Sleep apnea affects an estimated 18 million Americans which means that many people with sleep apnea apply for life insurance.  The life insurance industry does view sleep apnea as a risk and your costs may be affected by it.  Insurance companies underwrite impairments a little differently.  We are here to dig through the different life insurance companies to help you find affordable term life insurance coverage.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

A tired spouse awake all night from your snoring isn’t the only consequence of sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.  When breathing is paused, carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream.  A receptor in the blood stream takes note and the brain is then signaled to wake the sleeping individual and breathe in air.  Breathing normally again will restore the oxygen levels and the individual falls back asleep.  It is rare that the individual even realizes they were having difficulty breathing.

Sleep apnea, if not treated, can lead to hypertension, heart problems, lung damage, lack of concentration, and a high risk of driving accidents.  It is because of these possible scenarios that the life insurance industry takes an extra look at applicants who have sleep apnea.

Most sleep apnea conditions are recognized by others witnessing the signs of the individual while sleeping or awake, or the condition is suspected because of its effects on the body.  Sleep apnea is typically characterized by paused breathing or instances of abnormally shallow breathing while sleeping.  Snoring is also extremely common.  During the day, sleep apnea sufferers are prone to fatigue, slower reaction times, and vision problems.  Behavioral effects such as moodiness, belligerence, and a decrease in attentiveness can also occur.

Treatments for sleep apnea can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Avoidance of alcohol prior to sleep
  • Avoiding sleeping on your back
  • Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device
  • Using a bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) device
  • Jaw or tongue surgery

Sleep Apnea and Life Insurance

Depending on the individual, sleep apnea can be characterized as mild, moderate, or severe.  With any severity, the key to getting good life insurance rates is the management of the condition.  If you have mild or moderate sleep apnea and you undergo effective treatment, such as using a CPAP device, and have no other risk factors, many insurance carriers would consider offering you the best classification rating in the life insurance industry. This rating, depending on the carrier, is sometimes named Preferred Plus.  If you have severe sleep apnea, no other risk factors, and are managing it effectively, you could be considered anywhere from Preferred to Standard.

When applying for life insurance, you will need to undergo a medical exam and may have your medical records pulled.  If your medical records show that you have been advised by a doctor to perform a sleep study test, but have not done so, some life insurance companies will not even consider you for coverage until you do.  These sleep study tests, which your health insurance will most likely cover, reveals brain wave activity, respiratory patterns, chest muscle activity and oxygenation.

When the life insurance underwriters find out that you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but you are non-compliant (e.g. a doctor prescribed you a CPAP device but you do not use it) your insurance costs will reflect this.  Your life insurance premiums could double or even triple in price because of the risk you take by not managing your condition properly.

What Do the Underwriters Look For?

When reviewing an applicant’s sleep study test underwriters look for 2 key items:

  1. The AHI (Apnea/Hypopnea Index)
  2. Oxygen Saturation

The AHI calculates apnea (pauses in breathing) and hypopnea (shallow breathing) during an individual’s sleep.  The index values range from 0-30+; the lower the number the better your AHI.  The oxygen saturation is your balance of oxygen in the blood.  Normal blood oxygen levels are considered to be 95-100 percent.

Even though your doctor may note that you have “moderate” sleep apnea, this diagnosis is subjective which is why underwriters will review the sleep study tests.

Example: An individual’s doctor told him he had moderate to severe sleep apnea.  The sleep study showed that his AHI was 17 and his oxygen saturation was at 90%.  While the doctor may see this as moderate to severe, a life insurance carrier may consider the sleep apnea to be mild or even non-existent.

Many people with sleep apnea are able to buy affordable life insurance.  We will help by shopping your case at the appropriate life insurance carriers.  To make sure your loved ones are financially secure should you die prematurely, take a moment to run term life insurance quotes instantly without fear of being bombarded by phone calls and e-mails.  You do not need to give up your personal contact information to see quotes.  Take the first step in financial peace of mind today.

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