It is estimated that up to 90% of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed, so it is not uncommon for people to be unaware that they have the condition. Sure, some people may be aware that they snore loudly or have trouble staying asleep, but they may not realize that these symptoms could be a sign of sleep apnea.
And you’d be surprised by the number of people diagnosed with sleep apnea who will doubt they suffer from this condition or, at best, admit it exists, but…
“It’s really not all that bad.”
This is why we wanted to take a moment and answer some of the most common questions we get asked by clients applying for life insurance after they have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, as well as provide some helpful tips for when applying for coverage.
Questions that will be addressed will include:
- Can I qualify for life insurance if I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea?
- Why do life insurance companies care if I’ve been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea?
- What kind of information will the insurance companies ask me or be interested in?
- What rate (or price) can I qualify for?
- What if I can’t qualify for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy?
- How can I help ensure I get the “best life insurance” for me?
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Can I qualify for life insurance if diagnosed with Sleep Apnea?
Yes, individuals who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea can and often will be able to qualify for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy. Some may even be able to qualify for some of the best no-medical-exam life insurance companies at a Preferred rate!
The only problem is that…
Simply knowing that someone has been diagnosed with sleep apnea isn’t going to be enough information for a life insurance underwriter to be able to make their decision about your life insurance application.
The truth is that sleep apnea can be a serious medical condition that can vary significantly from one patient to the next.
Why do life insurance companies care if I’ve been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea?
There are two main reasons why life insurance companies are going to care about whether or not an individual has been diagnosed with sleep apnea. The first reason is that sleep apnea can affect an applicant’s overall health and lifespan.
The second reason why most life insurance companies are going to care about whether or not an applicant has been diagnosed with sleep apnea is that most of the reasons why someone develops sleep apnea aren’t healthy.
So, when an insurance underwriter sees that someone has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, one of the first things they will ask themselves is… “Why?”
Sleep Apnea Defined:
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to several minutes and occur dozens or even hundreds of times per night.
Types of sleep apnea:
There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and complex sleep apnea syndrome (also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea or TECSA).
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea, and it occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open despite the effort to breathe. As a result, the individual experiences frequent interruptions in their breathing during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA): This type of sleep apnea is less common than OSA and occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles to breathe during sleep.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (TECSA): This type of sleep apnea combines OSA and CSA. It is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea because it can occur due to treatment for OSA, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.
Risk factors for developing sleep apnea:
There are several risk factors for developing sleep apnea, including:
- Being overweight or obese: excess weight can increase the amount of fat around the neck, which can put pressure on the airway and make it more likely to collapse during sleep.
- Age: sleep apnea is more common in older adults, but it can affect people of any age.
- Gender: men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women, although the risk increases for women after menopause.
- Family history: if you have a family member with sleep apnea, you may also be more likely to develop it.
- Alcohol and tobacco use: both substances can relax the muscles in the throat and make it more likely for the airway to become blocked during sleep.
- Structural abnormalities in the airway: some people are born with a narrow airway or abnormalities in the structure of their throat, which can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
- Use certain medications: some medications, such as sedatives and tranquilizers, can relax the muscles in the throat and increase the risk of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea complications:
Sleep apnea can lead to several complications, including:
- High blood pressure: sleep apnea can cause your blood pressure to rise, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Heart problems: sleep apnea can lead to an irregular heartbeat and increase heart failure risk.
- Diabetes: sleep apnea can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of developing diabetes.
- Depression: sleep apnea can lead to fatigue and mood changes, increasing the risk of depression.
- Accidents: sleep apnea can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, increasing the risk of accidents, such as falls or car accidents.
- Cognitive problems: sleep apnea can lead to problems with memory and concentration and impair decision-making abilities.
- Sexual dysfunction: sleep apnea can cause problems with sexual function in both men and women.
- Headaches: sleep apnea can cause headaches, particularly upon waking.
How is one diagnosed with sleep apnea:
There are several ways to diagnose sleep apnea:
- Sleep study: a sleep study, also called a polysomnogram, is a test done in a sleep laboratory or at home using a portable sleep monitor. During the investigation, your brain waves, heart rate, and breathing patterns will be monitored while you sleep to see if you have sleep apnea.
