Life insurance for people with COPD & asthma: What you need to know

People with lung conditions such as asthma or COPD can still get life insurance. Your rates and the types of policies available to you will depend on your specific diagnosis, treatment, and overall health.

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By

Katherine MurbachEditor & Licensed Life Insurance AgentKatherine Murbach is a life insurance and annuities editor, licensed life insurance agent, and former sales associate at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Edited by

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.
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Reviewed by

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®Certified Financial PlannerIan Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

Updated|7 min read

Expert reviewedExpert reviewedThis article has been reviewed by a member of ourFinancial Review Council to ensure all sources, statistics, and claims meet the highest standard for accurate and unbiased advice.Learn more about oureditorial review process.

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Can you buy life insurance if you have a lung condition?

Yes, you can still buy life insurance if you have a lung condition. As with other medical conditions, insurance companies will look at your diagnosis and your treatment plan to determine the cost of your life insurance.

Generally speaking, mild lung diseases pose less risk to insurers, so they’re less likely to impact your application and the cost you pay for life insurance.

But conditions that may require supplemental oxygen, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), will have a more significant impact on your premiums.

It’s also difficult to get approved for a policy if you have a severe lung condition and currently smoke. Smoking is a common cause of COPD, a group of conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. [1] Smoking also accounts for up to eight out of every 10 COPD-related deaths, according to the CDC. [2]

When you apply for life insurance coverage, the insurance company will assign you a health classification, which reflects how risky they believe you are to insure. But since each insurer has its own guidelines for evaluating risk, you may get a higher health classification and cheaper premiums with one company than another.

If you have a lung condition and you’re not sure where to start, a Policygenius expert can help you compare options from top life insurance companies in one place.

Health classifications, explained
  • Preferred Plus offers the most affordable premiums. It’s usually assigned to people who have no or one well-controlled or resolved minor health condition and no family history of conditions like heart disease or cancer.

  • Preferred offers the second-lowest premiums. It’s usually assigned to people with one or two well-controlled or resolved minor conditions and no family history of conditions like heart disease or cancer.

  • Standard Plus offers the third-lowest premiums. It’s usually assigned to people who may have well-controlled or resolved mild-to-moderate conditions and who may have one death from heart disease or cancer in their immediate family.

  • Standard offers the fourth-lowest premiums. It’s usually assigned to people with well-controlled or resolved moderate health conditions and who may have more than one immediate family member who died of heart disease or cancer.

  • Table Ratings are assigned to applicants with more serious health conditions and are divided into 10 sub ratings — table 1 has the lowest premiums and table 10 the highest.

  • Tobacco/Smoker ratings are assigned to people who currently use tobacco or nicotine products or have in the past 12 months. These ratings can also be applied to frequent marijuana users. There are usually three categories for people in this rating: Preferred, Standard, and Table Ratings.

Best life insurance policy types if you have a lung condition

The best type of life insurance policy for you will depend on your financial needs and goals, in addition to any health conditions that may impact the types of policies available to you. 

If you’re not sure which type of life insurance is best for your specific situation, a Policygenius expert can help you compare options.

Term life

Term life is the best and most affordable option for most people looking to protect their income and provide their family with a financial safety net to cover any debts — including a mortgage or any other type of personal loans. It only lasts for a set term, usually between 10 and 30 years, and doesn’t come with many rules or tax restrictions.

→ Learn more about term life insurance

Whole life

Whole life and other types of permanent life insurance are good options for high-net-worth individuals looking to use life insurance to diversify their investment portfolio, or people with long-term financial obligations or coverage needs, like dependents who require lifelong care. 

Whole life never expires and comes with a cash value that earns interest in addition to the death benefit payout, but it’s usually five to 15 times more expensive than traditional term policies.

→ Learn more about whole life insurance

Living benefit riders

Living benefit riders are add-ons to your policy that ensure some of your life insurance death benefit is accessible while you’re alive if you meet certain criteria. 

