Navigating the challenges that Sickle Cell Disease can present for those who suffer from it can be tough. As someone who has spent 20 years helping people overcome the challenge of arranging life insurance, I know that a little understanding goes a long way. So, in this article, I will explain what a life insurance company will ask people living with sickle cell conditions and the simplest way to ensure you're getting the correct outcome and the best price for your life insurance.
Click on this link if you'd like to jump ahead to 'How to source the Insurance Company that will be fairest for your Sickle Cell Disease'
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle cell disease is a condition that causes your red blood cells to form in the shape of a sickle, slightly crescent-like instead of the normal disc shape. For this reason, your red blood cells can become trapped, finding it hard to move through your blood vessels and can have a shorter life span. The condition is inherited and most commonly affects people of African or Caribbean heritage but can also affect people with South Asian, Greek or Middle Eastern heritage. You can be a carrier of the Sickle cell gene, referred to as the Sickle Cell Trait and not suffer from the disease. But you may pass the disease onto your children. The disease can also cause Sickle Cell Anaemia if there isn't enough oxygen being carried around your body by your red blood cells.
Symptoms associated with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) include fatigue, pain, shortness of breath and in some cases, it can even cause a stroke or lung disease. Occurrences of leg ulcers, gallstones and acute chest syndrome are also evident in some people who have SCD. Episodes of acute pain can arise due to blockages where the sickled red blood cells struggle to travel through a blood vessel - these episodes are referred to as a Sickle Cell Crisis. A crisis can be debilitatingly painful and sometimes results in hospitalisation.
Taking precautions in your everyday life goes a long way towards preventing these crises. Avoiding sudden temperature changes, stress, dehydration and protecting against infections because of the body's low resistance to infection can help to lessen the frequency and impact of a crisis. These measures can help a person to live a more normal and wholesome life.
There are specific variations of Sickle Cell Disease such as Sickle Haemoglobin C, D or E disease (HbSC, HbSD or HbSE), or Sickle Beta Thalassaemia Disease (HbS/β thalassaemia), Sickle Haemoglobin O-Arab and a few others that are not as commonly seen in the UK. For the purposes of arranging life insurance, the symptoms and effects of the disease are the key factors in working out how to do this, so I will focus on these and not on the types.
Applying for Life Insurance when you have Sickle Cell Disease.
When an insurer assesses your application for life insurance, they are working out the likelihood of a claim on your policy by assessing your medical history and specific medical conditions that you have had symptoms of or been diagnosed with. Not all life insurance companies will offer you life cover if you have Sickle Cell Disease but there are many that will. You will be required to complete an application that will ask about your health, occupation and lifestyle. You'll disclose your Sickle Cell Disease at this point. Next, the insurer will either ask you for more information regarding your condition or for your permission to write to your doctor to obtain this. The key details that they'll want to know are:
- Do you have Sickle Cell Disease or the Sickle Cell Trait?
- How is your Sickle Cell Disease being treated and/or managed?
- How long has it been since you suffered a crisis?
- How often do you suffer from crises and how severe are they?
- Do you have any complications arising from your Sickle Cell Disease?
- What impact does Sickle Cell Disease have on your daily life?
- Do you have Sickle Cell Anaemia?
Life insurance and carrying the Sickle Cell Trait
If you have the Sickle Cell Trait then your life insurance will be accepted at the normal premium which means the insurance company will not increase the cost of your insurance nor apply any special terms to it. If you have applied for life insurance and found this not to be the case, then you're either applying to a company that isn't acting fairly or the company may have got something wrong. You should seek advice to correct this and we explain more about how to do this in the section - Which insurance company is best for your Sickle Cell Disease
Life insurance and Sickle Cell Disease (Well managed & Controlled)
If you have Sickle Cell Disease, getting the best outcome relies on your symptoms being controlled. This would mean that you either don't have crises or the crises you experience are few and far between. Additionally, the crises you experience should be short and not require hospital admission to treat and control them. The insurer would check that you've suffered no lasting damage to your organs as a result of the Sickle Cell Disease.
If this is a good description of your experience then you'll be able to arrange life cover but it will come at an increased cost. So, for example, if the cost of your life insurance (often referred to as the monthly premium) was quoted at £15 per month, you would pay around £45 per month for your insurance after your application was assessed to take account of the sickle cell disease. There are some companies that will decline your application for life insurance and to avoid these, follow our guidance below.
Life insurance and Sickle Cell Disease (Frequent & Severe Crises)
It is far more difficult to arrange life insurance with sickle cell disease and have frequent crises and/or require lengthy hospital stays to treat the crises when they arise. It's not impossible to get life insurance but you will need to seek out the most favourable insurance companies for your condition. Again, you can read about how to do this further in this article.
Life Insurance and Sickle Cell Disease (Sickle Cell Anaemia)
For sickle cell disease sufferers who have also been diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia which is severe and persistent, you will find it difficult to source life insurance but again, it isn't impossible. In these circumstances, your health support will usually administer blood transfusions or prescribe hydroxycarbamide. As long as these treatments are managing your symptoms and your medical records show good control over a few years, you should also be able to put some life insurance in place. It will come at an increased cost and you should expect to pay around four times the normal rate for your insurance. It will help to read on for guidance on how to find the best insurance companies.
What can you do to make your life insurance cheaper?
When the cost of your life insurance is increased to allow for a condition such as sickle cell disease and becomes too expensive for you there are a few things you can do. Bear in mind that the standard cost of your insurance is derived from how much life insurance you need and how long you want to take this insurance over. It's also dependent on the type of life insurance you choose.
It may not be your ideal solution but look into what it would cost would be for a smaller amount of cover or consider how long you really need your life insurance to cover you. Remember, having some life insurance in place is better than having no insurance at all.
If you're protecting a young family, you might want to think about how long they will be financially dependent on you for and whether the amount of life insurance you choose suits this. If you're protecting a financial commitment like a mortgage, you should consider how much of the mortgage your partner could manage if you were to die and cover a proportion of it.
Deciding how much life insurance cover you need can be difficult without some help and guidance and so you should consider speaking with a specialist adviser* who can tailor your life insurance to ensure that you get the best and cheapest life insurance for your needs.
Which insurance company is best for your Sickle Cell Disease
Many people begin their search for life insurance through online comparison sites and although it is relatively easy to find a price online, you won't know how much it will end up costing you until you've applied. Our own research has shown that, very often, the cheapest company on a price comparison site will end up being one of the most expensive if you have a health condition to disclose. Your application may even be declined after going through a lengthy medical investigation. Even in the case of a Sickle Cell Carrier, where you shouldn't need to pay extra for your insurance, you might end up paying more than you need to this way.
The way to get the best price and the best guidance for your life insurance is to speak to a specialist adviser in this area. An adviser will undertake the necessary research to determine which life insurance company will offer you the best price. They will also talk through your personal circumstances and what you need from your life insurance so that you arrange the best type of insurance for you. Additionally. if the price of your life insurance ends up costing more than you initially wanted to spend, a specialist life insurance adviser can work with you to tailor the cover and apply for life insurance by prioritising what's important to you.
We have personally vetted LifeSearch*, a company that provides this type of service. There is no cost to you for using the service - the only thing that you will pay is the monthly cost for the policy once you agree to put it in place. You'll also receive some extremely valuable free advice on how to arrange a trust for your policy. A trust allows you to nominate who will receive the monies after a claim. If you wish for the money to benefit a child, you can nominate trustees who would manage the monies on their behalf. Doing this avoids any potential inheritance tax payable. Finally, as a reader of Money to the Masses, you'll also receive up to £100 cashback once your policy is in place.
If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch