Buying Life Insurance With Multiple Sclerosis (MS): A Guide

Updated

Having multiple sclerosis (MS) can make it challenging to find affordable life insurance. Luckily, there are ways you can get coverage if you have MS or any other long-term medical condition.

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As most people know, it’s tricky and confusing when you first start navigating the life insurance process. It’s normal and okay to not be familiar with the different phrases and terminology.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the best type of life insurance to buy if you have multiple sclerosis, how premiums or payouts are affected by MS, shopping for a policy with this disease, and more. The more you understand the process, the more empowered you are to make the right long-term choice regarding your own insurance coverage. 

Can You Buy a Life Insurance Policy If You Have Multiple Sclerosis?

Yes, you can buy life insurance if you have MS, but insurers will require important details from you to determine the type of coverage they’ll offer. This also determines what your rates will be. To help them assess the risk, they’ll inquire about:

  • Your type of MS
  • Your current treatment plan
  • Your medication
  • Your overall health

If you’re applying for a traditional whole life or term life insurance policy, be prepared to answer these questions below. You can also consult with your doctor for more customized advice.  

How long have you had MS?

Life insurance companies tend to issue policies with more favorable terms to applicants with MS age 45 or older. They also want to see how well someone responds to treatment for at least one year after being diagnosed with MS.

What type of MS do you have?

The type of multiple sclerosis you have is an important factor when life insurance underwriters determine insurability and rates. Different types of MS are associated with varying levels of health complications:

  • Relapsing-remitting: This is the most common type of MS, temporary flare-ups can last from days to weeks, with remission in between
  • Secondary-progressive: MS advances and the symptoms increase; there may or may not be flare-ups or remissions
  • Primary-progressive: This is when MS symptoms gradually increase over time with no periods of remission
  • Progressive-relapsing: Finally, with this type symptoms steadily increase after diagnosis with periods of acute relapses and no remission

Life insurance companies typically prefer relapsing-remitting MS since it is linked with overall better health. Again, your doctor is a great source of information about your current health and wellness.  

What is your treatment plan?

The less invasive your medical treatment plan is, the more favorable underwriting will be. Tell the insurer about your forms of treatment, including:

  • Physical exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Support groups
  • Counseling
  • Mild steroids used during flare-ups
  • Prescription medications

Are you taking medications?

Be prepared to tell the insurer about:

  • Specific medications you’re taking
  • How often used (daily, weekly, flare-ups only)
  • Quantity prescribed

This is a good list to have in your emergency information as well. 

What are your symptoms? 

Describe your physical and emotional symptoms, such as vision impairment, pain, tremors, muscular issues, difficulty with coordination, fatigue, anxiety or depression, mobility problems, or other symptoms you’re experiencing. Everyone’s symptoms present differently, and your insurance provider wants to see the big picture. 

Describe your lifestyle

In addition to asking lifestyle questions on the application, life insurance companies will also be checking electronic databases concerning your:

  • Tobacco use
  • Weight
  • History of drug/alcohol use
  • Credit history
  • Driving record

Be sure to provide accurate and honest answers on the application to avoid a claim being denied in the future.

Do you have additional health concerns?

In addition to your MS, life insurance companies also want to understand your overall health. They want to know about common health conditions like heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, etc.

Based on the answers you provide on the application, there are a couple of possible outcomes. Hopefully, you’ll be issued a policy with standard rates. Your MS needs to be mild and managed easily for this to happen.

If you’re not issued standard rates, you may receive a “table rating,” meaning your application has been approved, but a surcharge will be added to the standard premiums. This surcharge can increase your rates anywhere between 10% and 200%, depending on the severity of your MS.

Your application for life insurance may also be declined. If this happens, there is still an option available for you: guaranteed issue insurance (discussed below). 

What Are the Best Types of Life Insurance for People With Multiple Sclerosis?

There are two types of life insurance that people with MS should consider: traditional life insurance (term and whole life) and guaranteed issue life insurance. Here’s a quick description of both of these options below. 

Traditional life insurance

To begin, traditional life insurance includes two types of policies, term life and whole life. Term life insurance offers protection for a predetermined period, such as 5,10, or 20 years, and is the most affordable coverage you can buy. It provides a death benefit to your beneficiary if you die during the period specified in the policy. Unlike permanent insurance like universal or whole life, term life insurance doesn’t accumulate any cash surrender value. 

Though term insurance is generally less expensive than other types of insurance, it does have one major drawback. If you outlive the policy’s term, you may not be able to qualify for another life insurance policy if you’ve experienced any complications related to your multiple sclerosis or have developed any other health problems.

Some term life insurance policies have a guaranteed insurability option that will let you convert your term life policy to a permanent type of life insurance regardless of your current medical condition and without providing evidence of insurability. A professional life insurance agent can help you find this type of policy and determine how much life insurance you need.

Whole life insurance is also available for people with MS, but it’s more expensive than term life insurance. It costs more because it has several advantages. First, whole life insurance accumulates what is known as “cash surrender value.”

A slice of every dollar you pay in premiums is deposited into the cash value component of your whole life policy. The cash value receives interest at a rate set by the life insurance company, and some insurers will also add dividends to the cash value, depending upon their profitability in a given year. 

