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According to the American Lung Association, in 2013 more than 11 million people were diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have had the disease and not even known it.  COPD is the fourth leading cause of mortality in the U.S. but because so many go undiagnosed this may be higher than previously thought.  COPD is also the only major cause of death that is increasing in frequency.

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a degenerative disorder of the lungs in which there is a reduced ability to expire air.  COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  Asthma may lead to COPD of the lungs as well.

About 80 percent of COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking.  However, not all who smoke get COPD.  Obstructive lung disease develops in 10-15% of all cigarette smokers, and individuals who continue to smoke are likely to sustain a more rapid progression of the disease than non-smokers.

The most accurate method of diagnosing COPD is the pulmonary function known as a spirometry.  This test measures the amount of air that one can forcefully exhale into a tube.  This volume of air is called the FEV1 ratio.  A sign of decreased lung function is typically when the FEV1 is lower than normal.

Underwriting COPD

When you apply for life insurance, underwriters review the complete application and all the records that go along with it.  They then decide how much coverage and at what cost to offer the applicant, unless they decide to deny or post-pone the application.

Below is an example of what a life insurance company may rate you depending on the condition of your COPD.  The chart is for illustrative purposes only.

DegreeSymptomsTreatmentFEV1Possible Rating
MinimalAsymptomatic, normal exercise tolerance, no chronic oral medications, stable chest x-ray with no more than minimal interstitial markingsNoneGreater than 80% and stable for at least 2 yearsTypical classifications may apply – no table rating
MildNo more than occasional throat clearing or respiratory infectionNone60-80%Table B
ModerateShortness of breath (dyspnea) with moderate exertion such as climbing two flights of stairsInhaler50-60%Table D
SevereDyspnea with mild physical activity such as dressing or walking one blockSteroids, multiple medications40-50%Table G
ExtremeDisabled, dyspnea at rest or with minimal activityHome oxygen< 40%Decline


The table rating system typically means that your pricing for life insurance will be the Standard price plus 25% for every step down the table you are, Tables A-J or 1-10 depending on which format the insurance company uses.

Let’s go over what the premium costs may be for the examples in the previous chart.

If your COPD has a minimal degree of severity, you may qualify for the typical life insurance classes such as Preferred and Standard.  These classes do not have the added on percentage like the Table Ratings.

Example: An otherwise healthy 40-year old male applying for a $500,000 20-year term policy with minimal COPD may be approved for a preferred class. An estimate on his premium cost is $43 per month.

If your COPD has a mild degree of severity, you may be rated Table B.  In this case you would take the standard rating cost plus 50% to calculate the monthly premium.
Example: A 40-year old male with mild COPD applying for a $500,000 20-year term policy would pay an estimated $90 per month if he was rated Table B. The standard price of this policy is an estimated $60 so we take ($60 x 50%) + $60 to equal $90.

If your COPD has a moderate degree of severity, you may be rated Table D.  In this case you would take the standard rating cost plus 100%.
Example: A 40-year old male with moderate COPD applying for a $500,000 20-year term policy would pay an estimated $120 per month.

If your COPD is severe, you may be rated Table G.  In this case you would take the standard rating cost plus 175%.
Example: A 40-year old male with severe COPD applying for a $500,000 20-year term policy would pay an estimated $165 per month.

If your COPD is extremely severe, you may likely be declined.

Keep in mind that life insurance companies all underwrite a little differently.  A benefit to working with Quotacy is that we work with multiple A-rated life insurance companies.  Shopping your application around to more than one insurance company can only help you.  Quotacy will do this behind the scenes so no need for you to hop around applying to different life insurance companies.

Quotacy’s team has years of experience getting clients life insurance coverage, including individuals with COPD.  Our in-house underwriter has worked in many carrier home offices, knows how to navigate each individual’s health history, and knows which life insurance company would be the best option for your individual case.  If you are ready to buy life insurance coverage, get a term life insurance quote now and let’s start the process.

Quotacy’s team has years of experience getting clients life insurance coverage, including individuals with COPD

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If you have any questions regarding underwriting COPD, feel free to contact us or jot us a message in the Comment section below.  If you are looking to get an idea on the cost of life insurance if you have COPD, we will need the following information to provide you with an accurate quote.

  1. What type of lung disease do you have (chronic bronchitis, emphysema, restrictive lung disease, asthma)?
  2. Date of first diagnosis:
  3. Have you ever been hospitalized for this condition? If so, please give details.
  4. Have you ever smoked? If so, please let us know the amount per day.  If you previously used to smoke, let us know the date you quit.
  5. Are you on any medications (including inhalers)? If so, please give details.
  6. Have pulmonary function tests (a breathing test) ever been done? If so, please give most recent test results.
  7. Do you have any abnormalities on an ECG or x-ray? If so, please give details.
  8. Do you have any other major health problems (ex: heart disease, etc.)? If so, please give details.

Give us a 2-3 business days to respond with some individualized and thorough information.  Quotacy is here to help make the life insurance buying process easier for you.


Related Posts:

What is a Risk Class and How Does it Affect Me?

Will I Be Rated Preferred or Standard?

Life Insurance for Tobacco, Nicotine, and Marijuana Users


About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays

Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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