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Is there insurance after MS?

is there life Insurance after MS?

Insurance is not one of the words generally in favor with people who have MS. It's been known to raise temperatures and tempers. But it is one of the facts of life families must deal with.

Life insurance, unlike health insurance, doesn't quite rate a 10 on the stress scale but it still has plenty of people biting their nails: Can I get a life insurance policy if I have MS? How will I protect my family? Will a broker want to work with and for me?

For the most part the answer to these questions is an encouraging "yes." If one knows how and where to look, life insurance usually can be obtained at acceptable levels.

The key is to do your homework. The following information can get you moving in the right direction.

Basically, there are two ways of obtaining life insurance -- through group coverage or through an individual policy.

Group insurance, typically purchased by employers and by some professional and fraternal associations, is usually issued automatically without a medical examination, to all people eligible under a master policy. In employer plans, how much you pay is also determined by the company's policy. Some employers pay part or all of the cost of their group plan; others draw it entirely from employee salaries.

You can sometimes purchase additional coverage on an individual basis from the insurance company that is providing the master policy. It is also sometimes possible, when you leave the group, to convert that group policy to an individual one, usually at some increase in cost to you.

Group coverage is a good thing to have. In most firms, you're apprised of the benefits automatically offered to you when you're hired. But in some cases, you have to ask.

Be sure that all working members of your family check with their employers to see if group life insurance coverage is available from them and their family members. Do the same if any family member belongs to a professional or fraternal group.

If a group plan is out of the question, or if you want additional coverage, you're going to be looking for an individual policy. The easiest and best way to do this is to contact an insurance agent -- a step that can be crucial. Aside from helping you locate a source of life insurance, he or she will probably be your chief advisor concerning the types of policies available and the types and amounts that will best meet your family's needs.

Here are some pointers to bear in mind when looking for an agent:

* Try to find someone who has been recommended to you by a friend or by your local chapter. Contacting an agent through your MS chapter can be a big plus because he or she is likely to be familiar with MS and know companies that will sell life insurance to you.

* If you get a referral from another source, don't be shy about asking the agent point blank:

Have you worked with people with MS? If so, have you been successful?

If you haven't worked with people in my condition, are you willing to?

Would you be willing to learn something about my status so you can best represent me when you approach an insurance company? If the agent seems less than enthusiastic, try someone else.

* If the agent is willing, be sure to provide material about MS, and be sure this material includes the kind of information that presents some of the more positive but perhaps less well-know aspects of the condition. Go to your local chapter for help in this area and refer to the material in the box below. "The Question Of Premiums" should provide some of the ammunition you can see.

* Some agents work with only one insurance company. Others (independent insurance agents) work with several, sometimes even many, companies. Is there a difference? Not necessarily. If the agent is familiar with MS and works for a number of companies, he may be in a good position to identify a company willing to sell a policy to someone with the disorder. On the other hand, and agent working with a single company that happens to issue policies to people with MS may be exactly the person you're looking for.

* Look over professional credentials. Agents who are members of a local Life Underwriters Association are often among the more experienced ones in the community. Those who are Chartered Life Underwriters, entitled to use CLU after their names, have passed college-level exams on insurance and related subjects.

* Make sure you choose an agent with whom you are comfortable. Again -- an effective agent should be interested in understanding you, your family and your condition.

Once an agent is chosen, you will work together to select the best company and the best kind of policy. Check these points:

* Even with an agent you like, it's wise to check the reliability of the insurance company yourself. Your local library will have the current edition of Best's Insurance Reports, which rates companies. If you still have concerns, call your state insurance department (telephone information will give you the number in your state's capital) and ask if they have information about the company, including a record of consumer complaints.

* Get a written copy of any policy you are considering. Read it until you understand it. Ask your agent to explain unclear provisions, and to point out any sections on matters of special interest to you.

* Be truthful in your application, or there may be problems with claims or other mattes later on.

* Let your doctor(s) know that you are applying for coverage and that the insurance company may contact them. Ask that they describe your case in the most positive terms possible within the limits of accuracy.

* When you buy your life insurance you should receive a written policy. Don't continue paying unless you receive one. Read it carefully. There should be a grace period of several days during which you can obtain a refund. Check with your agent about this.

Once you have your policy:

* Try to meet your premium in a single annual payment. While companies often offer options such as monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual payments, the total of several partial payments tends to cost more than a single premium payment.

* It is sometimes possible to request a reduction in a table-rated premium (see box, "The Question of Premiums") after a specified period has elapsed. Check with your agent and read the policy carefully to see if this option is available to you. If it is, ask how and when you can apply.

* Inform your insurance company if your address changes, if your family circumstances change, or if you wish to change your beneficiary(ies).

* Keep your insurance company's name and your policy number(s) in a bank safe deposit box, or with your attorney, and in a safe place at home. Be sure your family members understand your coverage and where your policy is kept.

* If you have problems with your company or your agent, or if you remain unsuccessful in trying to find coverage, contact your state insurance department. Your local chapter can also be a resource.

Good luck in your search and keep us posted.
COPYRIGHT 1989 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles on premiums; multiple sclerosis
Author:Enteen, Robert
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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