Scleroderma and Life Insurance

Scleroderma is an interesting condition to underwrite for life insurance. Individuals must work closely with their life insurance broker to ensure the best life quote possible, given their particular scleroderma symptoms.(For example, please see this scleroderma case study page, showing possible life insurance rates for real scleroderma patients.)

Indeed, your financial planning (small business or individual) will depend upon an underwriter, a complete stranger, understanding your scleroderma history. From the underwriting point-of-view, scleroderma is quite complicated.

A number of factors need to be considered—each of which has yet another level of considerations. It’s similar to solving a multi-dimensional puzzle, where the dimensions include:

  • Scleroderma symptoms and type
  • Date of scleroderma diagnosis and progression
  • Scleroderma-related ailments
  • Scleroderma treatment mode and medications
  • Functional ability of the scleroderma patient

Scleroderma and Underwriting

Because scleroderma is a complex underwriting issue, the life insurance candidate should make all of his particular case details clear to his life insurance broker.

Which details need to be addressed in underwriting? Let’s start by looking at the different types of scleroderma symptoms (sometimes spelled scleraderma orsclera derma, approximately meaning “hard skin”).

1. Scleroderma Symptoms and Type

Identifying the scleroderma symptoms and type is our first life insurance underwriting concern. (These scleroderma pictures may be of assistance to you, in better understanding the following.)

  • Progressive Systemic Scleroderma (PSS). Progressive Systemic Scleroderma (also known as Diffuse Scleroderma) is very common. It is a generalized disorder of connective tissue. Systemic scleroderma symptoms include inflammation and scarring of the skin, esophagus, intestinal tract, heart, lungs, or kidneys. Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs in 95% of PSS and can precede other symptoms by years.
  • Limited Scleroderma (CREST Syndrome). Limited Scleroderma involves the skin exclusively and is characterized by skin that appears tightly drawn and fixed, especially in the fingers. Ulcers may develop over bony prominences and on the fingertips.
  • CREST syndrome is an acronym, used to categorize scleroderma symptoms.
    • Calcinosis Cutis—calcium formation in the tips of the fingers or toes
    • Raynaud’s Phenomenon—cold-induced blanching of the fingers or toes, followed by blue color, then redness
    • Esophageal mobility problems—which interfere with swallowing
    • Sclerodactyly—thickening of the skin on the fingers
    • Telangiectasis—small vessels that are seen on the skin
  • Localized Scleroderma. Localized Scleroderma is also known as Morphea, and the scleroderma symptoms include the formation of white or pink patches or bands that are firm.

2. Date of Scleroderma Diagnosis and Progression

The date of scleroderma diagnosis is our next underwriting concern. Misdiagnosis can often occur, as scleroderma can be confused with lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and many other ailments. Also, the underwriter needs to know if there has been progression in skin involvement or worsening of the scleroderma symptoms, since the diagnosis date.

3. Scleroderma-Related Ailments

Complications of the scleroderma and related ailments must also be noted. These can include weight loss, heart disease, lung disease, Raynaud’s disease, biliary cirrhosis, liver enzyme abnormality, kidney disease, and trouble swallowing. Each of these may impact the life insurance underwriting process.

4. Scleroderma Treatment Mode and Medications

Next, the scleroderma treatment details must be reviewed by the underwriter. Therefore, leave nothing out, when discussing your case with your broker.

Modes of treatment depend on the locale, extent, and severity of the disease, and can include aspirin, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, steroids, and chemotherapy.

If medications are being administered for related problems (such as thyroiditis or high blood pressure), they must be noted. So too must any muscle relaxers. The underwriting process will be smoother for you, if you provide your broker with an accurate and complete listing.

5. Functional Ability of the Scleroderma Patient

The last dimension of our underwriting puzzle involves the functional ability of our candidate. The underwriter needs to know if the scleroderma patient is fully active, sedentary, or uses a walker, cane, or wheel chair. It would be also important to note any full or part-time employment and volunteer work.

Scleroderma and Your Life Insurance Broker

You can see that, because of these many dimensions, each life insurance candidate with scleroderma represents a unique risk profile. This profile allows the life insurance underwriter to assess the scleroderma patient’s insurability on an individual basis, and it allows the life insurance broker to research the best rate available.

If you have scleroderma and you are seeking to secure a small business loan or other personal financial planning, then you should be mindful of the critical role played by your life insurance broker. Remember to be thorough and accurate, and provide your broker with all details concerning your scleroderma history.