According to the National MS Society, more than 2.3 million people are affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS) worldwide. The prevalence of MS in the United States is estimated to affect 400,000 people, but because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because the symptoms can be completely invisible, this number is just an educated guess.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder of the brain and spinal cord, characterized by neurologic dysfunction caused by damage to myelin, the fatty substance surrounding nerve cells that normally facilitates nerve transmission. For this reason, MS is referred to as a demyelinating disorder.
MS occurs about twice as frequently in women as men, and tends to be diagnosed between the ages of fifteen and fifty. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but it may result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunologic factors:
- First degree relatives of someone with MS face a small risk of developing MS themselves.
- MS is more frequent in areas that are distant 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, but this is not clear.
Discrete episodes of neurologic dysfunction, called relapses, occur in MS. Although signs and symptoms can vary, some of the findings during relapses might include visual disturbances, including optic neuritis which is inflammation of the optic nerve, gait disturbance, spasms, numbness and tingling, fatigue, heat insensitivity, weakness, trouble speaking, tremor, vertigo, bladder and/ or bowel dysfunction, balance difficulty, pain, depression, and others.
What are the Types of MS?
Major subtypes of MS are relapsing remitting, secondary progressive, primary progressive, and progressive relapsing.
At diagnosis, most people have the relapsing remitting type of MS, which is characterized by discrete relapses with near or total remissions and no disease progression between relapses.
Many with relapsing remitting MS will eventually enter the secondary progressive phase characterized by a progressive course and which may be associated with significant disability.
The primary progressive type is characterized by progressive disease at the onset with a steady decline in function rather than discrete episodes of relapse.
Progressive relapsing MS is associated with progressive disease at onset with acute relapses and disease progression between the relapses.
Diagnosing and Treating MS
Common tests done in evaluation of MS include brain MRI, spinal tap to study the spinal fluid proteins and immunoglobins, and measurement of sensory nerve conduction. There is no cure for MS. Treatment is focused on slowing down the process and alleviating symptoms. Common medications are steroids, interferon, and glaterimer acetate. Drugs to control bladder function, spasticity, and depression may be necessary.
Underwriters decide how much coverage and at what cost to offer the applicant, unless they decide to decline or post-pone the application. Offerings range from the best rate of Preferred Plus down to Standard. If you’re a tobacco user, then offerings include Preferred Tobacco and Standard Tobacco. There is also a chance that applicants will be “table rated”. The table rating system typically means that your pricing for life insurance will be the Standard price plus 25% for every step down the table you are. Tables descend A-J or 1-10 depending on which format the insurance company uses.
The underwriter considers a number of factors when evaluating applicants with MS, some of which include the subtype, number of attacks per year, stability of neurologic function, symptoms, complications, treatments prescribed, and evidence of disability. It is helpful if complete neurology records are provided. If recent information indicates little in the way of functional impairment and stable MRI findings, a more favorable consideration may be possible.
Case Study # 1
John Doe is a 50-year-old who had relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis diagnosed twelve years ago, had not had an episode in the past ten years, has no symptoms, a normal neurologic examination, and had a favorable follow up with the neurologist two months ago.
This would be considered as “benign” MS and he could qualify for Standard Plus. If John applied for $250,000 in coverage with a term length of 20 years, we can estimate his monthly premiums to be approximately $53.
Case Study # 2
Jane Doe is a 35-year-old who had relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis diagnosed five years ago, has had one episode per year, has been in remission for the past ten months, has a normal neurologic examination, and has no disability and no symptoms.
She would likely be offered Table 2. If Jane applied for $250,000 in coverage with a term length of 20 years, we can estimate her monthly premiums to be approximately $35. (This Table 2 premium amount is calculated by taking her estimated Standard costs ($23) and adding on 50%.)
Case Study # 3
John Smith is a 30-year-old who had progressive relapsing multiple sclerosis diagnosed two years ago, is wheelchair bound, taking natalizumab, and who was recently hospitalized with an exacerbation and received intravenous corticosteroids.
John Smith would likely be declined.
The previous examples are for illustrative purposes only. Each life insurance company has a different set of guidelines they follow when underwriting an applicant. Because of these different guidelines, when one company may deem an applicant a Table 2, another company may decide that applicant can qualify for Standard Plus rates. A benefit to working with Quotacy is that we work with multiple A-rated life insurance companies. Shopping your application around to more than one insurance company, which we take care of behind the scenes, can only help you.
Quotacy’s team has years of experience getting clients life insurance coverage, including individuals with MS. Our in-house underwriter has worked in many carrier home offices, knows how to navigate each individual’s health history, and knows which life insurance company would be the best option for your individual case. If you are ready to buy life insurance coverage, get a term life insurance quote now and let’s start the process.
Quotacy’s team has years of experience getting clients life insurance coverage, including individuals with MS.
If you have any questions regarding underwriting Multiple Sclerosis, feel free to contact us or jot us a message in the Comment section below. If you are looking to get an idea on the cost of life insurance if you have MS, we will need the following information to provide you with an accurate quote:
- Date of when you were first diagnosed.
- Indicate the number of episodes and date of last episode.
- Are you on any medications? If yes, please give details.
- What is your current neurologic status and /or symptoms?
- Minimal residual impairment? (If so, please specify.)
- Moderate residual impairment? (If so, please specify.)
- Severe residual impairment? (If so, please specify.)
- When was the last MRI brain scan completed?
- What were the results of the last MRI brain scan?
- How is MS affecting your mobility (ex. Use a walker, wheelchair, case, etc.)?
- Have you smoked cigarettes in the last 12 months? If yes, please give details.
- Do you have any other major health problems (ex. Heart disease, etc.)?
Give us a 2-3 business days to respond with some individualized and thorough information. Quotacy is here to help make the life insurance buying process easier for you.
About the writer
Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays
Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.