Also, whole life insurance will remain in force for as long as you pay the premiums, unlike term life insurance which will expire at a point specified in the policy. Last, whole life insurance premiums never increase. Regardless of your age or any changes to your health, your premiums will remain the same with a traditional whole life policy.

Guaranteed life insurance 

Guaranteed issue life insurance is another option if you have a history of MS and want to buy life insurance but have been declined when you’ve applied for traditional term or whole life insurance. 

Guaranteed issue policies are the most expensive policies sold by life insurance companies because they assume a large amount of risk without underwriting. With guaranteed issue life, the insurer won’t ask you any questions about your health history or require you to undergo a medical examination. 

Guaranteed issue policies are usually small whole life policies with limited death benefit amounts ($2,000 to $25,000), though a few life insurers offer policies with death benefits of $50,000 or greater. 

Guaranteed issue life policies also differ from traditional life insurance policies with a lump sum payout. They have a “graded death benefit” feature, meaning that your named beneficiary will only receive a partial death benefit payout if you die during the policies’ first two years.

Does Having Multiple Sclerosis Affect Premiums or Payouts?

Having MS may affect your premiums, but it won’t affect the payout of the death benefit to your beneficiary. Concerning premiums, when a life insurance company issues a policy to someone with MS, the insurer may charge higher than standard rates for the coverage. Premiums are based on the type of MS, its severity, age of onset, medications being taken, and many other factors.

Concerning payouts, once a policy is issued, the payout isn’t affected by MS. A life insurance policy is a binding contract in which the insurance company has agreed to pay a death benefit to a beneficiary named in the policy upon the insured person's death, regardless of the cause or pre-existing medical questions (unless they are specifically listed and excluded in the policy). How long it takes to get a life insurance payout depends on the life insurance company that issued the policy.

How to Shop for a Life Insurance Policy If You Have Multiple Sclerosis

There are many online resources provided by life insurance companies, agents, and brokers that will give you policy choices and rate quotes. The whole process of shopping for a life insurance policy can be completed online, including comparing companies, getting rates, and completing an application.

However, if you have MS, the best strategy may be to find coverage through an independent life insurance agent specializing in helping people with pre-existing medical conditions, particularly MS. It might take a bit of shopping around to find the best offer, and that’s normal. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Buying Life Insurance With Multiple Sclerosis

Buying life insurance with a pre-existing condition can be difficult, including multiple sclerosis. These are some FAQs about purchasing life insurance with MS.

What happens if you get denied coverage based on your MS?

If your application to buy a traditional term life or whole life insurance policy is declined because of your MS, you have several options. 

First, as discussed earlier, you can apply for a guaranteed issue life insurance. As the name implies, insurers guarantee that you’ll be issued a policy, regardless of your health history. If you apply, you will be approved.

As previously mentioned, you will pay top dollar for a guaranteed issue life policy compared to other types of life insurance. This is because you won’t have to answer any medical questions, and you won’t have to take a medical exam. Without knowing anything about your health history, the insurer will issue you a policy, which increases their financial risk and your premiums. 

Also, consider simplified issue life insurance policies. Simplified issue policies have modified underwriting requirements set in place by the insurance company. You will be required to answer several health questions on a short application, but you won’t need a medical examination. It’s easier to qualify for simplified issue life than for guaranteed issue life, but more difficult than qualifying for a traditional policy with standard rates.

What happens if you get diagnosed with MS after you’ve purchased a life insurance policy? 

Once you’re issued a life insurance policy, an insurer can’t cancel your policy or raise your rates if you’re diagnosed with MS in the future. The life insurance policy you were issued is a binding contract.

In other words, the insurer is legally obligated to honor the terms of that policy, including paying your beneficiary a death benefit for any cause of death not excluded in the policy.

Are there any good alternatives to life insurance for someone with MS?

There are several good alternatives to life insurance for someone with multiple sclerosis. The specific type you choose depends on your goals. Here are two common alternatives:

  • Annuity: The first alternative is to purchase an annuity from an insurance company. An annuity is a financial product you can use to set money aside for your loved ones to have when you die. Deposits made into an annuity may or may not be tax-deductible, depending upon the type of annuity you buy. An annuity’s growth is tax-deferred - you won’t pay income taxes until you withdraw it.
  • Savings: Traditional savings and investment accounts are also alternatives to buying life insurance. Depending on the type of account, deposits may be tax deductible, and taxes due on the principal’s growth won’t be payable until you withdraw money from the account. 

The downside to annuities and other types of savings and investment accounts is that it takes a long time for deposits to grow and become substantial enough to provide financial security to your loved ones when you pass away. 

Buying Life Insurance is Getting Easier For People With MS

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society believes the market is changing for people with MS that want to buy life insurance. They’ve found that “more striking than insurers’ willingness to cover people with MS is their increasing inclination to offer competitive rates.”  

As they do with most pre-existing medical conditions, life insurance companies are more likely to accept the risk of covering you if you have MS when you can provide medical records from your doctor showing a healthy checkup when the disease is in an early or less aggressive stage. 

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