- Physical examination: your doctor will perform a physical exam, looking for signs of sleep apnea such as leg swelling, a large neck size, or a recessed chin. They may also listen to your breathing while you sleep or check for changes in your skin color.
- Medical history: your doctor will ask about your medical history, including any symptoms you have experienced and any medications you are taking.
- Sleep diary: you may be asked to keep a sleep diary for a week or more, noting when you go to bed, wake up, and any symptoms you experience during the night.
- Home sleep test: a home sleep test involves using a portable sleep monitor to record your sleep patterns. The device will be mailed to you, and you will be asked to wear it while you sleep. A sleep specialist will review the results, who will determine whether you have sleep apnea.
Treatment options for sleep apnea:
There are several treatment options for sleep apnea, including:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): this machine delivers a steady stream of air through a mask you wear while you sleep. The air helps to keep your airway open, preventing it from collapsing and allowing you to breathe more easily.
- Oral appliances are devices you wear in your mouth, similar to a mouthguard, which helps keep your airway open by repositioning your jaw and tongue.
- Surgery: in some cases, surgery may be recommended to help treat sleep apnea. Options include procedures to remove excess tissue from the airway, such as tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy, or procedures to reposition the jaw or tongue.
- Lifestyle changes: losing weight, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption may help to reduce the severity of sleep apnea.
- Positive airway pressure devices use pressure to help keep the airway open and improve breathing during sleep. Bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) are options.
What kind of information will the insurance companies ask me or be interested in?
Life insurance companies may ask you for the following information when you are applying for coverage and have sleep apnea:
- Details of your sleep apnea diagnosis: the insurance company may ask about the date of your diagnosis, the severity of your sleep apnea, and any treatment you are receiving.
- Results of your sleep study: if you have undergone a sleep study, the insurance company may request a copy to help determine your coverage.
- Your symptoms: the insurance company may ask about the symptoms you have experienced, such as snoring, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Your treatment plan: the insurance company may ask about the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare provider, including any medications or devices you use.
- Your overall health: the insurance company will want to know about your overall health, including any other medical conditions you have and how well you manage them.
In addition to the typical life insurance application questions, which will ask about:
- Your personal information: the insurance company will ask for your name, address, date of birth, and other personal information.
- Your medical history: the insurance company will ask about your medical history, including any pre-existing conditions, surgeries, or hospitalizations you have had.
- Your family medical history: the insurance company may ask about the medical history of your immediate family members, as certain medical conditions can be inherited.
- Your lifestyle: the insurance company may ask about your lifestyle, including your diet, exercise habits, and whether you smoke or use tobacco products.
- Your occupation: the insurance company may ask about your occupation, as certain jobs may be considered riskier than others.
- Your insurance coverage: the insurance company may ask about any other insurance coverage you have, such as health insurance or disability insurance.
What rate (or price) can I qualify for?
As you can see, many variables can come into play when determining what kind of “rate” an individual is diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. This is why knowing what kind of “rate” you might qualify for is almost impossible without first speaking with you directly.
That said, however…
Most individuals diagnosed with Sleep Apnea will usually fall into one of three categories that we can make some “assumptions” about that will generally hold true.
The first group of folks that we’ll commonly encounter with Sleep Apnea will be those who typically became diagnosed because their snoring was driving their partner crazy, and they wanted to make him or her happy.
These folks will be the ones who generally don’t have any other “serious” pre-existing medical conditions and either have aggressively “attacked” whatever was causing them to suffer from Sleep Apnea or religiously wear their CPAP device every night so that their Sleep Apnea isn’t an issue for them anymore.
In cases like these…
We’ll usually find that most of these “types” of folks will be able to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy, and many will qualify for a Standard or Better rate. These will be the “types” of individuals who may even be able to qualify for a Preferred rate if they are healthy.
The second group of folks that we’ll run into will still be able to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy; however, regardless of how hard they try to treat their Sleep Apnea, most (if not all) life insurance companies are still going to consider them ineligible for a Standard or Better rate.
This means that they will most likely only be able to qualify for a Table Rate, usually ranging from Table A-H.
Are life insurance rates that are typically reserved for “higher risk” applicants and range from Table A, which would be considered the “best” or least expensive table rate, all the way to Table J, which would be considered the “worst” or most expensive table rate.
