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Sleep apnea may raise your life insurance costs, but with consistent treatment and the right insurance provider, you’ll be eligible for the best prices.
Updated January 4, 2021
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Disclaimer: The content supplied here may be impacted by COVID-19. Contact a Policygenius agent for free to find out more.
Nearly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that causes disruptions in your breathing as you sleep. A sleep apnea diagnosis can increase the price of your life insurance policy due to its associated health risks, like heart disease.
But, by choosing the right life insurance company and managing your symptoms, you can still find the coverage you need at an affordable price. Here are the best companies for people with sleep apnea, and how your diagnosis and treatment will impact your final premium.
You may receive higher life insurance quotes due to the health conditions and risks caused by sleep apnea
Some life insurance companies offer more competitive pricing to people with sleep apnea than others
It’s still possible to get an affordable policy if you have a mild or well-managed case
While it’s possible to improve sleep apnea with regular treatment, the health risks associated with the diagnosis mean it can affect your life insurance premiums. However, every provider weighs a sleep apnea diagnosis differently.
There are three different types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea — The throat is obstructed by things like swollen tonsils, an enlarged tongue, or muscles relaxing. It’s also often caused by excess weight.
Central sleep apnea — There aren’t any throat obstructions, but the brain does not send the proper signals to the body to keep breathing.
Mixed sleep apnea — A combination of the above.
Life insurance companies use the underwriting process to determine the risk of insuring you based on your lifestyle, health, age, and other risk factors, like dangerous hobbies or recent driving violations.
Sleep apnea increases your insurance risk because, if left untreated, the disruptions to your sleep and breathing can lead to daytime sleepiness (and therefore injuries or accidents) and other potentially serious conditions, like high blood pressure and heart disease. Luckily, it’s not a one-size-fits-all assessment. If you’re managing your sleep apnea well and don’t have additional health concerns, it’s still possible to find an affordable policy.
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Many factors contribute to the risks of sleep apnea. While some are things you can’t control, like age and gender — men over 65 tend to be more susceptible — preventable factors, like smoking and heart disease, also contribute to worsening sleep apnea. Weight plays a role too; if you’re overweight, you are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, but your weight may have a greater impact on your premiums than your sleep apnea.
An underwriter will look for evidence that you’re treating your sleep apnea and any related conditions and monitoring them carefully. If you consistently use a device to improve your breathing overnight and report fewer sleep disturbances, you’re more likely to get more favorable premiums. But if there are indications that your sleep apnea isn’t well-managed, like if you’re a smoker or have recently had an accident caused by lack of sleep, your premiums will be higher.
“Sleep apnea can have a direct correlation to being overweight,” says Policygenius Senior Associate Warren Robbins. “Typically that is any Body Mass Index greater than 30. Underwriting would generally start with your build before any related conditions you may or may not have,” he adds.
If your sleep apnea is related to being overweight, it may make more sense to seek an insurance provider that’s friendlier toward your build first. An independent insurance broker can help you identify companies that will offer more affordable quotes for your height-to-weight ratio and sleep apnea diagnosis.
The life insurance company will likely request an Attending Physician Statement (APS), which allows your physician to provide a statement summarizing your history with sleep apnea, any treatments you’ve undergone, and your prognosis.
Some insurance providers look more favorably on those who have had a sleep apnea diagnosis for six months or more because it’s easier to assess the severity of your symptoms and your ability to manage the condition long term.
Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed using some form of sleep study or monitoring. The life insurance company will want the results of your most recent study, which will include the following data:
Apnea hypopnea index (AHI)/respiratory disturbance index (RDI): number of pauses in breathing or instances of shallow breathing per hour of sleep
Oxygen saturation: a measure of your blood oxygen levels, which decreases if breathing is paused or shallow
An AHI of 5-15 indicates mild sleep apnea, while 15-30 is considered moderate and more than 30 is considered severe. Oxygen saturation levels up to 86% are considered mild, 80-85% moderate, and under 80% are considered severe.
Treatments for sleep apnea vary but likely include a combination of the following:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or mouth guard to keep your airways open while you’re sleeping
Managing associated conditions, like excess weight or heart disease
Adjusting your sleeping position
Surgery to decrease or remove airway obstructions
You’ll be asked which treatments you’re pursuing and whether your treatment is consistent, which your APS will confirm. If you’ve shown signs of consistent treatment and improvement, you’ll receive more favorable premiums.
Note that even if you’re not asked for an APS, you should be honest about the severity of your sleep apnea and how often you use your prescribed treatment. Concealing or misrepresenting information on your life insurance application can jeopardize your coverage or keep you from buying a policy at all.
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In general, chronic conditions like sleep apnea will result in higher life insurance quotes, but if you’re taking active steps to treat your condition, you’ll be rewarded with more affordable final premiums. Even if you’re not the picture of perfect health, you can get the right life insurance at the best price by working with an independent broker to shop around and following two important rules: Don’t lie on your application, and do whatever you can to treat and improve your condition.
Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, some insurers are modifying processes and/or imposing coverage restrictions on certain health conditions or age groups. Speak to a Policygenius agent for free to find out how to get the most affordable policy.
Having sleep apnea will not automatically disqualify you from buying life insurance. You may receive higher quotes, but if you’re treating your condition and otherwise showing better or improving health, you may not pay much more.
If you have severe sleep apnea, are not adhering to a consistent treatment regimen for sleep apnea, or are contributing to the risks of your condition (e.g., by continuing to smoke cigarettes), your premiums will be more expensive.
Some insurers treat sleep apnea more favorably, but the best life insurance company for you will depend on your entire profile, including your age, other health conditions, and family health history.
Amanda Shih is a life insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has a passion for making complex topics relatable and understandable, and has been writing about insurance since 2017 with specialities in life insurance cost and policy types. She's previously written for Jetty and LegalZoom.
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