*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
In general, carriers typically want to know how compliant applicants are with their doctor’s treatment instructions. Applicants are rarely 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, according to Jason Cozzetti, an agent for True Blue Life Insurance in Washington state.
“When they go in for physicals, the doctor asks, ‘How are you sleeping? Do you snore at night?'” Cozzetti said. “That can trigger a sleep apnea notation in your medical record. The doctor 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 people with sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea and wear one of these while sleeping, it supplies steady air pressure to prevent the airway from closing. This can make you more insurable and, if you remain compliant, you may qualify for a preferred health rating with many companies.
In contrast, if you refuse to use a prescribed CPAP machine, your insurer could place you in a rated health class that results in higher insurance costs. There’s a major difference between “preferred” and “standard” ratings. That difference could cost hundreds of dollars in higher premiums.
Simplified underwriting allows you to buy life insurance without having to see a doctor or take a medical exam. While this option may be convenient, people with sleep apnea can often find lower premiums if they buy a policy that requires a medical exam. That’s because it gives insurers greater assurance that you’re a good life insurance risk.
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 older adults to obtain policies.
“A narrowing of the nasal passages with age, combined with sleep apnea, aggravates the situation,” Ashe said.
Appealing a decision
If you think a life insurance company hasn’t underwritten you properly for sleep apnea, you can appeal the decision. To be reconsidered, you may need to demonstrate that an error or omission was made. It helps if you work with your physician. Ask your doctor 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’ve 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.