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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis and it affects 1-2% of the adult population.  It is triggered by a faulty immune system and affects the wrist and small joints of the hand.  In some individuals, the condition can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

Typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
  • Fatigue, fever, and weight loss

RA can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the signs and symptoms mimic those of many other diseases.  Diagnosing includes blood tests to check for signs of an inflammatory process in the body and imaging tests (X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds) may also be used to judge severity of the disease.

While rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease, treatments for RA have improved greatly and if detected early, with proper management, the chances of leading a normal, active life are high.  However, a significant portion of those with RA end up disabled to some degree within 5 years  of diagnosis and many stop working by 10 years.  Rheumatoid arthritis can also reduce expectation of life by approximately 3 to 12 years.

Underwriting Rheumatoid Arthritis

Life insurers have to consider many things when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis.  Not only do they need to consider the fact that an applicant’s lifespan may be reduced, but many prescriptions used to treat RA have significant side effects and with severe cases the disease may be causing other organs besides the joints to be declining.

A higher mortality risk for those diagnosed with RA is associated with a younger age at onset, a longer duration of disease, concurrent presence of other health problems, and characteristics of more severe and progressive disease, such as infection and GI bleeding.

The rating underwriters give an applicant with RA will depend upon the severity of the disease.  It is possible for those with mild rheumatoid arthritis to not be table rated.  A table rating is given when a life insurance underwriter deems an applicant too high of a risk to insure at a standard rate.  The table rating means the applicant will have to pay a price increase on top of the standard premium price to offset the risk the company is taking by insuring that person.  As an example, if the insurance company classifies you as Table D, also called Table 4 depending on the company, then this means you will pay the standard price plus 100%.  See the table below for an illustration of how table rating pricing work.

Table Rating (alphabetical) Table Rating (numerical) Pricing
A 1 Standard + 25%
B 2 Standard + 50%
C 3 Standard + 75%
D 4 Standard + 100%
E 5 Standard + 125%
F 6 Standard + 150%
G 7 Standard + 175%
H 8 Standard + 200%
I 9 Standard + 225%
J 10 Standard + 250%

Let’s take a look at some case studies to see how insurers may underwrite an applicant with rheumatoid arthritis and how much it may cost.

Case Studies*

Case Study #1

Applicant 1 is a 55-year-old woman who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about five years ago.  She is currently working full-time and plays golf once a week.  She has occasional joint discomfort that responds to ibuprofen and has required no other treatment.

She can qualify for Standard Plus and for a 20-year term policy with $250,000 in coverage her premiums could be as low as $59 per month.

Case Study #2

Applicant 2 is a 55-year-old woman who has had rheumatoid arthritis for several years.  She is active in her community and participates in several volunteer organizations.  She is limited by occasional diffuse joint pain and stiffness that have improved considerably with the use of methotrexate and a biologic agent.

She can qualify for Table B and for a 20-year term policy with $250,000 in coverage her premiums would be approximately $130 per month.

Case Study #3

Applicant 3 is a 58-year-old man who has been unable to work for the past three years due to severely deformed joints resulting from rheumatoid arthritis that began in his early 20s.  He has undergone many joint replacements as well as cervical spine surgery for instability due to rheumatoid arthritis.  He has recently experienced increasing shortness of breath, and his physician has been unable to determine whether his lungs have been affected by rheumatoid arthritis, its treatment with methotrexate, or perhaps both.

He would likely be declined for coverage.

*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.

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.

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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 rheumatoid arthritis, 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 rheumatoid arthritis, 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: Annie Theby


About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Marketing Content Manager

Natasha is a writer and content editor at Quotacy. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. She can't get enough of life insurance and outside of work is also working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter designation. Connect with her on LinkedIn.