You already know that life insurance is a valuable thing to have. Protecting your loved ones financially should the worst happen can give you peace of mind and ensure that your family doesn’t have to struggle once you’re gone.
However, although life insurance is a necessity for most people, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get. One of the primary reasons why you may not qualify for a high-quality policy is if you suffer from a degenerative disease like COPD.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is already having an impact on your life, but can it prevent you from getting life insurance? In many cases, sufferers believe that they won’t be able to get any kind of coverage, so they don’t even try. However, chances are that you can still afford life insurance with COPD.
Today we’re going to look at the different elements that life insurance companies pay attention to, as well as what you can expect when choosing coverage options. Life insurance with COPD is possible, so don’t lose hope.
What is COPD?
If you have been diagnosed with this disease, you may or may not understand the finer points of the condition. In most cases (up to 80 percent), COPD is brought on by smoking. However, other breathing issues like asthma can lead to COPD.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is degenerative, meaning that it gets worse over time. Sufferers will have difficulty breathing, particularly when it comes to expiring air (instead of breathing in).
Another thing to note about this disease is that it comes in two varieties. Most people who have COPD have a combination of both variations.
First, there is chronic bronchitis, which is when extra mucus and inflammation are inside the lungs. Bronchitis usually results in coughing as the body tries to expel the excess mucus.
Second, there is emphysema, which is when the lungs are damaged. Because COPD is degenerative, sufferers will experience emphysema at some point, and it will only get worse as the disease progresses.
If you’re a smoker, keep in mind that COPD will worsen a lot faster than if you quit smoking altogether. Also, most life insurance companies won’t insure smokers with COPD, regardless of health, so you should plan to stop no matter what.
Because there are several reasons why your breathing may become difficult, it’s sometimes challenging to identify COPD. Having acute bronchitis one time doesn’t mean that you’ll develop this condition, nor does having asthma.
However, if you have difficulty breathing over an extended period, or it always seems like you’re catching bronchitis, there’s a good chance that you have COPD.
One of the ways that physicians can spot this disease is spirometry. This is a test that measures one’s ability to expel air into a tube. The results are calculated as an FEV1 ratio. COPD sufferers will have a ratio that’s lower than average.
Again, because there are other reasons why your breathing may be labored, it’s often necessary to conduct this test multiple times over an extended period to ensure that you have COPD and not something else.
How COPD Affects Life Insurance Rates
No matter what kind of insurance you buy, the underwriters need to assess the amount of risk involved. Although COPD is not fatal by itself, serious cases may lead to complications that could put your life in danger.
For example, if you have significant trouble breathing and you catch pneumonia, it could be deadly. In most instances, COPD sufferers can also experience heart failure due to lower oxygen levels in the blood as a result of labored breathing.
Thus, it’s imperative that you and your insurance agent understand the severity of your condition. Most insurers will want to look at your medical records and submit you for a medical exam before offering coverage.
As we mentioned, spirometry is an excellent test for spotting COPD. Thus, your FEV1 ratio will factor heavily into the insurer’s decision. Let’s look at a sample rating system that may be used to assess your level of risk.
COPD Sample Life Insurance Ratings
- Minimal COPD
- No exercise intolerance
- Stable Xray
- No chronic medications needed
- FEV1 ratio of 80 percent or above
Life Insurance Rating: Typical (no table rating necessary)
- Mild COPD
- Occasional throat clearing or respiratory infection
- No chronic medications needed
- FEV1 ratio of 60 to 80 percent
Life Insurance Rating: Table B
- Moderate COPD
- Shortness of breath with moderate physical activity
- Takes an inhaler regularly
- FEV1 ratio of 50-60 percent
Life Insurance Rating: Table D
- Severe COPD
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) with mild or light activity
- Takes steroids or other medications regularly
- FEV1 ratio of 40-50 percent
Life Insurance Rating: Table G
- Extreme COPD
- Dyspnea while at rest or from any physical activity
- Uses a personal oxygen tank
- FEV1 ratio of 40 percent or less
Life Insurance Rating: Decline
As you can see, life insurance with COPD is possible, depending on the severity of the condition and your overall symptoms. Typically speaking, the more medications you take and the more you have to work to keep the disease under control (i.e., doctor visits, limited physical activity), the worse your rating will be.
If you’re not familiar with the table rating system, it usually means that you’ll pay an additional premium for your coverage. As a rule, the further down you are (A-J or 1-10, depending on the insurer), the higher your price is. In most cases, it can be an additional 25 percent for each table. For example, if you’re rated at Table D, that means you’ll have to pay up to 75 percent more than someone on Table A.
If your COPD symptoms are minimal, you may not have to worry about a Table rating at all. In some instances, your condition may not impact your life insurance prospects, meaning that you can still qualify for preferred or standard coverage.
Questions About COPD
When talking to your life insurance agent, you will need to be able to answer some questions regarding your condition. Let’s go over them so that you can be prepared and have your responses ready.
