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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune, systemic, inflammatory disorder that primarily involves the joints (occurring equally on both sides of the body). Juvenile RA has onset before age 16, and elderly-onset (EORA) begins after age 60.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. About 1% of all populations are affected, women 2 to 3 times more commonly than men. Onset may be at any age, but most often occurs between ages 25 and 50. The prevalence increases with age.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means it’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue. However, it’s not yet known what triggers this.

It 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.

Buying Life Insurance with Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your best chances of getting affordable life insurance is to apply through a broker, like Quotacy. Brokers are not tied to one life insurance company and are able to shop the market.

We want you to get approved and will work hard to help you get coverage. Start the process by getting a free term life insurance quote or keep reading for more in-depth information about life insurance and rheumatoid arthritis.

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.

Most underwriting guides classify severity in the follow ways:

  • Mild: Minimal pain, slight pain or stiffness in peripheral joints, no or minimal swelling and no deformity. No continuous treatment required; physical therapy and occasional use of aspirin and anti-rheumatic drugs. Negative rheumatoid factor (RF); ESR less than or equal to 30 mm/hr or normal C reactive protein (CRP). No erosions on X-ray. Able to carry out all normal activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Moderate: Moderate pain and stiffness, more extensive joint involvement, slight deformity or limitation of movement in affected joints. Frequent or continuous drug therapy. RF positive in moderately raised titer. ESR less than or equal 55mm/hr or slightly increased CRP. Able to carry out most or all ADLs with limited difficulty or assistance.
  • Severe: Chronic active disease, no complete freedom from pain, moderate or marked deformities with serious restrictions of movement and impairment of function. Lesions, i.e. nodules, pulmonary fibrosis. Continuous treatment which includes oral steroids, abatacept (Orencia), anakinra (Kineret), azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine, gold salts, or rituximab (Rituxan). Rheumatoid nodules. Rheumatoid factor positive in high titer. ESR greater than 55mm/hr or greatly increased CRP. Able to perform few ADLs, requiring significant extra time or help.

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
A1Standard + 25%
B2Standard + 50%
C3Standard + 75%
D4Standard + 100%
E5Standard + 125%
F6Standard + 150%
G7Standard + 175%
H8Standard + 200%
I9Standard + 225%
J10Standard + 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.

We have the ability to shop cases around to different life insurance companies to try our best to get you approved.

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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 rheumatoid arthritis, feel free to contact us directly. 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.

Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article accurate as of May 14, 2021. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.

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.