According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, nearly one million people suffer from Parkinson’s Disease in the United States. Parkinson’s Disease usually begins between the ages of 40 and 70, with steady progression eventually producing severe disability. It becomes more common with aging: the disease affects one person in 1000 and in those over 60 years of age, one in 100.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive degenerative disorder of the central nervous system; being progressive, this disease’s symptoms continue and worsen over time. Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons.
Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by four main clinical features:
- Slowness of movement.
Tremor at rest is the most apparent and well-known complaint. Although about one third of those with Parkinson’s Disease do not have a tremor at disease onset, most eventually develop it as the disease progresses. Impaired muscle movement causes the face to become less mobile, or mask-like, and the speech to become slow, quiet, and monotone in character. Handwriting becomes smaller. There may be difficulty rising from a chair and starting to walk. There is also a tendency for the body to lean forward, with short hesitant steps. The entire movement process is affected, from planning to initiation to execution of a movement.
The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms. The mainstay of treatment involves replacement of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Unfortunately, as time passes and dopamine-producing cells continue to be lost, treatments tend to lose their effectiveness and medication-related side effects may become more troublesome.
About 65% of those with Parkinson’s Disease become disabled within 5 years of diagnosis, and about 80% are disabled within 10 years of diagnosis. Potentially promising research to better manage this disease includes gene therapy, stem cell transplants, and the development of neuroprotective agents.
Despite advances in treatment, the life expectancy of people with Parkinson’s Disease is reduced. Major mortality risk factors include cognitive decline, dementia, older age at onset, a more advanced disease state, and difficulty swallowing. On the other hand, a disease pattern having primarily tremor as opposed to muscle rigidity and impaired movement seems to be predictive of better survival.
Underwriting Parkinson’s Disease
When underwriting this disease, the stage is most important. Each stage of Parkinson’s has different characteristics associated with it and the earlier the stage, the better your chances are for getting approved for life insurance.
Stage I – Unilateral involvement
Stage II – Bilateral involvement but normal stance
Stage III – Bilateral involvement with mild postural imbalance, but able to lead an independent life
Stage IV – Bilateral involvement with postural instability; requires substantial help
Stage V – Severe disease; restricted to bed or wheelchair
When you apply for life insurance, underwriters review the complete application and all the records that go along with it. They then decide how much coverage and at what cost to offer the applicant, unless they decide to deny or post-pone the application. For applicants with Parkinson’s Disease, you can be classified anywhere between the best rating of Preferred Plus to being 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 A-J or 1-10 depending on which format the insurance company uses.
For applicants with Parkinson’s Disease, you can be classified anywhere between the best rating of Preferred Plus to being table rated.
Based on the stage of the disease, the chart below is an example of what one company may decide to offer applicants.
|Stage I, II or very slowly progressive||Table B|
|Stage III, or moderately progressive with no dementia||Table C to D|
|Stage IV, or rapidly progressive over several years||Decline|
|Stage V, or dementia present||Decline|
To get an idea of pricing, let’s take a look at some case studies.
Case Study #1
Applicant is a 66 year old woman who continues to actively work in the family business. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about two years ago and currently takes a low dose medication to reduce a mild and occasionally bothersome tremor in her right hand. She is independent in all activities and continues to drive her car.
This applicant is likely to be offered Table C. For a $250,000 10-year term policy her premiums would be approximately $192.50 per month. We calculate this by taking the Standard price for a policy of a 66 year old female ($110) and adding 75%.
Case Study #2
Applicant is a 67 year old man who was diagnosed a little over 6 years ago. He recently retired from work due to increasing difficulty moving around. He requires no assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) other than some help buttoning his shirt, but now uses a cane and occasionally a walker. His physician recently increased doses of two medications as his prior doses no longer seemed to be effective.
This applicant is likely to be offered a Table E. For a $250,000 10-year term policy his premiums would be approximately $427.50 per month. We calculate this by taking the Standard price for a policy of a 67 year old male ($190) and added 125%.
Case Study #3
Applicant is a 72 year old woman who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 4 years ago. She has become less active in recent years and is now largely homebound. She surrendered her driver’s license last year after having three minor accidents and getting lost a few times. She is complaining of abnormal movements caused by her medications that no longer seem to be working as well at higher doses. Her physician added an antidepressant medication during a recent hospitalization to treat pneumonia and skin breakdown on her thigh.
This applicant would be declined.
*The examples shown are for illustrative purpose 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. We have the ability to shop cases around to these different companies to try our best to get an applicant approved.
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.
If you have any questions regarding underwriting epilepsy, 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 epilepsy, it costs nothing to run a quote and apply online. You will have a dedicated Quotacy agent shop your case with our top-rated life insurance companies to ensure you receive the best possible price.
Image credit to: Thomas Hafeneth
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