Having been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis for 20 years, I’ve had numerous conversations with Insurance Companies on how to get life insurance coverage for myself and my clients. Here is what I’ve found
Mild cases of Ulcerative Colitis will be able to qualify for up to a standard life insurance policy. Moderate cases, especially those on immunosuppressants, will qualify for substandard rating. While severe cases, are limited to small whole life or guarantee issue policies.
The problem with Ulcerative Colitis is that you probably don’t know which category you fall in. As you already know, UC is one of the most complicated diseases known to man. You may feel like a mild case one day but an extreme case the next. Insurance companies however, have their own description of what these term means. In this guide we’ll simplify the process for you.
Are You Considered Mild, Moderate or Severe?
- History of flare ups & hospitalizations
- The type of medications you take
- How diligent you are about following your doctor’s orders
- The progression of the disease
Mild Ulcerative Colitis
- No Recent flare-ups for at least 3-5 years
- No prescription of biologics. Mild meds like Asacol & Colazal are fine.
- Consistent follow up with your Gastroenterologist
- Mild cases are often but not always limited to the rectum & descending colon.
You are considered mild if your Ulcerative Colitis is stable and taking no acute medications. Many people with ulcerative colitis only have periodic flare ups which tend to go away with minor medications like balsalazide and Asacol.
Mild UC is typically found closer to the rectum and has yet to migrate to the tranverse and ascending part of the colon.
If you’re taking mild medications and have frequent flare-ups, insurance companies might downgrade you to a moderate case. They see you as a candidate for biologics.
It’s important to note that even if all signs point to a mild case, you still have to follow your doctor’s orders. If you’re prescribed a medication that you refuse to take, you will be classed as Severe.
I personally have been denied life insurance at the age of 25 even though I was only on balsalazide. The insurance company thought was at a greater risk since I had a horrible track record of taking my medications. Lo and Behold, two years later I had to be hospitalized and was put on Remicade.
Moderate Case of Ulcerative Colitis
- No Recent Flare-Ups for at least 1 year
- You may qualify if the biologics prescribed have stabilized your UC
- Consistent follow up with your GI doctor
- Moderate cases of UC have typically reach the tranverse & ascending part of the colon.
You are considered moderate when you start taking more serious medications. Typically, this means taking the major biologics: Humira, Entyvio & Remicade.
Because these drugs are so potent, insurance companies want to make sure that your disease has stabilized. They would want to wait at least 1 year after a change in medication to offer you coverage
If you have had a recent flare up after taking medications, you would have to wait another year to be considered moderate again.
Keep in mind that’s the best case scenario. Many insurance companies would want you to wait 2 years instead. Others might give you a better rate depending on how long it’s been.
For example if the rate is $50/month for UC patients who have been stable for 2 years. It may be $65/month for the ones who have only been stable for 1 year. Keep in mind that these are arbitrary numbers. Yours may vary depending on your age, type of insurance and health rating.
Severe Ulcerative Colitis
- Frequent Flare-Ups & Hospitalizations
- Biologics have not stabilized the disease.
- You have not been compliant with doctor’s orders
- Entire colon is affected and you may need surgery
A severe case of Ulcerative Colitis is if you don’t meet any of the standards above. If you’re constantly having to go to the hospital, then you would be considered severe. If your medications don’t stabilize your condition, then you are definitely a severe case of Colitis.
Thankfully, you can still qualify for some coverage. However you are limitied to 2 types of coverages.
1. Final Expense Policies
If you’re over the age of 40, you should be able to qualify for a small whole life policy (up to $35,000 death benefit).
These policies are designed to cover funeral expenses. Hence why the death benefit is so low. They are easier to qualify for. You’d have to simply answer some basic health questions.
2. Guarantee Issue Life insurance policies
If you’re younger than 40, you would most likely only qualify for a guarantee issue policy. Keep in mind that these coverages are limited. The benefits only go to $25,000. There is also a 2 year waiting period.
This means that you would not be awarded a death benefit unless you pass away 2 years after signing up. Your family would instead be refunded all the premiums that you have paid up to that point. Though it’s not the best type of policy, everyone can qualify for this type of coverage.
Life Insurance after Colectomy (Surgery for Ulcerative Colitis)
If you’ve had a successful total colectomy, there is a great chance you can achieve standard life insurance rates. This is as good as what the mild cases of UC would get.
In order to qualify, you would need to have no complications during surgery. Most companies would want to wait 1 year or more before they extend standard rates. However, we do have a couple of insurance carriers who could consider you standard case 6 months after a successful removal of your colon.
You would still need to show great discipline in following up with your doctor’s orders. Positive changes to your lifestyle is always a plus. Your life insurance agent can help by writing a cover letter to the insurance companies illustrating what you have done to improve your health.
How Much Does Life Insurance Cost for Ulcerative Colitis Patients?
This is the best case scenario of what you should expect to pay fora 20 year Term life insurance for $250,000
The table above illustrates rates for small term life insurance policy. Your cost will likely be higher depending on how much insurance you require. Since this is best case scenario, your cost may be higher if you’re not the absolute best case of Mild or Moderate.
The Mild rates are for a fully underwritten policy. In order to get these rates, you would have to agree to a medical exam. Insurance companies would almost always require a physician statement from your GI doctor. Since UC can become such a severe condition, they want to make sure they cross their T’s and dot their I’s.
