Many people suffer from sleep apnea, although they don’t even know it.
The most common element of sleep apnea, besides burning a good night’s sleep, sleep apnea also has potential for more severe health risks.
If you have sleep apnea then most likely you’ve been suggested by your doctor to wear your CPAP.
For many that are claustrophobic or have different intolerances to a CPAP machine, sometimes a dental device is recommended.
These devices are often used mainly for more moderate cases of sleep apnea and for those who are not obese.
What is Sleep Apnea? (And Why It Hurts Rates!)
Sleep apnea was once mostly associated with snoring, but that’s hardly the only reason for concern.
Sleep apnea is actually a medical condition that can affect overall health and longevity.
Since it refers to difficulty breathing while sleeping, sleep apnea can cause a reduction in oxygen in the bloodstream.
Sleep apnea leads to drowsiness during the daytime hours.
That drowsiness could cause car accidents, which in and of itself is a risk factor for life insurance.
But of greater concern is the likelihood that sleep apnea can cause lung damage, cardiovascular issues, and hypertension, stroke, or heart failure – if left untreated, all high-risk factors for life insurance.
There’s also evidence sleep apnea increases the chance of depression.
Various studies have indicated sleep apnea causes a significant increase in the incidence of cancer.
Sleep apnea can be caused by an obstruction of the upper airway, but it can also be the result of the brain’s inability to properly regulate breathing.
Obesity and cigarette smoking are also common causes.
Sleep apnea is more common in men, and the incidence increases with age.
And though it is more common in people over the age of 40, it can also affect children.
There’s also some indication sleep apnea may be genetic.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Central Sleep Apnea
The first is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. It’s caused by a blockage of the airway.
The soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
OSA is the more common form of sleep apnea.
The second is central sleep apnea.
It’s not caused by a blocked airway, but by the brain failing to signal to the muscles to breathe.
This failure is due to instability in the respiratory control center of the brain.
Central sleep apnea is generally the more serious of the two.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
If obesity is a contributing factor, the most obvious treatment is weight loss.
Sleep apnea can also be alleviated by proper sleeping position.
For example, if you have the condition, it’s best to avoid sleeping on your back.
Smoking is also a factor since it has a negative impact on the respiratory system in general.
Eliminating smoking can improve overall breathing function, reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea, and can also lower your rates as life insurance for smokers can be costly.
Excess alcohol consumption has also been linked to sleep apnea, and a reduction in consumption is strongly recommended.
With obstructive sleep apnea, there are a variety of causes for a blockage.
These can include having large tonsils, a large tongue, a small jawbone, or even a large neck size.
It could also be the result of a nasal obstruction, sinus problems, allergies, or a deviated septum.
It’s possible that sinus problems or allergies can be treated medically.
And of course, tonsils and a deviated septum can be surgically repaired.
The most specific treatment for sleep apnea is a machine known as a continuous positive airway pressure machine, better known as a CPAP.
The system uses an air pump connected to a mask worn over the face.
It provides airflow during inhalation to prevent the airway from collapsing.
A CPAP not only relieves the symptoms of sleep apnea, like difficulty breathing and snoring, but it enables the user to get a deep and restful sleep.
It is this absence of sleep that causes health conditions, including drowsiness and hypertension.
The unit takes some getting used to but generally produces very positive results in dealing with the condition.
For some, use of a CPAP may be a temporary measure until other efforts, like quitting smoking and losing weight, take effect.
But for others, use can become permanent.
Getting Approved for Term Life with Sleep Apnea
When getting approved term life insurance with sleep apnea, the first thing that the insurance company will want to know is are you wearing your CPAP on a regular basis. They’re also going to want to see the results of wearing your CPAP, also known as a sleep study.
FYI, I read of a case where an individual was diagnosed with sleep apnea many years ago but never saw enough extreme symptoms to do anything about it. When applying for life insurance it came back on her APS and Banner Life Insurance Company immediately wanted to see a sleep study before they were able to proceed. But the sleep study was not covered by the insurance company, so it was rather pricey at around $1500. Turns out that they were able to do a home sleep study at a reduced cost, and asked if their doctor would sign off on it. (They ordered the sleep study kit online). Sure enough they would, and they saved well over $1000 in doing so.
How do you make sure you get the most affordable rate if you have sleep apnea?
The first thing they had to realize regarding insurance companies is that certain carriers are much more aggressive in writing certain conditions; this is common among all high risk life insurance. If you got a quote from a carrier and it seems rather high, it’s best to shop around to make sure that you explored all options. In working with over 60 of the top life insurance companies, that’s what we do for our clients.
To ensure that we get you partnered with the right insurance company, we typically will ask several questions regarding your sleep apnea to make sure that we uncover all the facts.
Here’s a quick rundown of the questions that we ask before we try to find you the best rate with the best carrier.
The Degree of Sleep Apnea is the Main Factor
Sleep apnea can be indicated by loud snoring, waking repeatedly, drowsiness, lack of energy during the day, morning headaches, or a sore throat.
The final determination is made by a specific medical test.
If you show symptoms of sleep apnea, you’ll be given a polysomnogram, more commonly known as a sleep study.
At one time, sleep studies were done at sleep disorder centers.
But as technology has improved, a sleep apnea test can now be done at home!
