Probably one of the most challenging parts of life insurance is explaining to clients why their, at least to them, seemingly innocuous health issue impacts their life insurance rates. Their belief is that if it isn’t bothering them too much and their doctor hasn’t told them to buy a house close to the emergency room, what’s the big deal?
Sleep apnea is one of those issues. In most cases of obstructive sleep apnea a person would probably claim that they had overcome their only real mortality issue, that being their demise at the hands of their spouse if they didn’t do something about the snoring.
The most common risk factor (cause) of sleep apnea is obesity. While it is not uncommon in other cases, it is a relatively frequent occurrence among those who have lost control of their weight. In most cases the issues that arise from sleep apnea, snoring and sleep deprivation, are those kinds of things that fall into the “so what” category when a person is trying to wrap their mind around their own perceived life insurance risk.
The issue that very often doctors don’t talk about with their patients is the connection between sleep apnea and CAD (coronary artery disease), stroke and congestive heart failure. It is my belief that most doctors aren’t real keen on attempting to help people get a grip on lifestyle issues, so they treat the symptom and don’t discuss the underlying causative issues.
There is a definitive link between these issues, although the still unclear factor is whether sleep apnea leads to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, or whether it is obesity that is the real culprit. Studies are ongoing to determine that answer. The other issue of congestive heart failure seems to be very clear. While sleep apnea doesn’t cause CHF, it absolutely aggravates it.
From a life insurance standpoint, while none of these cause and affect scenarios are consistent from person to person, underwriting has to consider the issues. Sleep apnea, if well controlled, is ultimately insurable at very good rates as long as it is characterized after testing as mild to moderate. Severe sleep apnea is generally still insurable, but there can be increased rates.
Bottom line. It’s not your snoring that concerns life insurance underwriters. If you have sleep apnea and need life insurance, find an independent agent who understands sleep apnea. They will know what questions to ask and most importantly, what companies will help you and what companies to avoid.