Ask around and you’ll likely find that many people take sleep apnea lightly. This is likely because most people are unaware of the effects of sleep apnea. Most think of sleep apnea as the cause of loud snoring and shortness of breath during the night. Unfortunately, sleep apnea can lead to a lot more than snoring. In fact, if you left untreated, sleep apnea can be responsible for other risks:
Certainly, this information should help you understand why life insurance companies are concerned about applicants who have sleep apnea, especially if it’s not being properly treated. The American Sleep Apnea Association reports that over 22 million people in the U.S. have at least one of three types of sleep apnea.
Now if you are reading this article, the chances are you have sleep apnea and certainly don’t need a lot of information about it, but you do need information about how life insurance companies look at sleep apnea.
Before we get into the underwriting of applicants with sleep apnea, let’s first discuss the different types of sleep apnea (there are three).
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This is a type of sleep apnea that is caused when your airway is blocked, usually when your tongue collapses against your soft palate and then your soft palate collapses against the back of your throat which causes your airway to become blocked.
Central Sleep Apnea – With central sleep apnea your airway isn’t blocked; instead, your brain doesn’t send a signal to breathe to your muscles.
Complex Sleep Apnea – With complex sleep apnea, as the name suggests, there is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. When apnea takes place, your brain rouses you while sleeping and sends a signal for you to breathe. For people that have severe sleep apnea, this wake-up call signal from your brain can happen hundreds of times a night preventing you from getting a healthy night’s sleep. For these patients, a PAP (positive airway pressure) machine worn nightly provides a successful treatment.
When you apply for life insurance with sleep apnea, the underwriters are typically more concerned about the complications that accompany many patients with the disease. These secondary diseases typically include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems, and severe fatigue.
First of all, it’s good to know that because you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, doesn’t always mean your application will be declined. What’s most important to underwriters is how you are managing your sleep apnea and the effects it has been having on your health.
The means that your underwriters are going to take a very close look at your doctor’s plan for treatment and whether you are following through with the plan and taking it seriously. Knowing this, you should expect the underwriting process to take longer than usual and do everything you can to facilitate the communication between your physician and the underwriter.
When you answer “yes” to the sleep apnea question on the health questionnaire it will likely trigger a supplemental questionnaire for the disease with the following additional questions:
Which type of sleep apnea were you diagnosed with?
How severe is your condition?
What kind of treatment has your doctor prescribed and are you following it?
Did you have to have surgery?
Is your sleep apnea under control now?
Are you taking the necessary steps to help manage the condition like losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing your use of alcohol?
Do you have any other conditions like high blood pressure or COPD?
Also, if it has been a long while since your last sleep study, your underwriter may order a current one to confirm how severe your sleep apnea is.
If you are a sleep apnea patient but have taken a proactive course in managing your disease, it’s likely that qualifying for life insurance will be much easier than you anticipated. In fact, with the right independent agent, your chances of getting preferred rates are increased because most independent agents represent more than a dozen insurance carriers.
If you are denied coverage, it’s usually because you didn’t participate in managing your disease and didn’t comply with your doctor’s recommendations or didn’t make your follow-up visits.
Not everyone has mild to moderate sleep apnea and even if your condition is severe, you can still get quality life insurance coverage if you’re dealing with an independent agent who enjoys a challenge.
You can do this if you are willing to make some changes in your life. You can improve your chances of getting affordable quality life insurance if you are willing to take some steps necessary to reduce the complications of your disease BEFORE APPLYING FOR COVERAGE.
The three main things that you can change are losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol. And never take for granted that just because one insurer turned you down for coverage that all others will also.
Believe it or not, independent agents that have been around for a while prefer challenges rather than just taking an order. When you partner with an independent insurance agent that specializes in taking on difficult cases, you are partnering with an advocate who will be in your corner every step of the way.
Independent agents don’t get paid unless your policy is issued. This means that your agent is going to do everything within their power to get your policy issued at a rate you can afford. Independent agents represent a lot of insurance companies and they have learned the sweet spots of every one of them. They are not going to waste your time and theirs by sending your application to an insurance company unless they are pretty sure that the outcome will be positive and your rate will be affordable.