As a side note, you always want to provide clear and honest answers. Lying on a life insurance application can disqualify you from getting approved. In worst cases, it could lead to insurance fraud and potential fines or jail time. It may seem tempting to “fudge the numbers,” but it’s not worth the consequences.
When Were You Diagnosed With COPD?
Typically speaking, the longer it’s been since your diagnosis, the more accurately your insurer can evaluate you. If you were diagnosed a week ago, it’s probably too soon to tell how it will impact your overall health.
Have You Been Hospitalized for COPD? What Treatments Did You Receive?
As you can imagine, going to the emergency room for this condition, particularly on multiple occasions, can impact your life insurance rating. It’s also necessary to understand if you were hospitalized for COPD itself or complications that arose from the condition (i.e., heart failure).
Be sure to be as detailed as possible about each visit, including any specific treatments or tests you received while in the hospital.
Do You Suffer From Asthma or Bronchitis or Other Lung Diseases?
As we mentioned, sometimes asthma can lead to COPD, but if you suffer from it in addition to this disease, it can complicate things, and the combination usually requires additional medication and treatment.
Have You Smoked? Do You Currently Smoke?
No insurance company will underwrite someone who smokes with COPD, so if you haven’t quit yet, be sure to do so. Also, insurers will pay attention to when you quit smoking, so be sure to list that as well. If you stopped a month ago, it could worsen your coverage options. If you quit 10 years ago, then you may have better choices.
What Medications are You Taking for COPD?
If you’re not taking anything, then you’ll likely be classified as mild or minimal. If you have an inhaler, be sure to tell the underwriters how often you use it (and be as accurate and truthful as possible).
Have You Had a Pulmonary Test for COPD? How Recently? What Was the Result?
Because your FEV1 ratio will help determine your rating, it’s imperative that you get tested. If you were diagnosed with COPD, you were likely tested already. However, if it’s been a while (more than a year) since the test, the insurer will probably want to conduct another one.
Do You Have Any Other Health Problems? What are They?
As we mentioned, COPD by itself isn’t fatal, but it can lead to complications that could put your life at risk. Thus, if you also suffer from heart disease or other chronic conditions, having COPD can exacerbate things. In some instances, even if your COPD is mild or moderate, having other health issues can prevent you from getting coverage.
Life Insurance With COPD
Overall, providing as much information about your condition to the insurance company will help them determine your rating so that you can find the right coverage options for you and your family. Remember, insurance is all about assessing risk, so if there are any unknown variables, that can hurt your chances of getting high-quality coverage.
Let’s go over the various policy options that may be available to you.
If you have COPD, you won’t qualify for this rating, regardless of its severity.
Some insurance companies may offer preferred ratings if your COPD is minimal, but it depends on all of the mitigating factors. If you are taking any medication for it, this rating probably won’t be available.
If you have minimal COPD, chances are that you can obtain standard coverage. For the most part, this is the highest level of life insurance that any COPD sufferer can hope to get.
We covered the table rating system earlier. Remember that the farther down you are, the higher your rates will be.
The good news is that, unless you’re using an oxygen tank to breathe (or your FEV1 is below 40 percent), you probably won’t be declined. Your premiums may be relatively high, but it’s still possible to get life insurance with COPD.
Other Factors That Influence Your Life Insurance with COPD
Having COPD doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from getting a policy, but it doesn’t help either. Let’s go over some reasons why your table rating may be higher than average, or why you might be declined, even if your FEV1 is over 40 percent.
As we get older, our bodies can’t fight infection as well. A 30-year-old with COPD is more likely to get covered than a 55-year-old.
Length of Diagnosis
As we mentioned, the date of diagnosis can affect your rating. However, what’s most important here is how the disease has changed over time. If you were diagnosed five years ago and your health has improved, then you’ll likely have a higher rating. If you haven’t had a checkup or test in the last five years, though, it’s a lot harder to determine any progress, either positive or negative.
Obesity, heart disease, asthma – if you suffer from any other significant medical conditions, COPD can worsen the effects. Life insurance companies take a comprehensive look at your risk factors and how they can influence each other. For example, if you’re in perfect health (save for COPD), your rating will be much higher than if you had a history of heart disease.
Bottom Line: Don’t Be Discouraged
Overall, if your COPD is manageable and under control, it won’t prevent you from getting life insurance. Be sure to talk to your agent and provide as much information as possible. Also, keep in mind that your coverage options can change if you show improvement in your health.
Life insurance with COPD doesn’t have to be discouraging. Educate yourself and find the right policy for you and your family.
Also, be sure to compare different policy options. Typically speaking, the more coverage you want, the harder it can be to get when you have COPD. Also, different insurance companies have differing requirements regarding this disease, so one may offer better coverage than another. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable agent.
Are you ready to get started in the life insurance process? Get a quote today!