Most companies offer an accelerated death benefit rider for terminal illness, which allows you to access a portion of your death benefit while still alive if diagnosed with a qualifying terminal illness.

Each company has its own criteria for when the rider is activated, but most riders are activated when you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness and expected to have six to 24 months to live. 

Other living benefits riders, including long-term care riders, may not be available to people with certain high-risk health conditions. 

→ Learn more about life insurance riders

Best life insurance companies for lung conditions

Methodology

Why you can trust our picks

Our recommendations are based on internal and external expert analysis, as well as our Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. When reviewing a life insurance company, our editorial team uses a proprietary scoring rubric with five factors — price, policy details, financial strength, transparency, and customer experience — to assign an unbiased rating between one and five stars. These ratings are also taken into consideration as part of our company recommendations. We don’t get paid for our reviews.

Our reviews and recommendations can help you find a reliable insurer for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you depends on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can support you during the application process to ensure you get the right coverage for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

Read more about our reviews methodology

Legal & General America, which also does business as Banner Life and William Penn, can offer up to Preferred Plus rates — the top health classification with the most affordable rates — for people with mild or exercise-induced asthma. 

If you take albuterol or another bronchodilator daily, you can qualify for up to Standard rates — the third-best health classification.

Mild asthma causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. [3] But if your asthma is severe and you experience asthma attacks that require hospital visits, your premiums will be higher. Legal & General America offers competitive rates across many of its health classifications, so you’ll likely pay less with Legal & General America than with another insurance company.

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2024 Policygenius award winner

Corebridge Financial

Corebridge Financial logo

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.6

AM Best rating 

AM Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

30+ year terms

All 50 states

Why we chose itchevron icon

With competitive pricing and a range of flexible term periods for its Select-a-Term product, Corebridge is a solid option for many life insurance shoppers. Note: We are currently using AIG’s financial strength ratings until Corebridge has its own rating.

Pros and conschevron icon

Pros

  • Competitive pricing for all ages

  • Favorable underwriting for people with heart conditions and diabetes

  • Good for current and recently pregnant people, including people with gestational diabetes

Cons

  • Not the best for people with mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression

  • No no-medical-exam term option

Best for COPD: Corebridge Financial

Corebridge Financial (formerly AIG Life & Retirement) can offer up to Standard rates — the third-best health classification — for people who have only mild changes in lung function due to their COPD. To qualify for Standard rates, you can’t have been treated with oxygen in the past.

If you’re experiencing moderate symptoms and taking a medication such as albuterol or Pulmicort (budesonide) daily, you may only qualify for some of the most expensive rates.

Best for bronchiectasis: Corebridge Financial

Corebridge Financial offers some of the most affordable rates for people with bronchiectasis, a condition that occurs when you have weakened or damaged airways.  [4]

The insurer will inquire whether or not surgery is needed to repair your airways — if it is, you’ll have to wait until after you procedure to apply.

If you have bronchiectasis and also smoke, you’ll likely only qualify for final expense insurance, as opposed to term life. (This is true for smokers with other lung conditions as well.)

Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha logo

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.5

AM Best rating 

AM Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A+

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

No-medical-exam option

Why we chose itchevron icon

Mutual of Omaha is a reputable company that offers a variety of life insurance products — including a no-medical-exam option — so that you can select the type of life insurance that best suits your needs.

Pros and conschevron icon

Pros

  • No-medical-exam options for older applicants

  • Strong financial and customer ratings

Cons

  • Policies are more expensive than average

  • Slow turnaround time

Best for people who need supplemental oxygen

If you’re a current smoker and have a lung condition, or if you require supplemental oxygen, Mutual of Omaha is likely your best choice. 

Mutual of Omaha has a guaranteed issue life insurance option, a type of whole life insurance that offers near-certain approval and doesn’t require a medical exam or medical questionnaire. It offers up to $25,000 in coverage, even if you’re managing a higher-risk lung condition, but it’s only available to people age 45 and older. 

