Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis affects women more than men. The disorder is most commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 40 but can be seen at any age.
MS is caused by damage to the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. When this nerve covering is damaged, nerve signals slow down or stop. The nerve damage is caused by inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the body’s immune cells attack the nervous system. This can occur along any area of the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord. It is unknown what exactly causes this to happen. The most common thought is that a virus, gene defect or both are to blame. Environmental factors may also play a role. You are slightly more likely to get this condition if you have a family history of MS or live in a part of the world where MS is more common.
Multiple Sclerosis Statistics
As of 2016, the following numbers show the significance of MS:
- About 400,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with MS
- Approximately 200 new cases are diagnosed each week in the U.S.
- MS is the most common progressive and disabling neurological condition in young adults.
- MS affects women far more frequently than men.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
People with MS can typically experience one of four disease courses, each of which might be mild, moderate or severe.
People with this type of MS experience clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks which are called relapses, flare-ups, or exacerbations are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which no disease progression occurs. Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.
This disease course is characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning with no distinct relapses or remissions. The rate of progression may vary over time, with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements. Approximately 10% of people are diagnosed with primary-progressive MS.
Following an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. Before the disease-modifying medications became available, approximately 50% of people with relapsing-remitting MS developed this form of the disease within ten years. Long-term data are not yet available to determine if treatment significantly delays this transition.
In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.
If you have been diagnosed or are currently being treated for multiple sclerosis, there is a good chance that you will pay a slightly higher rate for life insurance.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t get approved for the best rating class with the lowest premium possible. How? You first need to understand how life insurance companies handle applicants with multiple sclerosis. What do they look for? How can you prepare? What is the likely outcome? Read on to find the answers and get started with your term life insurance application.
The Impact on Your Life Insurance Policy
When you apply for a life insurance policy, you will have to take a medical exam. During this exam, you will be asked questions about your family history, medical history, lifestyle, and smoking and alcohol usage. The person administering the exam will measure your height, weight, pulse and blood pressure.
What Life Insurance Companies Look For
Life insurance companies are concerned that those who have multiple sclerosis are taking the proper precautions to keep it under control. A medical history of regular physician checkups is important to the company.
The life insurance company will be looking specifically at:
- When you were diagnosed
- What your diagnosis was
- Age at diagnosis
- Course of disease
- Response to treatment
- What steps you have taken since your diagnosis
- The degree of control as illustrated by medical records, height/weight and lab test results
- What type of treatment
- Any other medical conditions present
- Whether you are a tobacco user
How to Prepare for Your Term Life Insurance Application
There are important measures you can take to prepare yourself before applying for term life insurance. Doing so will help your chances of getting approved for the best rating class possible. Use the following tips to put yourself in the best position to win:
- Visit your doctor as often as recommended.
- Follow your doctor’s advice regarding medication and treatment.
- Make sure your medical records are regularly updated. This is crucial! The life insurance company will rate your application poorly if it is unable to determine your level of control.
- Get any other complications under control. For example, if you also have high blood pressure, make sure it is being treated as well!
What Our Experience Has Shown
We’ve helped thousands of people apply for term life insurance, and many of those people had MS. Here are a few things we’ve learned:
- Premiums are lower for those who diet and exercise or keep their blood pressure down with medication
- Premiums are higher for those who do not follow up with a doctor regularly.
- We recommend getting a policy in force first at a premium rate you can afford. You can then focus on improving the rating class through better control or lab results.
Real Examples from Actual Customers
Danielle applied for term life insurance when she was 55 years old.
- Diagnosed with MS at age 23
- Diagnosed with mild Primary-Progressive MS
- No other additional conditions found
- Visits doctor regularly
- Outcome: Approved at a Standard rating class
- Premium: $365 annually
Not So Good Outcome:
Sarah applied for term life insurance when she was 51 years old.
- Diagnosed with MS at age 31
- Diagnosed with moderate Primary-Progressive MS
- No other additional conditions found
- Outcome: Approved at a Standard Table B
- Premium: $622 annually
Natalia applied for term life insurance when she was 51 years old.
- Diagnosed with MS at age 50
- No other additional conditions found
- Outcome: Declined until more time has passed to stabilize the condition
You can see Danielle had the best outcome because her disease has been stable for a long period. Receiving regular follow up appointments with her doctor also helped. Sarah’s MS is more severe, and although she had no other medical conditions and good follow up results, her disease being slightly less under control gave her a slightly worse prognosis. Finally, Natalia had the poorest outcome. Her MS is the most severe and her condition is not stable. This along with her more recent diagnosis resulted in the decline of her application until she can stabilize her condition.
What This All Means to You
The good news about applying for term life insurance when you have MS is — yes, you can qualify for coverage! The bad news is the approval, and rating class can be very unpredictable and subjective. However, if you follow the advice we’ve provided and, more importantly, discuss your situation with your life insurance agent or broker, you can have a positive outcome.
And remember, if you are not pleased with the offer you receive, you can always try with another company or put the policy in force and work on improving the rating class through better control and lab results.