Posted 29 Apr 2020
If you have Ulcerative Colitis and are considering life insurance, then this guide will help you understand how your condition could affect your applications
People with ulcerative colitis will have things to consider and questions to answer when applying for life insurance. We’ll explain the medical condition and then how that could impact insurance premiums.
Our aim is to provide you with a useful guide to help you make an informed decision and give you support through the application.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative Colitis is similar to other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in how it affects the body and treatments. It is a lifelong (chronic) condition of the large intestine, with no known cure. Primarily this type of condition causes ulcers and inflammation around the colon and rectum areas.
Symptoms can include abdominal pain which can be extremely strong and diarrhoea with blood. People with ulcerative colitis may lead fairly normal lives with no or few symptoms but it can also be more severe, potentially life-threatening.
Inflammatory bowel diseases are a group of medical conditions and diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract. The most common conditions under IBD’s are Crohn’s disease and Colitis which can also have similar symptoms. These conditions are also classed as autoimmune diseases which is simply where the immune system does not function properly.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
The severity of this condition can vary dramatically from one patient to another. The types of symptoms can also change as time passes which cause other potential issues. As with other IBD’s, there can be periods of few or even no symptoms (remission) and periods where symptoms are regular or acute (flare-ups).
Most common symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis:
- Abdominal pains.
- Blood in stools.
- High temperature.
- Rectal pain.
- Weight loss.
There are also potential complications which may occur as a result of ulcerative colitis which can include:
- Eye swelling.
- Joint pain / swelling.
- Mouth sores.
- Skin problems.
- Nausea and loss of appetite.
What causes Ulcerative Colitis?
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is still a mystery to medical experts around the world. There are several theories which are similar to other inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s. It was previously thought that the cause was stress and diet but we now know that these just aggravate it.
It is strongly believed that the cause of UC is because the immune system is overactive. This is when your immune system fights off invading bacteria or viruses, unusually the immune response causes it to attack cells in the digestive tract as well.
Another possible view on the potential cause of ulcerative colitis is that it is a hereditary condition. There are a number of patients who do have a family history of UC but there are also many instances where this isn’t the case.
Complications with Ulcerative Colitis
There are a number of main issues that people with ulcerative colitis tend to experience either frequently or infrequently. These complications can vary from moderate risk to severe health problems.
Some of the main complications connected to this condition are:
- Perforated colon.
- Liver disease.
- Colon cancer.
- Rapidly swelling colon.
What types of Ulcerative Colitis are there?
The various types are ulcerative colitis are classified based on where they are located on the body. Main types include:
- Acute severe ulcerative colitis is a rare type of colitis that affects the colon and would cause severe pain, extreme diarrhoea, bleeding, high temperature and loss of appetite.
- Left-sided colitis which is where the inflammation would move from the rectum to the sigmoid and descending colon. Main symptoms for this include bloody stool, diarrhoea, cramp and abdominal pain and weight loss.
- Pancolitis commonly is known to impact the entire colon which can cause bloody diarrhoea (potentially severe), cramps and pains around the abdomen, tiredness and unexplained weight loss.
- Proctosigmoiditis is an inflammation of the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower section of the colon). Symptoms are bloody diarrhoea, pain and cramp of the abdomen and constipation.
- Ulcerative Proctitis causes inflammation around the anus (rectum) and bleeding around the rectum. This type of UC is known to be the mildest.
List of Ulcerative Colitis Statistics (UK)
According to recent statistics published by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for 2014, the most recent figures show:
- Approximately 146,000 patients (240 per 100,000).
- Most common age group is 15 to 25.
- Next highest age group is 55 to 65.
- Approximately half (50%) of people with UC have 1 or more relapses annually.
- 80% of patients are mild to moderate.
- 20% are severe.
- Approximately 25% of patients have 1 or more severe episodes in their lives.
*statistics provided by NICE 2014 report on inflammatory bowel disease (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs81/documents/inflammatory-bowel-disease-briefing-paper2).
Can I get life insurance with Ulcerative Colitis?
