compared to standard rates. A table rating is a scale that the insurer uses to indicate the level of health risk a person may have. They may use an alphabetical or numerical scale.

Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis

A chronic, active disease marked by deformities, significant joint destruction, and potential organ involvement characterizes severe rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals with severe RA often experience limitations in daily activities, require continuous treatment with potent medications, and may have comorbidities. Insurers may assign a low table rating or in some cases, decline coverage altogether. In such situations, individuals may need to consider guaranteed issue life insurance policies.

When you go to any of the life insurance sites that offer instant quotes, understand that the quote you get is just a starting point for a discussion. That quote system is not going to take into consideration all your personal information. Life insurance companies determine their rates based on a rating system that begins with a preferred rating for the lowest price. There are two or three levels below that with a higher cost. And their final level is sub-standard ratings, which carry a higher cost. If you have RA, it is highly likely that you will not get a preferred rating. It would be very premature to guess your rating without more information about you. So, consider providing your information to the insurance company to indicate your willingness to begin a discussion about finding a life insurance policy.

Who has offered the best rates?

Research shows the following insurers are the five best life insurance companies for rheumatoid arthritis and life insurance. Note that this is subject to change.

  1. Legal & General Life Insurance (in the US known through Banner Life)
    • No exam underwriting is possible.
  2. Symetra Life Insurance
    • No exam underwriting is possible.
  3. Corebridge Financial
  4. Pacific Life Insurance
  5. Protective Life insurance

Case Studies: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Life Insurance

To provide a better understanding of how life insurance rates can vary based on the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, let’s explore some case studies:

Case Study 1: Mild Rheumatoid Arthritis

Applicant: 45-year-old woman

Diagnosis: Rheumatoid arthritis 3 years ago
Symptoms: Mild joint discomfort, moderate flare-ups
RA Classification: Mild
Standard, non-smoker
Life Insurance Payment: $38.23/ month for a $250,000 twenty-year term policy
Substandard, table 6, non-smoker
Life Insurance Payment: $73.14/month for a $250,000 twenty-year term policy

  • An insurer could offer between standard and substandard based on the individual’s personal information, such as that listed above.

Case Study 2: Moderate Rheumatoid Arthritis

Applicant: 55-year-old man

Diagnosis: Rheumatoid arthritis at age 50
Symptoms: Moderate joint pain, stiffness, taking methotrexate
RA Classification: Moderate
Life Insurance Payment: $162.71/ month for a $500,000 twenty-year term policy
Substandard, table 6, non-smoker
Life Insurance Payment: $329.99/month for a $500,000 twenty-year term policy

  • An insurer could offer between standard and substandard based on the individual’s personal information, such as that listed above.

Case Study 3: Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis

Applicant: 32-year-old man

Diagnosis: Rheumatoid arthritis at age 20
Symptoms: Regular flare-ups, severe deformities, joint replacement surgery, lung      involvement, using multiple medications
RA Classification: Severe
Likely Health Class: Decline

Alternative: Guaranteed issue life insurance is the only option when an individual cannot qualify for regular life insurance. There are two types of guaranteed issue life insurance: individual and group. And all guaranteed issue individual policies will be permanent life insurance such as whole life or universal life insurance. When shopping for individual guaranteed life insurance, make certain that you understand any limitations. For example, some guaranteed life insurance will require that the policy is in place for two years before it will pay a benefit.

Group insurance presents some unique alternatives. Your employer may have a group life insurance plan that will allow you to enroll in the group life insurance plan with no medical exam.

Another option is if you have some input into your employer’s retirement plan. It may be possible for you to obtain guaranteed issue permanent life insurance through a company retirement plan.

How to Get the Best Results

Here are some key strategies to consider:

1. Consult with an Experienced Life Insurance Agent

Don’t be intimidated by the breadth of requirements and required information. An experienced agent can walk you through what is required and help you avoid the pitfalls of applying for a life insurance policy with RA.

If you’d like to work with an experienced agent, click the button below and complete the basic quote request. After you submit your information, Van Richards, ChFC will contact you to answer your questions and get you started.

2. Be Open and Honest

When applying for life insurance, it’s crucial to provide accurate and detailed information about your rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, symptoms, treatments, medications, and overall health history. Being open and honest will help insurers assess your situation accurately and provide you with the most appropriate coverage options.

3. Consider Multiple Insurers

Different life insurance companies have varying underwriting guidelines and policies regarding rheumatoid arthritis. Working with an agent representing multiple insurers allows you to explore a wider range of options and find the company that offers the best coverage and rates for your specific circumstances. However, using one agent can increase your odds of getting coverage.

That might sound counterintuitive. But when you submit your information to any life insurance company, you must agree to allow them to share your information with the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).  Part of the agreement is making your basic information available to any other life insurance company through which you are applying for coverage. Most of the time, insurers will not work against each other.

If you submit an application for life insurance with another company and do not disclose it to the other company with whom you are applying, there is a significant possibility that both insurers will decline to offer you coverage. The reason is if an insurance company perceives that you are trying to hide your actions, they will assume that if you are trying to hide one thing, what else are you hiding? That might seem extreme, but that is what happens. Applying for life insurance, especially when the applicant has a pre-existing medical condition does take a level of trust on the insurance company’s behalf. That is why they will be extra cautious and decline you if they perceive that you are trying to hide anything.

4. Explore No-Exam Options

While individuals with rheumatoid arthritis may not qualify for the no-exam option at some insurance companies, it’s still worth exploring this possibility. No-exam life insurance policies can provide a simplified application process and faster approval, depending on the severity of your condition and the specific insurer’s guidelines.

5. Guaranteed Issue Policies

As mentioned above, for individuals with severe rheumatoid arthritis who may face challenges obtaining traditional life insurance coverage, guaranteed issue policies can be an alternative. These policies typically do not require medical underwriting or health assessments, making them more accessible for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Interestingly, more guaranteed issue options are available to older adults than younger adults.

Closing Thoughts

Living with rheumatoid arthritis presents unique challenges, but it should not prevent you from obtaining life insurance coverage to protect your loved ones and provide financial security. By understanding how life insurance providers assess rheumatoid arthritis, working with an experienced agent, and exploring various options, individuals with RA can find suitable coverage at affordable rates.

Remember to consult an experienced life insurance agent who can guide you through the process, provide personalized advice, and help you navigate the complexities of obtaining life insurance with rheumatoid arthritis. With the right support and information, you can secure the best life insurance policy that meets your needs and provides peace of mind for the future. Click below to get started.

1 Sherrell, Z. (2021, October 18). Rheumatoid arthritis: Age of onset and why it matters. Medical and health information. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/rheumatoid-arthritis-age-of-onset

2 Rheumatoid arthritis – Symptoms and causes. (2023, January 25). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648