The most common reason for this will usually be because in addition to being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, these “types” of applicants will also have been diagnosed with some other “type” of pre-existing medical condition.
Fortunately for them, though, because they are correctly treating their Sleep Apnea, they will still qualify for a traditional life insurance policy in most cases.
The last group we’ll commonly encounter will be those diagnosed with Sleep Apnea who have chosen not to treat their condition for whatever reason. In cases like these, we’ll typically find that these applicants will either have to pay significantly more for their coverage or may be denied coverage altogether.
The good news is that…
Regardless of your situation, we here at IBUSA can help because we have tons of experience helping folks with all sorts of pre-existing medical conditions like yours. We are committed to helping all our clients find the “best” life insurance policy they can qualify for. This brings us to the last topic that we wanted to take a moment and discuss, which is…
What if I can’t qualify for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy?
If you cannot qualify for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy due to your sleep apnea, other options may be available.
Some insurance companies offer what is known as “guaranteed issue” life insurance policies, designed for individuals who may not qualify for traditional coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition or some lifestyle factor preventing them from qualifying for coverage.
Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance Policy:
Guaranteed-issue life insurance policies do not require applicants to take a medical examination or answer any health-related questions, which is very useful for someone denied traditional coverage. Unfortunately, guaranteed issue policies also have certain restrictions or exclusions, such as a waiting period before the full death benefit is paid or a limitation on the amount of coverage available.
Pros of guaranteed issue life insurance policies:
- No medical examination required: guaranteed issue policies do not require a medical examination, which can benefit individuals who may not qualify for traditional coverage due to their health.
- Coverage is guaranteed: as the name suggests, guaranteed issue policies offer guaranteed coverage to all applicants, regardless of their health, assuming that one meets the minimum age requirements.
Cons of guaranteed issue life insurance policies:
- Higher premiums: guaranteed issue policies may have higher premiums than traditional policies, as the insurance company is taking on more risk by offering coverage to individuals who may not be in good health.
- Lower death benefit: the death benefit for a guaranteed issue policy may be lower than a traditional policy, especially during the first few years of the policy.
- Waiting period: many guaranteed issue policies have a waiting period before the full death benefit is paid, typically two or three years if the insured dies from natural causes.
Another option available to those who can not qualify for traditional coverage is an accidental death policy. An accidental death policy.
Accidental Death Policy:
An accidental death policy is an insurance product that pays a benefit in the event of the insured individual’s death or loss of a limb due to an accident.
Pros of an accidental death benefit:
- Lower premiums: accidental death policies are typically less expensive than traditional life insurance policies, as the risk of death or injury due to an accident is generally lower than the risk of death due to other causes.
- Coverage is available to individuals who may not qualify for traditional life insurance: accidental death policies may be an option for individuals who cannot qualify for traditional coverage due to their health or other factors.
- Additional benefits: some accidental death policies may include additional benefits, such as coverage for loss of limb or other injuries resulting from an accident.
Cons of an accidental death benefit:
- Limited coverage: accidental death policies only provide coverage in the event of death or injury due to an accident and do not cover illnesses or natural causes of death.
- Exclusions: accidental death policies may have exclusions, such as activities or occupations that are considered high-risk and are not covered by the policy.
- Limited benefit: the benefit provided by an accidental death policy may be limited, especially compared to a traditional life insurance policy.
How can I help ensure I get the “best life insurance” for me?
To help ensure that you get the best life insurance for you, it is recommended that you follow these steps:
- Determine your coverage needs: consider the amount of coverage you need and the length of time you need it. It would be best to consider any financial obligations, such as a mortgage or children’s education expenses, that you must provide for.
- Shop around: compare quotes from multiple insurance companies to find the policy that best meets your needs and budget. Be sure to compare the same type and amount of coverage to ensure that you are making an apples-to-apples comparison.
- Consider the financial stability of the insurance company: choose a financially stable insurance company with a good track record of paying claims. You can check the financial ratings of insurance companies at independent rating agencies such as A.M. Best or Moody’s.
- Review the policy terms and conditions: carefully read the policy terms and conditions to understand what is and is not covered by the policy and any exclusions or limitations.
Lastly, it would be best to work with a licensed insurance agent or broker who is experienced with working with individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea and can answer any questions you have throughout the application process.
By following these steps, you can help ensure you get the best life insurance policy for your needs.