A physician statement is your medical record. During the application process, you would need to sign off for the insurance company to access it. This is also where the insurance company finds out whether or not you’ve been keeping up with your medications and following your doctor’s orders.
The Moderate rate are mostly based on a No Exam Life Insurance product that we have access to that will issue rates on most UC patients who have not had a major flare up for 1 year.
After my recent hospitalization, I needed some additional term insurance. This is the product I had to sign up for. Because the requirements are straight forward, it was an easier process. It requires no exam and they don’t ask for your medical record.
Guarantee Issue Policies for Severe Cases are very limited
The reason I did not include Severe cases in the table above is because the type of life insurance policies that cover severe cases are very limited. As I previously mentioned, severe cases’ only have Guarantee Life Insurance as an option.
Guarantee Life Insurance policies typically have death benefit cap of $25,000, there is a 2 year waiting period and most of them are only available to people who are 50 & over. There are a couple of them that go as low as 45 but these are not available in all states.
Here is an example of what you should expect to pay for a Guarantee Issue Policy. Keep in mind that these are $25,000 whole life policies. Term is typically not available for Guarantee policies.
If you’re younger than 50, there are guarantee policies available in some states. Please reach out to us for more info, as the list of states get updated quite regularly.
Simple Trick to Get Better Rates
If you’re in the severe of moderate camps, keep in mind that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a way for you to improve your rating. The key is knowing the guide above and plan accordingly.
Let’s say you’re a severe case because you have frequent flare ups and a recent hospitalization. As long you find a medication that can stabilize you for a full year. You can always upgrade a year later. You’ll get higher coverage amount at a more affordable rate. Though it’s not a guarantee, there is a great chance that this strategy should work.
Moderate Example 1
In this example, you are a moderate case who signed up for a no exam policy because you have been stable for 1 year. If you’re still on biologics, you might not get the standard rate a “mild” case would get but you can opt for a fully underwritten policy.
The insurance company would require an exam and a physician’s statement. If the results come out in your favor, you can upgrade to a much more affordable policy.
Moderate Example 2
You were classed as a moderate because you have had a recent flare-up. You were put on steroids temporarily. You have since recovered for 1 year and decided to go for No Exam policy.
If you wait an additional couple of years, without upgrading your medications, you could be eligible for the standard rates that is reserved for mild cases.
Other Factors That Affect Your Life Insurance Rates
In order to keep it simple for you, we covered the four major factors that may affect your life insurance rates. However, there are more minor nuances that you should be aware of.
- Recent Diagnosis: No matter how mild your case of ulcerative colitis is, you won’t get the best rates if your diagnosis is within 1 year, though some may approve you after 6 months. Your options are to wait for one year before applying, or get the a higher rate now and re-apply later.
- Result of Colonoscopy: Your colonoscopy results will simply confirm whether or not you are moderate or mild. This is how insurance companies find out how far the disease has progressed. If you refuse to have it done periodically, they might deny you outright.
- Prednisone & Steroid Use: While many UC patients only take rounds of prednisone as needed, a few others might be on a low daily dose of prednisone. In this case, the lower the dose, the better your health rating would be. This would be considered a moderate case at best.
- Age of diagnosis: For many life insurance carriers, the younger you were when you first got diagnosed, the worse your health rating would be. Thankfully, this does not carry as much weight for more lenient carriers. However it is still a factor. The longer you can show you can tolerate the disease, the better your health rating.
What you should do next
If you’re someone with UC, and are looking for life insurance. The task of finding a policy that you would qualify for can be daunting. As you can see in this article, we’ve simplified the process from the perspective of the insurer. However, there are a few tasks that you would be responsible for before applying for life insurance:
Follow up with your GI Doctor
If you haven’t been doing so, you need to start scheduling periodic visits with your GI doctor. As previously mentioned, this is one of the most important factors in your eligibility for life insurance.
If your UC is more severe than most but you have a good track record, you’re more likely to qualify than someone with mild colitis who ignores their doctors.
Take your medication as prescribed and refill on schedule
This goes and in hand with your doctor’s visits. If you’re following up with your doctor but not taking your medication, insurance carriers will see this as a red flag.
It’s important to refill your medication on schedule. Even if you miss a dose, it’s better to refill it as if you didn’t. Insurance carriers have access to your prescription history. If they see an inconsistent refill schedule, they might deem you incompliant.
Make sure you have a recent colonoscopy
This step doesn’t matter as much if you’re going for a No Exam Policy. However, if you’re going for a standard life insurance policy, you need to show a good track record on your colonoscopy.
For someone with mild Ulcerative Colitis, insurance companies would like to see a colonoscopy within 2 years. If your colitis is more moderate or severe, a colonoscopy withing the past year would definitely help.
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This guide is a great tool to help you understand how to apply for life insurance. The second step would be to reach out to an agent who will be able to best serve you.
As you can tell by this article, we are well versed in the subject of Ulcerative Colitis and Life Insurance. If you’re ready to move forward, it’s important to work with an agent who
- Understands How Ulcerative Colitis can affect your life insurance rates
- Has access to multiple UC friendly life insurance carriers
- Will go to bat for you if you get denied
We believe that we meet all the these pre-requisites. We’ve been able to place policies for many people with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s and IBS. We also know how hard it is for other agents to shop these cases because they are not familiar with the disease.
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