In almost all cases it is possible and can be even simple to get life insurance for someone with this condition. Because of the simple fact that nearly three-quarters of UC patients have either mild or moderate symptoms. The vast majority of cases that we deal with where we help people with ulcerative colitis, the cover is available instantly.
An application for life insurance for someone with ulcerative colitis will consist of several main questions about the condition. The most common questions regarding UC will include:
- When were you diagnosed?
- Are you currently undergoing or awaiting hospital treatment, tests or surgery?
- Have you had surgery for this condition?
- Has this affected your eyes, joints, liver, bile duct or stomach?
- What treatment have you received?
- How many flare-ups have you had in the past 2 years?
These are just an example of some of the most typical questions that we are asked by insurers. The questions can vary from one insurance company to another so these are just a guide. You should also know that a growing number of insurers are offering cover without the need for medical evidence (GP reports).
Has Coronavirus (COVID-19) affected life insurance for people with Ulcerative Colitis?
Coronavirus has caused some unprecedented changes to the underwriting philosophies from insurance providers. Most of the medical conditions where symptoms are more severe have been affected, unfortunately. Life insurance underwriting was affected in the short term and there may be longer-term changes.
Some of the questions that were asked as a result of Coronavirus were:
- Have you been told to self-isolate?
- Are you currently or have you experienced any symptoms of COVID-19?
- Have you been exposed to the risk of Coronavirus?
- Do you know anyone who has contracted COVID-19?
This was an unprecedented global event and a lot of decisions to make changes were made by re-assurers. These companies are global companies and therefore were making decisions about underwriting based on some of the worst-affected countries.
Some of the restrictions that were brought in to play included:
- Limits to the amount of cover being offered (sum assured).
- Restrictions around certain medical conditions considered to be high risk.
- Terms of policies being offered.
There is a possibility of longer term changes to the life insurance industry depending on how the situation develops.
Which are the best life insurance providers for Ulcerative Colitis?
There are a number of circumstances where premiums can be unaffected by having UC. If your symptoms are mild or in some cases moderate then you could be offered good rates by some insurers. The terms that are offered to people with ulcerative colitis can be very different depending on which insurance company you apply to.
It’s important to remember that insurance underwriting is a complex process and there are various calculations involved. There are some insurance companies who will target certain medical conditions due to a good claims experience for example. It’s the job of an expert or trained adviser to search the market for you to find the best rates.
You’ll need to complete a medical fact find with the adviser you’re dealing with and make sure that you give honest answers. Also, you should be aware that underwriting guidance changes so the best companies for you and your condition can be different over time.
Can I get critical illness cover if I’ve got Ulcerative Colitis?
This type of policy is a good way to ensure that you’re covered if you get diagnosed with a serious illness like Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke, MS and more. Someone with ulcerative colitis who wants to be insured against a critical condition should definitely consider applying. It’s also often possible to get critical illness cover if you’ve got this condition and again terms can vary between insurers.
There will be some main factors that will be taken into consideration when applying for critical illness cover with UC:
- When did you last have symptoms?
- Are you a smoker?
- Have you had any hospital treatment or surgery?
- Do you have any restrictions to daily living?
If you’re well managed with mild to moderate symptoms then you should be able to get this type of policy without any problems. Often in these types of applications will be considered and can be offered with no medicals required. If you are asked to provide a medical report from your GP then this just means that it will be reviewed by underwriting.
You should also remember that cheapest is not always best when it comes to critical illness cover. This can be especially important when you have a medical condition such as ulcerative colitis. Higher premiums can often mean more comprehensive cover, so you should always check terms being offered.
There are also products available from more specialist insurers if your symptoms are more severe. For example, if you’ve had recent treatment or surgery as well as people who have greater restrictions on lifestyle.
Can I have income protection if I’ve got Ulcerative Colitis?
This type of cover can be extremely important to protect you and your home if you’re not able to work. You can cover yourself against being off work due to an accident or long term sickness if you’re employed or self-employed. People with ulcerative colitis can get income protection or accident and sickness cover in most cases.
