28 January 2013 0 Comments

Sleep Apnea: Do you Have it? Does it Affect Life Insurance Premiums?

Sleep apneaSleep Apnea is a condition that temporarily leads to the cessation of breathing or to episodes of shallow breathing, interrupting normal sleep cycles.  As far as life insurance availability, there are concerns about cardiovascular involvement, but the major risk factors are car accidents and other accidents as a result of sleep deprivation.

Several years ago the risk came home to me when a broker with whom I was working died in his sleep.  He was in his 40’s.  I was told it was the result of sleep apnea.  I’m sure there were other factors, but sleep apnea played a real part in his death.  One of the major challenges life underwriters must deal with is when an applicant’s attending physician mentions the presence of “sleep apnea” in his notes, but there is no follow-up regarding the degree of the problem.  In these instances the application for life insurance is apt to be postponed until there is a diagnosis.

The diagnostic tool for any sleep disorder is a sleep study (polysomnogram).   This test will confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea and establishes its severity with an Apnea Index.  Treatment often includes weight loss, abstinence of alcohol prior to bedtime and discontinuation of use of sleeping pills.  A mechanical device that insures Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) might also be used.

Life Insurance premium will depend on the applicant’s compliance with a medically supervised correction process and the current Apnea Index.  If the Apnea Index is 5-20 Standard premiums are likely.  If the Index is 21-40 the premium could be rated table 2 to 8.  With an Index in excess of 40, it is likely that no offer would be made until treatment improves the condition.  In all Sleep Apnea cases the presence of any cardiovascular history will complicate  the underwriting, driving up premiums and availability.

There are different types of Sleep Apnea:  Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA).  If you have sleep apnea and want to have an idea of what your life insurance premium will be before proceeding with an application, let your agent know what type you have, your Apnea Index, height/weight, alcohol/tobacco use and current method and success of control.

Next, I’ll discuss how melanoma affects life insurance availability and cost.

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