→Learn more about guaranteed issue life insurance

How much does life insurance cost if you have a lung condition?

20-year term rates for people with mild asthma

If you have fairly mild or exercise-induced asthma, you may qualify for the rates below. People who qualify for these rates typically use an inhaler on occasion but don’t require additional daily medication, and they don’t smoke.

Age

Gender

$500,000 coverage amount

20

Female

$22.65

Male

$30.20

30

Female

$22.98

Male

$29.32

40

Female

$35.27

Male

$42.94

50

Female

$78.29

Male

$102.50

60

Female

$194.16

Male

$268.04

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Methodology: Approximate monthly rates are calculated for male and female non-smokers obtaining a $500,000, 20-year term policy. Rates for asthma can vary depending on severity and treatment details. Rates shown were calculated using a Preferred health rating. Quotes are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Legal & General America, Corebridge Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 01/01/2024.

20-year term rates for people with moderate asthma

If you have asthma and require a daily corticosteroid medication, or use a bronchodilator such as albuterol daily, [5] your rates will likely be comparable to those below.

Age

Gender

$500,000 coverage amount 

20

Female

$33.82

Male

$42.64

30

Female

$34.41

Male

$43.11

40

Female

$53.51

Male

$67.19

50

Female

$121.88

Male

$156.80

60

Female

$292.85

Male

$408.84

Collapse table

Methodology: Approximate monthly rates are calculated for male and female non-smokers obtaining a $500,000, 20-year term policy. Rates for asthma can vary depending on severity and treatment details. Rates shown were calculated using a Standard health rating. Quotes are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygeniud from Legal & General America, Corebridge Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 01/01/2024.

20-year term rates for people with mild COPD or bronchiectasis

If you have COPD or bronchiectasis with mild symptoms, you’re a non-smoker, and you don’t require oxygen, you can qualify for up to the rates below.

Age

Gender

$500,000 coverage amount 

20

Female

$33.82

Male

$42.64

30

Female

$34.41

Male

$43.11

40

Female

$53.51

Male

$67.19

50

Female

$121.88

Male

$156.80

60

Female

$292.85

Male

$408.84

Collapse table

Methodology: Approximate monthly rates are calculated for a male and female non-smokers obtaining a $500,000, 20-year term policy. Rates for COPD and bronchiectasis can vary widely based on severity and treatment details. Rates shown were calculated using a Standard health rating. Quotes are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Legal & General America, Corebridge Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 01/01/2024.

20-year term rates for people with moderate to severe COPD or bronchiectasis

If your COPD or bronchiectasis is moderate to severe, you take a medication like albuterol or Pulmicort daily, [6] and you don’t smoke, you’ll likely qualify for these rates.

Age

Gender

$500,000 coverage amount 

20

Female

$56.71

Male

$59.85

30

Female

$59.29

Male

$70.27

40

Female

$90.44

Male

$12.58

50

Female

$193.27

Male

$263.37

60

Female

$506.74

Male

$724.44

Collapse table

Methodology: Approximate monthly rates are calculated for male and female non-smokers obtaining a $500,000, 20-year term policy. Rates for COPD and bronchiectasis can vary widely based on health history and disease progression. Rates shown were calculated using a Substandard T4 table rating. Quotes are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Legal & General America, Corebridge Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 01/01/2024.

How to buy life insurance if you have a lung condition

Buying life insurance with a lung condition is similar to buying life insurance with any other pre-existing condition.

Life insurance companies use your medical history — in addition to your age, gender, and lifestyle factors — to assess risk and set your rate.

  1. You’ll start by filling out an application with initial health information. 

  2. Next, you’ll likely take a medical exam, which is a common requirement of the life insurance application process. If you have mild asthma, you may not need to take an in-person exam. Instead, you’ll answer a few additional health questions over the phone or online.

