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The best life insurance companies for sleep apnea in 2020

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.

Amanda Shih author photo

Amanda Shih

Published November 20, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • 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

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.

The best life insurance companies for people with sleep apnea

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.

These are the best insurance companies based on the health classifications available to applicants with sleep apnea. Companies with which you could receive the best classification, Preferred or Preferred Plus — and thus the lowest premiums — are marked Excellent, while companies that offer less favorable classifications (Standard or Substandard) and higher premiums to people with sleep apnea are marked Fair.

LIFE INSURANCE COMPANYRANKING
AIGExcellent
BrighthouseExcellent
LincolnExcellent
Mutual of OmahaExcellent
PrincipalExcellent
PrudentialExcellent
SBLIExcellent
BannerFair
Pacific LifeFair
ProtectiveFair
TransamericaFair

Methodology: Based on Policygenius data and underwriting guides provided by each of the 11 carriers that offer policies through the Policygenius marketplace for an adult with mild sleep apnea in 2020.

How does sleep apnea affect life insurance?

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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What factors are taken into account?

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.

Height-to-weight ratio

“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.

Date of 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.

Apnea hypopnea index and oxygen levels

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.

Treatment

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.

Best life insurance companies for sleep apnea FAQ:

Does sleep apnea disqualify you from life insurance?

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.

How does sleep apnea affect life insurance premiums?

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.

Do all life insurance companies treat sleep apnea the same way?

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.

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked in nonfiction book publishing and freelance content marketing. Amanda has a B.A. in literature and communication from New York University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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