You wear an electronic device – generally on your hip – that’s connected to your face.
It electronically transmits and records your physical activity while you sleep.
The results are then analyzed by a sleep specialist.
This test will determine not only the existence of sleep apnea, but also the degree of the condition.
If you have a mild level of sleep apnea with no related health conditions, you may get only a slight increase in your insurance premium.
With certain insurance companies, it’s even possible that you’ll get a preferred rate.
Naturally, you’ll need to be a non-smoker with no other health-related conditions.
If the condition is more serious, you may still get an approval, but it will come with a much higher premium.
It’s even possible the amount of your death benefit will be approved at less than the amount requested.
The type of sleep apnea you have is also a factor.
OSA is not only the more common form, but it’s also more treatable.
You’re more likely to be approved and at better rates than if you have central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Questionnaire
1. Please provide date of diagnosis.
2. Has the sleep apnea been diagnosed as obstructive, central, mix, or unknown?
3. Has the severity of the sleep apnea been stable, increasing, decreasing, fluctuating up and down, or unknown?
4. Has an overnight sleep study; polysomnogram been done? No. Yes. If yes, what date? What was the sleep apnea index? What was the oxygen saturation percentage?
5. How is sleep apnea being treated? No treatment. Medicated. Weight loss. CPAP mask. Surgery (UPPP). Surgery (Tracheotomy). Other.
6. Does the proposed insured have any of the following: Overweight. Arrhythmia. Coronary artery disease. Stroke. Depression. Lung disease. Other.
7. Does the proposed insured use any alcohol? If yes, please describe usage.
8. Does the proposed insured use any medications for any reason?
Life Insurance Rates with Sleep Apnea
As with most high risk conditions, people are expected to pay more for their life insurance premium if they suffered from sleep apnea. With several companies being more aggressive in their underwriting, it’s actually possible to get approved for preferred (sometimes preferred best) even if you have sleep apnea.
If you can demonstrate that and you have no other conditions, then you, too, can enjoy cheap term life insurance.
Recently we had a guy call in that was looking for a 30 year term life insurance policy. His only issue was that he had sleep apnea. He had been diagnosed with mild obstructive sleep apnea almost 4 years ago. He has not had any problems since his diagnosis because he was put on a CPAP machine. His local agent had no experience insuring anyone with sleep apnea. He was unaware of which carriers were more aggressive when it comes to underwriting sleep apnea as well. We were able to get him approved at a Preferred rating from Transamerica.
Can You Get Preferred Plus Rates with Sleep Apnea?
Actually, yes, in some cases. We have pinpointed a carrier that can offer up to Preferred Best on permanent products for clients with a history of sleep apnea . Obviously, not all cases will qualify, so what makes the difference between a Preferred Best sleep apnea case and one that may end up Standard or worse? Two words: compliance and control.
Like most impairments, the carrier’s willingness and ability to make a great offer on a sleep apnea case will depend largely on the proposed insured’s compliance with their physician’s prescribed course of treatment, as well as the treatment’s actual effectiveness. What could that look like? Consider the following:
- 50-year-old male who qualifies for Preferred Best rates with the exception of an abnormal sleep study two years ago.
- A diagnosis of moderate obstructive sleep apnea was made at the time, and a CPAP was prescribed.
- Two subsequent studies (one six months post diagnosis, a second six months prior to the application) were normal.
- The documented compliance and control enabled the carrier to offer Preferred Best.
- Before we all dust off old sleep apnea cases and get them ready to submit, there are some additional factors to consider:
- The initial diagnosis was obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), rather than central, or mixed apnea .
- OSA was categorized as no worse than “moderate”.
- The prescribed treatment demonstrated resolution of the symptoms.
- The proposed insured was a nonsmoker.
Having underwritten an OSA case or two over the years, the big challenge here is the subsequent sleep studies. In the vast majority of cases, the proposed insured fails to return for the recommended follow ups that were the lynchpin of the case described above. The real issue is the documentation of compliance and control. It may not be enough that the proposed insured “uses their CPAP”. Without the subsequent sleep studies to create the paper trail, the underwriter is left with very little choice but to assume that there is still a potential issue, resulting in Standard or worse.
After you complete the initial paperwork for the insurance policy, you have to take a medical exam, unless you have opted to enroll in a no medical exam life insurance policy, which will come with higher premium rates. With the medical exam, they are going to check your basic vitals. The paramedic is going to require a blood sample as well as a urine sample during the medical exam.
To get cheaper life insurance, you need to be in the best health possible.
Start a diet and stick to it. Putting down the junk food and replacing it with veggies, will help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol. A great way to supplement the diet is by getting regular exercise. This will also help you lose weight and lower your heart rate.
Now, let’s talk about those cigarettes. It’s a disgusting habit. If you didn’t know, it’s awful for your health and your wallet. Smokers pay premiums doubled what everyone else pays. Make a choice, cheap life insurance or smoking.
In most cases, sleep apnea is not a serious health condition, but insurance companies might still jack up your rights. Each company has different views on giving insurance to those with sleep apnea.
Find a company who doesn’t put your premiums off the charts because of your apnea. Sure, you could comb through companies to find one who is apnea-favorable, or we can point you in the right direction.
Make sure you speak with an experienced agent today!