Your Guide To Rheumatoid Arthritis And Graded Benefit Life Insurance

Written by Heidi Mertlich

Life insurance comes in all sorts of sizes and flavors. Your choice of how much, and the type of, life insurance to purchase depends on your needs and your health (and lifestyle).

For many, term life insurance is an excellent option because it’s affordable and provides financial protection for a period of time when loved ones would need it most.

Occasionally, by the time a person realizes they should secure life insurance, they are unable to qualify for the standard kind. For example, if you have advanced rheumatoid arthritis, life insurance companies may decline your application.

There’s no reason to despair.

Graded Benefit Life Insurance (GBLI) is one specific type of life insurance that is a common option for those living with rheumatoid arthritis and are unable to qualify for standard, fully-underwritten life insurance.

What is Graded Benefit Life Insurance?

In essence, a GBLI is life insurance made available to a person who is unable to obtain life insurance the traditional way.

Typically, applying for Graded Benefit Life Insurance is a second step (or third step!) for individuals.

Because premiums are higher with this type of life insurance, applicants usually want to go through underwriting first, to see if they qualify for medically underwritten life insurance.

Even if you have been declined life insurance in the past, it may be worth revisiting your options because standard life insurance is more affordable.

We have placed traditional life insurance policies with clients who have previously been declined. However, GBLIs can be miraculous for those who don’t qualify for standard (fully-underwritten) life insurance.

Graded Benefit Life Insurance Polices have some key features:

  1. Usually, there’s a waiting period of about 2 – 3 years from the time of purchase. It’s standard for accidental deaths to be excluded from this waiting period. One of two things can happen if the insured dies during the waiting period –
    1. The beneficiary has all premium payments and interest earned returned back to them.
    2. The beneficiary has a percentage of the death benefit paid to them (typically the better option).
  2. Full death benefit will be paid out to the beneficiary after the waiting period.
  3. Policies have a limit on how much coverage you can purchase.
  4. There are some (not a lot) of health questions asked. Consider this a good thing because it can help lower your premium rates.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Graded Benefit Life Insurance

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a common condition, primarily affecting the joints of the body. Millions of Americans are living with rheumatoid arthritis, and thankfully, medical advances continue to improve the health outcomes for RA patients.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease causing pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints.

A healthy immune system protects the body by attacking foreign bacteria and viruses, but an autoimmune disease causes the body to mistakenly attack healthy tissue. – Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network (RASN)

Just as it’s necessary to be careful with your health when you have RA, it also requires mindful planning for securing life insurance. The good news is that there are always options to financially protect your loved ones.

Depending on your health and medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, you may have to pay more for that financial protection.

Even so, having peace of mind that your family is financially sound, regardless of what life brings, is priceless.

Let’s look at the three primary reasons your rheumatoid arthritis may obligate you to purchase a graded benefit life insurance policy:

  1. Major physical deformity. RA confuses your immune system and inflamed cells gather in the lining of your joints (synovium). An abnormal fibrous layer called, pannus, forms. Pannus releases substances that can break down bones, cartilage, and surrounding ligaments. In major cases, hands and feet can become seriously deformed. According to The Arthritis Foundation, some common types of joint deformities include:
    1. Hitchhikers Thumb – a ‘Z’ shaped deformity of the thumb.
    2. Swan-neck deformity – the base and top of finger joints bend, while the middle joints of fingers straighten.
    3. Claw toe deformity – toes either face upward from the balls of feet or downward and curl under.
    4. Boutonniere deformity – the middle joints of fingers bend toward the palm while the outer finger joint can bend opposite the palm.
  2. Primary organs are affected. It’s not just joints that are affected in advanced rheumatoid arthritis.
    1. Lungs – up to 80% of individuals with RA have some lung involvement. However, a smaller percentage develop pleurisy, intrapulmonary nodules, and/or interstitial fibrosis. Pleurisy happens when tissue surrounding the lungs becomes inflamed. It causes sharp pain while breathing. Intrapulmonary nodules are small round or oval-shaped lesions on lungs. Interstitial fibrosis is when scar tissue (fibrosis) develops in lung tissue.
    2. Heart – you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease with RA. Atherosclerosis occurs when inflammation causes plaque to build up, narrowing the arteries, and elevating blood pressure. Atherosclerosis increases your risk for heart attack. Pericarditis, or inflammation of the lining of the heart, is also more common in RA patients.
    3. Kidneys – According to the Mayo Clinic, rheumatoid arthritis patients have a 1 in 4 chance of developing kidney disease. Amyloidosis, a common kidney condition seen in RA, deposits a specific protein in the kidney and damaging them in the process.
  3. Serious disability. A leading cause of disability, close to 1 in 3 individuals with RA are forced to leave the workforce. Thankfully, the numbers are decreasing due to advances in medical care. The most common disabilities associated with rheumatoid arthritis are:
    1. Unable to walk
    2. Extreme fatigue
    3. Breathing difficulty
    4. Inability to grasp small items or lift items over 10 pounds
    5. Unable to stand or sit for more than two hours

Other Reasons To Consider Graded Benefit Life Insurance

In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, there are other conditions or lifestyles that can make a GBLI policy a feasible option. For example, traditional life insurance may not be an option due to:

  1. Driving record (i.e. DUI)
  2. Specific health condition (i.e. cancer or heart disease)
  3. High-risk activities (i.e. mountaineering or scuba diving)
  4. Bankruptcy
  5. Criminal record (i.e. multiple felonies)

Next Steps

Not all life insurance carriers offer graded benefit life insurance. Even fewer offer high-quality GBLI policies.

Our benefit to you is two-fold. First, we’ll get to work clarifying your health status with rheumatoid arthritis. You’ll want to work with an agent who has a deep understanding of RA and its complexities.

Second, we have access to the best life insurance companies for graded benefit policies. By cross-referencing the top rated companies, we are able to get you the best value at the lowest price available to you.

About Rheumatoid Arthritis Life Insurance
About Rheumatoid Arthritis Life Insurance

We work with individuals across the nation to secure the best life insurance rates.

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