If your symptoms are mild and you have not experienced any recent symptoms or flare-ups then it can be simple to get income protection. There are more options when it comes to looking for this type of policy so carefully consider your requirements. People with ulcerative colitis might be offered terms with some elements excluded so read your documents properly.
People suffering from more severe symptoms such as hospitalisation or surgery can get more specialist cover. You may have been refused this type of policy in the past but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get cover. There are options to make this type of policy more affordable as well so check to see what’s available.
How much is travel insurance for people with Ulcerative Colitis?
It is definitely possible and often simple to get travel insurance for someone with ulcerative colitis. There are some hints and tips that you could consider when travelling to help manage the cost of cover, such as:
- Travel when symptoms are stable where possible.
- Get quotes from a specialist insurance company.
- Disclose accurate details about your condition.
- Travel with your required medication
Travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions can be easy to arrange but there can be a big difference between price, cover options and quality of cover. It’s very important to make sure that you check with your travel insurance provider that everything declared is covered.
It is very important to disclose all information requested about your medical condition to avoid any questions at claim stage. If you fail to disclose material facts then you may find unnecessary questions when it comes to paying out claims. The cost of medical treatment overseas can be extremely high so best not to risk it.
What are some common issues with getting life insurance for someone with Ulcerative Colitis?
We don’t like to focus on negatives but it’s important to make sure that we give you the full picture. Some of the things that can cause either a need for further underwriting or potentially some restrictions are:
- Recent surgery or outstanding investigations can make it slightly more complicated and may mean a delay (postponement) to your insurance offer. You should disclose this information (e.g. colectomy or ileostomy) on your application but it’s not the end of the road.
- Liver disease can also be a bit of an issue when combined with ulcerative colitis and especially where there has been recent hospitalisation or surgery.
- Medication or treatment such as immunosuppressants can be a problem if symptoms are moderate or severe so there could be underwriting considerations.
We often speak to customers who have had problems applying for cover previously or been declined by another broker. Don’t be disheartened, we’re very often able to get cover for people who’ve been refused elsewhere.
Ulcerative Colitis Awareness Events
Here’s a list of some of the events that we follow every year to find out what’s happening in the world relating to ulcerative colitis. Each year these amazing events help to raise thousands of pounds for charities.
- Crohn’s disease awareness week is a national event through Crohn’s & Colitis UK. This event usually takes place on the 1st week in December to raise awareness and funds for colitis research.
- Crohn’s and Colitis awareness month is a global event in November to increase awareness for people living with the condition.
- World IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) Day is an event held in May across the globe with most national charities involved.
- IBD awareness month is held in the United States in December by leading charities to help raise awareness. There are approximately 3 million people in the US living with Crohn’s disease or Colitis which is 1.3% of the population.
- Ulcerative colitis charities and support for colitis (UK).
List of Ulcerative Colitis Charities
There are a number of charities dedicated to helping people with Ulcerative Colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD’s). These organisations provide vital guidance, help and support for those living with this condition.
- Crohn’s & Colitis UK Link: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk. Helpline: 0300 222 5700. Address: 1 Bishops Square, Hatfield, AL10 9NE
- Guts UK Link: https://gutscharity.org.uk. Telephone: 020 7486 0341. Address: 3 St. Andrews Place, London, NW1 4LB.
- Catherine McEwan Foundation Link: https://catherinemcewanfoundation.com. Telephone: 0141 648 8800. Address: Spiersbridge House, 1 Spiersbridge Way, Glasgow, G46 8NG.
As a team of experts who regularly help people with medical conditions like Ulcerative Colitis (UC), to get life insurance, our mission is to ensure that everyone who needs it stands the best chance of getting it and that they don’t pay over the odds for it too. Over the past 20 years, we’ve helped thousands of families to get life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection.
If you’ve got ulcerative colitis and you want to know more then read this article where we explain how it works. As the first team of experts in the UK to focus our efforts on helping people like you to get cover, we understand your needs. We’re committed to providing the best advice to our customers regardless of their health.
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