The Silent Killer—How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Life Insurance

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that affects more than 18 million Americans.

Sleep apnea may impact your life insurance rates depending on your history of treatment, the severity of the disorder, and whether or not your have any other related health conditions. Sleep apnea most commonly affects male, middle-aged (and older) adults as well as people who are overweight.

In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know to get life insurance if you have sleep apnea disorder, or if you’ve been through a sleep apnea related life insurance denial—and we’ll show you how to get the best rates.

Why Does Sleep Apnea Impact Life Insurance Rates?

Make no mistake about it—if your medical history indicates that you suffer from sleep apnea your insurance carrier will consider that when determining your life insurance rates and health class.

But why?

Life insurance carriers know that sleep apnea is a dangerous condition—and more importantly they know that it is linked with other life threatening conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, obesity, and diabetes.

So not only are sleep apnea suffers more likely to suddenly pass away in their sleep, but they are also more likely to suffer from an array of life threatening diseases…And that makes sleep apnea suffers higher risk customers for life insurance companies—hence the higher rates and lower health class rating.

But life insurance carriers also know that there are three types of sleep apnea and that each differs in the severity of the condition and the subsequent risk posed to the insured.

The three types of sleep apnea are:

    Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  1. This is the most serious and dangerous form of sleep apnea. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly starts and stops during sleep. This is caused by a block of your air passage. The blockage is usually caused when the soft tissues in the rear of your throat open and close during sleep. The blockage can also be caused when your throat muscles intermittently relax. The best indicator of this obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.

Central Sleep Apnea

  1. If you suffer from central sleep apnea your breathing also starts and stops during sleep. Central sleep apnea is different from obstructive sleep apnea because it is not caused by the blockage of your air passage. Central sleep apnea occurs because your brain fails to communicate with the muscles that control breathing. Central sleep apnea can also be caused by sleeping at high altitude or other existing conditions such as heart failure and stroke. This form of sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
Mixed Sleep Apnea
  1. Mixed sleep apnea is exactly what is sounds like—it’s a combination of central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. During mixed sleep apnea the brain partially wakes the sleeper to signal breathing to resume resulting in poor quality sleep. This conditional is commonly detected when obstructive sleep apnea is treated with CPAP.

Sleep Apnea Diagram

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

How Does Sleep Apnea Impact My Life Insurance Health Rating Class?

Life insurance companies use a “health class rating” as one factor to price your policy. During the underwriting process your life insurance company underwriter will determine what category of health rating class you fall into based on your age, lifestyle, family health history, and overall health status. The most common health rating classes are: select, preferred, and standard. Many life insurance providers have their own names rating classes.

The better your health rating class, the lower your premium. Sleep apnea will negatively affect your rating class if it’s uncovered during the underwriting process. Be sure to be honest with your life insurance agent if you suffer from sleep apnea—they are here to represent you and present the best case to the life insurance company.

The level of treatment you pursue and your consistency with treatment will help improve your health class. The presence of related conditions like obesity or high blood pressure will negatively impact your rate class.

If I Treat My Sleep Apnea Will My Life Insurance Rates Decrease?

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that needs long-term management and treatment. Some of our clients have benefitted from lifestyle changes (like losing weight), mouthpieces and mouth guards, surgery, and breathing devices. Behavior therapy is also a good treatment option. Every case is unique. You should consult your doctor to determine the right course of action for you.

Life insurance carriers generally look favorably on clients that proactively manage their sleep apnea. A good life insurance agent will work together with you to build a favorable case and present it to your life insurance underwriters during the application process.

Regardless of the life insurance implications, you should know that sleep apnea is a risky condition. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a number of high risk conditions such as:

  1. An increase in the risk of heart failure
  2. An increase in arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)
  3. An increase in the chance of work-related accidents or driving accidents
  4. An increase in the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
  5. Cardiovascular and memory problems
  6. Weight gain, impotence, and headaches

I Suffer From Sleep Apnea—How Can I Prepare For My Life Insurance Application

There’s four steps your can take to prepare for your life insurance application if you have sleep apnea:

  1. Visit your doctor and determine an appropriate treatment regimen.
  2. Schedule follow up visits with your doctor and request additional appointments to prove that you’re actively managing the chronic condition.
  3. If necessary, purchase a CPAP machine and use it regularly.
  4. Complete a before and after treatment sleep study to provide proof to the life insurance underwriters that your treatment plan is working.

Proof of successful treatment will make your life insurance underwriting process easier and result in a lower premium. Always work with an experienced life insurance professional that knows the challenges of your condition and knows how to best position your application with each insurance carrier.

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