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Lupus and Life Insurance
Lupus affects those of Asian descent three
times as often as those of European descent.
Photo by Renato Ganoza
The Lupus SK Society reports that one in every 1,000 Canadians has lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakes the body's own tissues as foreign invaders and attacks them. Some people with lupus experience only a minor inconvenience, while others live with a significant lifelong disability.
Lupus affects those of African, Asian, or Native American descent three times as often as it affects those of European descent. Nine out of ten people with lupus are women, and the disease usually strikes between the ages of 15 and 45, although it can occur in older individuals.
There are two kinds of lupus:
- Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
DLE mainly affects skin that is exposed to sunlight and doesn’t typically affect vital internal organs. It causes discoid (circular) skin lesions, which often leave scars once they heal.
SLE is more serious. It affects the skin and vital organs, and it can cause a raised, scaly, butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks that can leave scars if untreated. SLE can also affect other parts of the skin.
Aside from the visible effects of systemic lupus, the disease may also inflame or damage the connective tissue in joints, muscles, and skin, along with the membranes surrounding or within the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. SLE can also cause kidney disease in some cases. While brain involvement is rare, for some, lupus can cause confusion, depression, seizures, and strokes.
Blood vessels may come under attack with systemic lupus. This can cause sores to develop on the skin, especially the fingers. Some lupus patients develop Raynaud's Syndrome, which makes the small blood vessels in the skin contract, preventing blood from getting to the hands and feet — especially in response to cold. Thankfully, most attacks last only a few minutes, but they can be very painful and will often turn the hands and feet white or a bluish colour. Healthcare professionals recommend that lupus patients with Raynaud’s Syndrome keep their hands gloved during cold weather.
When a person with lupus applies for life insurance, the type of lupus — along with other symptoms and treatments — determines which type of policy the insured should apply for.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is considered less serious. Traditional Life Insurance policies with full underwriting may be available if the insured was diagnosed six months ago. Applicants who meet this criteria and have no other medical issues and are not taking steroid medications can potentially qualify for standard rates. This is the rate given to applicants who are considered in good health with no major issues.
DLE applicants who take steroid medication over 15 milligrams, or who have depression-related issues, will likely be looking at some type of rating or possibly a flat-out decline. Individuals who have health or lifestyle issues that increase their risk to the insurance company receive substandard rates or policy ratings. If you think you may get a rating, read this article here.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is what the life insurance company considers the more serious form of lupus. Applicants with SLE may still be able to get a fully underwritten life insurance policy if they are over 20 and were diagnosed over a year ago. The longer the stability period after diagnosis, the better chance the insured will qualify for traditional life insurance.
Stable applicants over the age of 60 are also more likely to qualify, assuming they're on no other major medications or steroid treatments. In a best-case scenario, a person with SLE is likely looking at a policy rating, but it's also likely the insurance company will deny the applicant.
Instead, SLE applicants may want to consider a Simplified Issue Policy. Simplified Issue Policies have no medical tests and only a short series of health questions. Many Simplified Issue Plans do not have a lupus-related question, so the applicant can qualify for coverage from day one.
If an applicant applies for a traditional life insurance policy first but fails to qualify, this will limit their Simplified Issue options, as many of these policies ask if the insured has been declined in the last two policy years.
One way to prevent this scenario is to first apply for a Simplified issue Policy, which you can later use as backup coverage if you are declined, and then apply for a traditional life insurance policy next.
Then, if an insurance provider approves the traditional application at a better rate, the insured can cancel their Simplified Issue plan. Of course, if they end up failing to secure the traditional policy, they can maintain their Simplified Issue coverage.
For more details on Life Insurance for people living with lupus, please contact us at 1.866.899.4849 or visit our No-Medical Life Insurance Quote Page.