6 Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis And Life Insurance Underwriting

Written by Heidi Mertlich

Researching how life insurance companies view a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can feel something like this:

rheumatoid arthritis life insurance underwriting

Cue an endless search for answers.

Not to worry anymore. Here, you’ll find six important facts about how your RA affects life insurance underwriting.

Underwriting (a funny sounding name, originating in the late 1600s in London) is the process life insurance companies undertake in order to evaluate your life insurance application.

The type of life insurance you are able to qualify for depends on the following six factors.

Let’s dive into what you need to know about underwriting process with rheumatoid arthritis:

1. Date Of Diagnosis

2. Flareups

3. Deformities

4. Disability

5. Parts Of Body

6. RA Drugs

How To Get The Best Rates

rheumatoid arthritis life insurance underwriting

Date Of Diagnosis

Life insurance carriers will want to know how long you’ve had rheumatoid arthritis. Your date of diagnosis matters because you are at higher risk for joint and tissue damage the longer you’ve had rheumatoid arthritis.

Often, the amount of time you’ve had RA will affect what category life insurance company place your RA into mild, moderate, or severe. Let’s look at examples:

  1. Han was diagnosed with RA six months ago. He has only had one initial flareup and does not need prescription medication. He lives an active lifestyle and works full-time. Han is considered to have mild rheumatoid arthritis.
  2. Luke was diagnosed with RA five years ago. He periodically requires a steroid medication to control inflammation. He works full-time, however, is unable to be active due to joint pain in his knees and wrists. Luke is considered to have moderate rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. Leia was diagnosed with RA 20 years ago. She requires biologics and steroids to manage pain and inflammation. Leia experiences inflammation in her joints and major organs (heart and lungs). She is unable to work due to a disability stemming from her RA. Leia is considered to have severe rheumatoid arthritis.


Rheumatoid arthritis flareups are a hallmark of the condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease of ups and downs. One day, your joints feel pretty good. The next, swelling and pain ratchet up and you can barely get out of bed.

These symptom episodes – called flares – can be unpredictable and debilitating. Because symptoms differ from person to person, doctors have had trouble agreeing on a standard definition to guide them in treating flares. –Stephanie Watson, Understanding Flares, Arthritis Foundation 

If you experience flareups more often, you are at higher risk for joint and tissue damage. Life insurance company want to understand what your experience with rheumatoid arthritis is like, as everyone’s situation is unique.

Interestingly, the OMERACT (Outcome Measures in Rheumatology) Group, is working to develop a questionnaire to evaluate a patient’s RA flares. The hope is that a well-defined, universal questionnaire will help rheumatologists and patients alike understand and communicate when inflammation is occurring.

We recommend you jot down how often, and for how long, your experience flareups in preparation for your life insurance application.


As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, joint deformity becomes a primary concern.

One of the things that we fight off is the deformity that is part of the RA package. –Kelly Young, RA Warrior 

Life insurance carriers will want to know whether you have a deformity, and if so, where and to what extent.

The Arthritis Foundation describes the following as common RA joint deformities:

  1. Boutonniere deformity: The middle finger joint bends toward the palm while the outer finger joint may bend opposite the palm.
  2. Swan-neck deformity: The base of the finger and the outermost joint bend, while the middle joint straightens.
  3. Hitchhiker’s thumb: The thumb flexes at the metacarpophalangeal joint and hyperextends at the interphalangeal joint below your thumb nail. It is also called Z-shaped deformity of the thumb.
  4. Claw toe deformity: The toes are either bent upward from the joints at the ball of the foot, downward at the middle joints, or downward at the top toe joints and curl under the foot.

A deformity as a result of RA will negatively impact your life insurance policy, typically causing carriers to charge you more for your policy.


An RA disability is usually associated with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. It happens often. Life insurance carriers will need to know if you are unable to work or live an active lifestyle.

Disability from RA typically occurs from pain and immobility in one or more of the following areas:

  • Wrist
  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • Fingers
  • Hips
  • Ankles
  • Spine

If you are unable to walk, sit, or stand for extended an extended period of time, your rheumatologist might diagnose you with a disability.

It is still possible to secure life insurance coverage with a disability, including if you live off of disability payments, however, carriers will place a surcharge on your life insurance premiums (the amount you pay for life insurance).

Parts Of Body

Rheumatoid arthritis has the uncanny ability to affect your whole body. Known as a systemic condition, inflammation can be limited to joints or it can reach your major organs.

RA is known to affect:

  • Joints
  • Skin
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerves

Carriers will ask which parts of your body are affected by RA. Again, life insurance underwriters are evaluating your risk. The more parts of your body inflamed by rheumatoid arthritis, the more risk you pose.


Life insurance underwriters will want to know:

  1. What kind(s) of RA drugs are prescribed to you.
  2. How often you take the drugs.
  3. At what dosage(s) you are prescribed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common drugs prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • NSAIDS – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation, fever and pain. Over the counter NSAIDS include ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Prescription strength NSAIDS are also available.
  • Steroids – Reduce acute symptoms of inflammation and pain. Physicians often prescribe corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, temporarily to treat pain and swelling with the goal to eventually taper off steroids.
  • Disease-modifying Antirheumatic Drugs – In addition to treating symptoms, DMARDS (such as MethotrexateRheumatrex, Arava, Plaquenil, and Azulfidine) have shown to be highly effective at slowing the progression of RA. Joint and tissue health can be preserved.
  • Biologic agents – Considered a newer class of DMARDS (Orencia, Humira, Kineret, etc.), these medications are biologic response modifiers. Biologic agents can target specific areas of the immune system to combat inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants – Not often used currently, but can suppress the immune system’s response to inflammation.

While rheumatoid arthritis drugs can be life-changing for RA sufferers, life insurance carriers are concerned about potential negative side-effects.

However, it’s important to remember that your rheumatologist prescribed the medication(s) with the knowledge that the benefits outweighed the risks.

How To Get The Best Life insurance rates

Your rheumatoid arthritis makes for special considerations when applying for rheumatoid arthritis. Whether your RA is mild, moderate or severe, there are always life insurance options available to you.

Important – Rheumatoid Arthritis Life Insurance is independent.

An independent life insurance agent is not held captive to a particular carrier. This is crucial. Independent agents have access to the top-rated life insurance companies and have your best interest at heart.

Not all life insurance carriers view risks in the same light. Your rheumatoid arthritis might be approved with one company, even though it was declined with another.

By partnering with an independent agent who has authoritative knowledge of RA, you will be offered the best policy you qualify for at the most competitive price.

To get started, fill out our Instant Quote form

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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