What is Multiple Sclerosis?
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord. Overactive immune cells in the brain cause inflammation, which, over time, turns into lesions or plaque. Symptoms may be mild such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, which includes progressive paralysis or loss of vision. Slurred speech, tremors, cognitive loss and bladder issues with the disease can be permanent or can come and go.
MS is a disease of the immune system, but the specific target of the immune attack has not yet been identified. MS may be a combination of genetic, environmental and immunologic factors:
· First degree relatives of someone with MS face a small risk of developing the disease
· MS is more frequent in areas that are farther from the equator
· It has been speculated that a viral infection initiates the MS process, followed by an autoimmune response in a genetically predisposed host
There is no cure for MS at the present. MS has a relapsing-remitting pattern where patients may experience periods of remissions or frequent attacks over intervals that can include several years. The attacks themselves can cause persistent issues.
In most cases, MS is a progressive disorder that begins with relapsing and remitting attacks and then enters a more progressive stage.
What Options Do MS Patients Have for Life Insurance?
Multiple Sclerosis patients have options open to them when it comes to shopping for life insurance, especially if the condition is under control and you are in compliance with your doctor’s instructions. My 34 years of selling life insurance to consumers has taught me a thing or two about obtaining coverage for MS patients. The types of life insurance available to MS patients include term life, whole life and universal life.
You need not fear the underwriting process. You’ll have a choice between policies that require a mini-medical exam, often called a Paramed Exam, and those policies that do not require any exam. Policies that ask no medical questions are called guaranteed-issue. They are often limited to a maximum of $25,000 and need to be in force for 2-3 years in order for full coverage to kick in. If you are terminally ill, do not seek to buy life insurance; it won’t work.
The better-priced policies will require a mini-medical exam, which is really an in-home interview, not a medical exam. Expect to be asked about date of first diagnosis, number of episodes, date of most recent episode, current medications, current neurological status (normal, minimal, moderate or severely impaired) and details of your most recent MRI brain scan report.
A smart move is to obtain a “To Whom it May Concern” letter from your doctor stating your diagnosis and prognosis, then have your agent submit that letter along with your application. This can sometimes help. The key to getting a good price from the life insurer is to submit a totally complete application that leaves nothing out and contains no mystery. Life insurance underwriters will almost always award better pricing if they are provided with complete information at the outset by the applicant and agent. A competent agent will also order all of your medical records at the start, so that underwriting takes less time. Obtaining medical records from your doctors can often take up to 21 days, so they can significantly impact underwriting time.
What Do Life Insurance Companies Look For?
Keep in mind that insurance companies want to see that you are following up with your physician and are in compliance with all medications and lifestyle recommendations, according to Michael Bruce, Senior Market Analyst at LifeQuotes.com. The biggest things they look for are:
1) Frequency of attacks and how long ago the last one was
2) Residual impairments from the attacks and
3) Progression. No progression is always more favorable.
If you cannot secure a competitively-priced term life or whole life policy, then consider as a last resort buying a guaranteed-issue (no health questions, no exam) whole life policy that are often available up to $25,000. This policy offers level death benefit and level premiums for life and gives you enough protection to pay for a funeral or other final expenses as your beneficiary sees fit. For example, a $25,000 guaranteed-issue whole life policy for a 50 year-old male would run $77 per month from Mutual of Omaha.
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) recognizes March as MS Awareness Month. MSAA urges everyone to help raise awareness of multiple sclerosis throughout their communities. “Our mission at MSAA is to improve lives today for individuals living with MS and their loved ones,” says MSAA President and CEO Douglas Franklin. “Our services offer people with MS the assistance they need to live fuller lives with greater comfort, safety and knowledge.
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