If you fall asleep each night snoring, struggling to breathe, or preventing your partner from getting a good night’s rest, you are not alone. An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. have sleep apnea according to data from the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Of course, sleep apnea is not just an inconvenience; it’s a health concern that could affect your eligibility for life insurance. In fact, many underwriters in the insurance industry consider it a very serious health condition.
- Studies show untreated sleep apnea can shorten life expectancy by several years
- 1 in 2 people with sleep apnea also have high blood pressure
- Sleep apnea increases the risk of being in a car accident by 300 percent
- Sleep apnea increases the risk of sudden cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke
Can I get life insurance if I have sleep apnea?
Yes. You can get approved for life insurance with a pre-existing condition of sleep apnea. Your risk class will depend on the diagnosis and treatment of this sleep disorder. The insurance premiums you pay will be based in large part on the insurance underwriters review of your medical records and the medical exam you will likely need to take in most cases.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Much more than just snoring, sleep apnea causes the oxygen levels in the blood to drop. This can be a result of an airway obstruction or by the brain’s lack of a signal to properly initiate breathing. During sleep, you may experience pauses in breathing and/or very shallow breaths. The American Sleep A
Often times, mild sleep apnea can go undiagnosed for some time as there is no easy test to diagnose and it will not normally be detected in a regular physical checkup. To confirm a diagnosis, participation in a sleep study is needed. From the results, the apnea index (AHI) and oxygen saturation levels will show how serious the obstructive sleep apnea is.
Sleep apnea is a common condition in people who are overweight but can also be seen in children with enlarged tonsils causing obstructive sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive and occurs when the brain is not sending the proper signals instructing the breathing muscles.
Sleep Apnea Risk Profile
Insurers do not want to take on more risk than is financially profitable.
When you apply for life insurance, the insurer will assemble a detailed profile designed to highlight the risks you present as a potential policy-holder. If you apply for life insurance with a sleep apnea diagnosis, insurers will review the mortality rates for the disease, as well as the risk of potential complications.
With sleep apnea, it is not just the disease, but also the complications and risk of secondary disease that are cause for alarm. Examples include an increased risk of:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Liver Problems
- Daytime Fatigue
Disease Management Lowers Risk of Premature Death
Lucky for sleep apnea patients, there are treatments that facilitate normalized breathing and help minimize the risk of complications.
A French study of patients with sleep apnea compared the mortality rates of patients who managed their sleep apnea with nasal continuous positive airway pressure. Excluding those diagnosed with simultaneous chronic respiratory disease, mortality rates in the sleep apnea patients were found to be nearly the same as that of the general population.
Applying for Life Insurance with Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, being diagnosed with sleep apnea does NOT automatically mean disqualification.
It does mean that insurers will want to see control and management before approving an applicant for coverage. It may also mean a longer, more complex application process.
When you apply for life insurance with sleep apnea, be prepared to answer a number of questions concerning your health, including:
- What type of sleep apnea do you have – obstructive, central, or complex sleep apnea?
- How severe is the condition?
- What treatment protocols are you using to manage the disease?
- Have you had surgery to treat your sleep apnea?
- Is your disease under control?
- Do you see a physician for this condition? How Often?
- Have you personally taken steps to further control the condition, such as losing weight?
- Do you do anything that might complicate your condition, such as consume alcohol and tobacco?
- Do you have any co-occurring medical conditions, such as COPD or hypertension?
Life insurance applicants are often required to submit to a basic health exam to measure weight, blood pressure, and other vital statistics.
Depending on the insurer, sleep apnea patients may also need to submit to additional testing. This might include periodic check-ins with a physician or even a sleep study to confirm the severity of the disease.
If you do not have all of your medical documentation on hand, you could be in for a lengthy application process, several delays, and even an automatic denial if you fail to produce your records in a timely manner.
Since the insurer is likely to request your physician’s notes, records, and the results of any diagnostic tests or studies you have undergone, be prepared to provide them in advance to expedite the application and underwriting process.
Using a CPAP Machine
Controlling your condition with a CPAP device (continuous positive airway pressure machine) can help you land in a better rate class. Life insurance carriers will want to know if you are wearing the CPAP regularly and for how long have you been using it?
Your situation can also be helped if you’ve taken a sleep study wearing the CPAP and can present those results to the underwriters.
Getting Approved for Coverage
Patients with well-managed sleep apnea may find that qualifying for life insurance is easier than it might seem. In fact, some insurers offer the Preferred rates to applicants with controlled sleep apnea who are otherwise in good health.
Of those who are denied coverage, it is most often due to poor management of the disease or non-compliance with a physician’s recommendations for follow-up visits.
Of course, not everyone has mild to moderate sleep apnea, and not everyone is fortunate enough to be in good overall health.
That does not mean life insurance is not within reach.
It just might mean paying more for your coverage. To improve your chances of getting approved or qualifying for a lower rate, there may be some steps you can take to reduce the complications of your sleep apnea before applying for coverage.
- Weight loss
- Avoiding alcohol
- Ceasing the use of tobacco
NEVER assume that one life insurance company’s denial automatically disqualifies you from coverage with another.
Some insurers abide by rules that automatically classify applicants with sleep apnea at a Standard rate. Any additional health complications or risk factors may result in even lower rate classification and a higher chance of denial.
Others, however, are more flexible in their decision-making and handle applications on a case by case basis. If you can show that your sleep apnea is under control, you might find you qualify for much lower term insurance rates on the coverage you need.
Even if you have been denied life insurance for your sleep apnea in the past, an underwriter may approve you for coverage based upon changes to your risk profile or a difference of risk tolerance when you apply with a different insurer.
Improving Your Chances for Approval
To maximize your chances of being approved for life insurance with the most competitive premiums, don’t take “no” for an answer. Instead, assemble all of the information available concerning your sleep apnea diagnosis, physician recommendations, and any treatments you are currently undergoing to manage the disease. Discuss a game plan with your life insurance broker who can help you compare quotes.
By providing as much information as possible about your medical history, you give insurers the opportunity to better understand your risk and make a more informed decision about your approval.
There are several types of life insurance that may be available to people with sleep apnea.
A standard, traditional life insurance policy (term life or whole life) is the preferred form of coverage for most people who desire more choices and greater control over their life insurance coverage. However, other options, such as guaranteed issue life insurance, may be an option if you are unable to secure traditional coverage.
Guaranteed-issue life insurance is available to people with pre-existing medical conditions like severe sleep apnea who may not otherwise qualify for traditional life insurance.
If you are serious about finding affordable life insurance with sleep apnea, we can help.
There is NO reason to go it alone vs the big insurance companies.
The secret to finding the best coverage is:
- Knowing all the insurance carriers underwriting guidelines, inside and out.
- Working directly with the underwriters.
We know exactly how to do this. We can help if you are ready. There is NO cost to use our service and life insurance is all we do, every day, all day long.
Whether you need term life insurance quotes or a permanent policy, we welcome the opportunity to have a no-pressure chat about your options.
I hope your day is going well.