Ron Attias is a licensed insurance broker. He has no particular loyalty to any one insurance company, so he is able to shop all major insurance carriers. This means that you always get the BEST plan at the LOWEST price. Each plan can be customized to fit your specific healthcare needs and budget.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insur...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jul 9, 2019

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Buying life insurance if you have sleep apnea is possible; with some companies, you may even get preferred best rates. The bad news is that most people with sleep apnea may suffer from other health conditions, as well, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, or even heart problems. Combining these with the sleep apnea issue may take your rates to a different height, or get you declined altogether.

In this post, I will reveal what the insurance company’s underwriter will be looking for, the rates you should expect, and the type of sleep apnea that will get you approved or denied. Let’s dive in!

Related: Getting life insurance with pre-existing conditions

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing momentarily ceases and then continues during sleep. Each pause can happen for a few seconds or minutes, and snoring loudly while gasping for air may be an indication of the disorder.

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive – The most common form, which happens when throat muscles relax.
  • Central – This happens when the brain doesn’t send the right signal to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex – Happens when a patient has both obstructive and central sleep apnea. It is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.

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What Are the Insurance Companies Looking for When Insuring Sleep Apnea Patients?

Anytime a potential client has a medical condition, the insurance companies are looking for two basic things: how well is it controlled, and are they complying with their doctor’s advice when it comes to medications, follow-up, and treatment.

When it comes to sleep apnea, there are five other crucial questions the insurance underwriter will be interested in knowing more. It’s also worth it to mention that since all insurance companies have different underwriting criteria, they will all have different questions and severity levels at which they will be evaluating.

Which Type of Sleep Apnea Do You Have?

The type of sleep apnea you have will determine if you can even apply for a traditional life policy. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you will be able to apply for a traditional policy. Central and complex sleep apnea will not be eligible and can choose to apply through their workplace or opt for a guaranteed issue policy.

How Is the Sleep Apnea Being Treated?

Sleep apnea has a few available treatments, such as using a CPAP machine, losing weight, surgery, and prescription medication. The type of treatment you are receiving or not (some sleep apneas are mild and don’t require treatment) will indicate to the underwriter the severity of your condition. From the insurance standpoint, a CPC mask with great compliance will yield the best possible rates.

Severity of the Sleep Apnea (Apnea Index Levels)

Sleep apnea can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of events per hour that your breathing stops or become very shallow. Apnea episodes can occur from 5 to 100 time per hour. Five or fewer episodes per hour are normal, 5-15 is mild, 15-30 is moderate, and more than 30 per hour is considered severe sleep apnea.

When it comes to underwriting:

  • Apnea Index Level less than 10 can get preferred best
  • Apnea Index Level less under 20 can get preferred
  • Apnea Index Level over 30 can get standard

Oxygen Saturation Levels

As noted above when you have sleep apnea, the upper airway muscles collapse temporarily, and as a result, the breathing stops or become shallow, which turns into a drop in blood oxygen levels. This is a major interest to the underwriter because low sleep apnea oxygen level is an indication that your condition isn’t managed well or may even be getting worse.

Just to put things into perspective: a normal blood oxygen level is usually 96-97%. With sleep apnea, less than 90% is considered mild, 80-89% is moderate and below 80% is severe. From the insurance company’s standpoint, they would like to see a level above 85% and good compliance for over a year to qualify for the best rates.

Have You Had a Sleep Study (Polysomnogram)

A sleep study is a test used to diagnose sleep disorders. It records blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing, and apnea index levels. It is usually done at a sleep center. Not all insurance companies will ask for a sleep study, however, this can make it easier for you to qualify for better rates, provided your overall health is good and the study doesn’t show abnormalities of any sort.

What Other Questions Will the Underwriter Ask?

You need to keep in mind that for sleep apnea, the underwriter will request an APS (attending physician statement), which will reveal more about the sleep apnea condition and your overall health.

Here are general questions the underwriter will be interested in also:

  • Current age
  • Gender
  • State of residence
  • Height and weight
  • Income and liabilities
  • Occupation
  • High-risk hobbies (if any)
  • Current and past health history
  • Family history
  • Foreign travel
  • Smoking habits
  • Alcohol habits
  • Driving history
  • Criminal history
  • Prescription usage

Related: What do life insurance companies test for in underwriting?

What Rate Class Can I Qualify for If I Have Sleep Apnea?

These are general guidelines, provided sleep apnea is your only medical condition:

  • Mild sleep apnea and no complications – preferred or super preferred is possible.
  • Moderate sleep apnea treated, and compliant with therapy – preferred is possible.
  • Severe sleep apnea treated and compliant with therapy – standard.
  • Moderate sleep apnea untreated and no complications – table 2-4.
  • Severe sleep apnea untreated – decline.

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Life Insurance with Sleep Apnea Sample Monthly Rates

40-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term

 Health Class $100,000 $250,000 $500,000
 Preferred $13.03 $21.66 $37.63
 Standard  $18.23 $32.59 $59.94
 Table B $23.49 $41.67 $75.60
 Table D $29.57 $53.81 $98.96
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40-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term

 Health Class $100,000 $250,000 $500,000
 Preferred $11.43 $18.81 $32.38
 Standard  $16.10 $28.87 $51.93
 Table B  $20.34 $34.41 $62.63
 Table D $25.37 $44.03 $81.66
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50-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term

 Health Class $100,000 $250,000 $500,000
 Preferred $26.53 $49.44 $91.18
 Standard  $37.36 $77.31 $143.59
 Table B $49.22 $98.11 $187.19
 Table D $63.87 $129.06 $247.74
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50-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term

 Health Class $100,000 $250,000 $500,000
 Preferred $19.92 $37.80 $69.08
 Standard $29.05 $58.36 $110.95
 Table B $38.98 $73.17 $137.23
 Table D $50.22 $94.63 $181.13
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60-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term

 Health Class $100,000 $250,000 $500,000
 Preferred $64.79 $127.83 $243.38
 Standard $91.85 $204.70 $392.71
 Table B $126.00 $251.41 $492.75
 Table D $166.25 $333.37 $655.15
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60-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term

 Health Class $100,000 $250,000 $500,000
 Preferred $42.96 $92.97 $170.12
 Standard $65.62 $143.50 $273.89
 Table B $86.10 $175.83 $337.70
 Table D $113.05 $232.60 $448.42
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Bottom Line

So here you go, getting life insurance if you have sleep apnea should be relatively easy, as long as it’s well controlled, you follow your doctor’s orders, and your overall health is good. We represent over 50 insurers to choose from and will do our best to match you with the right one. You can also choose the regular health class and run the rates on this page to get a general idea of the rates.