Life Insurance for Sleep apnea patients: Compare quotes to find the best life insurance rates

Caucasian male with sleep apnea wears a CPAP machine mask in bed.

If you have sleep apnea, make sure you’re prepared to document the steps you and your doctor have taken to control the disease when you shop for life insurance.

Gerry Scholz, national marketing director for True Blue Life Insurance, said sleep apnea cases often are complicated by underlying medical conditions, such as obesity and heart disease. Premiums vary in each case, depending on the severity of the disease and the ability of applicants to keep their sleep apnea under control.

When it comes to price, “there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all,” he said.

The American Sleep Association says an estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, an involuntary cessation of breathing that happens during sleep. If not treated properly, it may lead to a variety of ailments that shorten life, including high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Your life insurance costs will depend, in part, on whether your sleep apnea is mild, moderate or severe. Your doctor’s diagnosis will help underwriters determine which “risk class” you should be placed in. The better your risk class, the lower your premiums will be.

For example, a “preferred plus” classification means you will spend less than if you receive a “preferred” or “standard” risk designation.

Ed Hinerman of the New Mexico-based Hinerman Group insurance agency, said many policyholders with sleep apnea end up with “standard” ratings because they don’t compare quotes from a variety of carriers.

Each insurer has its own underwriting standards and its own comfort level with sleep apnea. There are companies that will give applicants a “preferred plus” rating, even for severe sleep apnea, if they are convinced that the disease is being treated properly, he said.


Severity of illnessLikely Life Insurance Rating Classifications*What Policy Underwriters Consider When They Rate Your Policy
Mild to moderate Sleep Apnea that is controlled“Preferred plus” or “best”Some life insurance carriers offer their best rates to people with sleep apnea when the conditions are optimal for longevity. An optimal case includes:
1. Mild to moderate severity
2. Good treatment compliance, such as wearing a CPAP machine regularly.
3. Absence of other risk factors, such as obesity, tobacco use or heart disease.
Moderate Sleep Apnea that is untreatedBetween “standard” and Table 4A “standard” rating will lead to a premium that is about double the cost of a “preferred plus’ rating. A Table 2 rating costs about 50 percent more than a “standard” rating and Table 4 costs about twice as much as the “standard” rating.
Severe sleep apnea that is treated.“Standard”A severe sleep apnea patient who is compliant with treatment will likely receive a “standard’ rating.
Keep in mind that every case is different and that each individual brings his or her own unique medical history to the table, so decisions can vary.
Severe sleep apnea that is untreatedDeclineSevere sleep apnea that goes untreated is likely to result in a declined application.

Source: The information for this chart was provided by Chris Huntley, co-founder and director of marketing of JRC Insurance Group,
*Each case of sleep apnea is different. Your classification and costs will depend on your overall health and your insurer’s underwriting guidelines.

Following doctor’s orders

Terry Kloss, an insurance agent for True Blue Life Insurance, said carriers typically want to know how compliant applicants are with their doctors’ treatment instructions. He noted that he never has seen an applicant turned down for a life policy when they are working closely with their doctor to combat the disease.

Sleep apnea often is discovered by doctors when patients complain of fatigue or snoring, said Jason Cozzetti, an agent for True Blue Life Insurance in Washington state.

“When they go in for physicals, doctors ask ‘How are you sleeping? Do you snore at night?'” he said. “That can trigger a sleep apnea notation in your medical record. They may recommend a sleep study. If you don’t do the study and you apply for life insurance, most companies will delay or postpone you.”

Getting lower rates

Doctors frequently prescribe continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines for sleep apnea patients. If worn while sleeping, these machines supply steady air pressure to prevent the airway from closing. This can make you more insurable.

“If you are compliant, you still can qualify for a preferred health rating at most insurance companies,” Cozzetti said.

In contrast, if you refuse to use a prescribed CPAP machine, your insurer may place you in you in a rated health class that results in higher insurance costs.

“It could be a 100 percent difference between ‘preferred best’ and ‘standard.'” Kloss said.

Simplified underwriting allows you to buy life insurance without having to see a doctor or take a medical exam. Many people find this to be convenient, but you typically can find lower premiums for sleep apnea patients if you buy a policy that requires a medical exam, Cozzetti said.

An exam gives insurers greater assurance that you’re a good life insurance risk. “It tends to be cheaper in the long run,” he said.

Life insurance generally costs more as people age. Brian Ashe, president of Brian Ashe & Associates, LTD. and a board member of Life Happens, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about life insurance issues, said sleep apnea can progress over time, making it more difficult for the elderly to obtain policies.

“A narrowing of the nasal passages with age, combined with sleep apnea, aggravates the situation,” he said.

Appealing a decision

If you think a life insurance company hasn’t underwritten you properly for sleep apnea, you may appeal the decision. In order to be reconsidered, you may need to demonstrate to the carrier that an error or omission was made, however.

“You have to have some sort of evidence to show the underwriter did not have all the information,” Kloss explained.

It helps if you work with your doctor. Ask him or her to provide documentation that your condition is under control and your long-term prognosis is good.

If your CPAP machine has a monitoring device, your physician can provide the insurance company with an accurate record of how often you use the machine, possibly strengthening your appeal.

If you have had surgery to correct your sleep apnea and a sleep study has shown that the disease no longer is a problem for you, make sure your insurer sees the report.

2 replies
    • Brian Greenberg
      Brian Greenberg says:

      Our pleasure. As long has your sleep apnea is being treated and controlled, it does not have a very negative impact on rates. Please note that different insurance companies handle this differently. Preferred Best is possible with some companies, and other companies a Standard rate is more likely.


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