  3. If the insurer requires more information to make a decision, they may request an attending physician statement (APS), a detailed evaluation of your current health from your doctor’s point of view.

  4. After four to six weeks, you’ll receive your offer from the insurance company and can decide if you’d like to pay the first premium to activate your policy. If the insurer needs additional information from your doctor, it may take longer to receive an offer.

What will insurers ask about your lung condition?

Insurance companies will ask a series of questions to determine how risky your lung condition would make you to insure. The details you provide on your application will include basic information such as:

  • The date of your diagnosis

  • Any symptoms you experience

  • Any history of surgery related to your lung condition

  • Names and dosages of medications

Additional details will vary by condition. For instance, if you have COPD, you’ll likely be asked to answer the following questions.

  • Have you had a chest X-ray or CT scan recently? What were the results?

  • Have you ever had a pulmonary function test (PFT)?

  • What was the FEV1/FVC percentage?

  • Do you use an oxygen machine at home?

If you have asthma, you’ll likely answer these additional questions.

  • What triggers your asthma (exercise, allergies, weather)?

  • Do you smoke?

  • What medications are you taking?

  • Have you ever been hospitalized or needed emergency care due to asthma?

  • Do you use a machine to help you breathe at home?

The exact questions will depend on the specific condition and your unique circumstances.

Why is it important to disclose your lung condition when applying for life insurance?

Life insurance companies use a variety of factors to assess risk and determine your rate. When you apply for life insurance, you’ll fill out a health questionnaire and likely take an in-person medical exam. 

Life insurance companies also cross-reference your information, including medical records, with the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) to protect against fraud.

Lying or omitting information on your application is a type of life insurance fraud, which could cause your application to be rejected, or prevent you from applying in the future.

Providing accurate information upfront also helps your life insurance agent match you to the insurance company that will give you the best rates for your specific circumstances.

Life insurance options if you’re denied coverage due to a lung condition

If you don’t qualify for traditional life insurance — for health reasons or otherwise — you still have coverage options. 

Final expense insurance 

Final expense insurance, also known as burial insurance, is a type of life insurance intended to cover end-of-life expenses like a funeral or outstanding medical debts. Coverage limits are low, usually between $25,000 and $40,000.

Final expense policies are easier to qualify for than traditional policies if you have a serious lung condition. There are two types.

  • Simplified issue life insurance: Simplified issue whole life insurance doesn’t require a medical exam and instead relies on a medical questionnaire. There are fewer medical requirements for simplified issue life insurance than traditional policies. 

  • Guaranteed issue life insurance: A type of whole life insurance that offers almost-certain approval as it doesn’t ask medical questions. You’ll just need to answer a few qualifying questions with a life insurance agent. Premiums are higher than traditional or simplified issue life insurance. In most cases, you have to be over age 45 to apply.

Group life insurance

People with lung conditions who don’t qualify for traditional term or whole life insurance may still be able to get covered through group life insurance.

Group life insurance, also called employer-sponsored life insurance, is a policy that covers you through work or a trade organization. These policies generally don’t have medical requirements, though coverage is usually only one or two times your salary. 

Other health concerns that can affect your life insurance

Certain pre-existing conditions and other health-related concerns can affect your life insurance options or costs. A Policygenius expert can help you find the right policy for your needs.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of oureditorial standards.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    . "

    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

    ." Accessed November 07, 2023.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    . "

    Smoking & Tobacco Use: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

    ." Accessed November 07, 2023.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    . "

    Asthma

    ." Accessed November 07, 2023.

  4. American Lung Association

    . "

    Learn About Bronchiectasis

    ." Accessed November 08, 2023.

  5. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus

    . "

    Albuterol Oral Inhalation

    ." Accessed October 12, 2023.

  6. National Library of medicine: Medline Plus

    . "

    Budesonide Oral Inhalation

    ." Accessed October 12, 2023.

Author

Katherine Murbach is a life insurance and annuities editor, licensed life insurance agent, and former sales associate at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

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