When I was in elementary school growing up in Taipei, Taiwan, I developed asthma. The air was so polluted back then, I found it hard to breathe. As a result, I was hospitalized not once, but twice for my asthma.
Eventually, I grew out of my asthma. But if you also suffer from asthma, or a more severe lung disease called COPD, you know that it never really goes away. After you are 40, your asthma and COPD tend to return as well.
If you have asthma or COPD, you might be wondering whether getting a life insurance policy is possible, and, if so, how big your premium might be.
The answer is absolutely yes. You can definitely get life insurance if you have asthma or COPD because I have asthma and took out a $1 million, 10-year term policy back in 2013. I also have the ability to convert the term policy into a permanent life insurance policy before the term expires.
In this article, we'll take a look at what asthma and COPD is and what type of life insurance choices you have.
What Is Asthma and COPD?
Asthma and COPD are types of lung diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 13 people have asthma. In other words, more than 25 million Americans have asthma. This is 7.7 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children. Asthma sufferers are quiet common.
COPD affects roughly 16 million Americans and millions more who don’t know they have it. Therefore, COPD is not as common as asthma, but still common.
Even though I had asthma as a kid, I can still play tennis for two hours at a time. My asthma is very manageable. If you have severe symptoms, you may not be able to get life insurance. But you should always at least try.
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
Asthma can't be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled. Because asthma often changes over time, it's important that you work with your doctor to track your signs and symptoms and adjust treatment as needed.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a condition usually involving two problems – emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema affects the air sacs and breathing tubes in the lungs, which makes it difficult for oxygen to travel in and out. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways and results in coughing with an excessive amount of mucus. Think about COPD as a more severe form of asthma.
What Causes COPD And Asthma?
The two leading causes of COPD and asthma are: 1) smoking (80% of all cases), and 2) constant exposure to air pollution. It has been found that airborne pollutants can cause COPD when people are exposed for longer periods of time.
Therefore, if you want to minimize your chances of getting COPD or asthma, don't smoke and try and live in a less polluted area. It may help to get a HEPA air filter constantly running indoors as well.
How To Treat Asthma, Allergies, COPD
Here are some tips Dr. Grant recommended to me.
1) Come up with a plan of treatment. Allergies generally flair up during Feb – May and September – November. This is largely due to the pollination cycle of plants in your environment. Start stepping up treatment of your allergies and asthma at the beginning of these two seasons. Once the seasons are over, and as needed, you can step down your treatment.
2) If you have little ones at home, be proactive. Babies, toddlers, and grade schoolers tend to get sick more often. As a result, parents will likely get sick more often, or their immune system will go into overdrive to protect you from getting sick.
The common cold, or rhino-virus, helps trigger allergies and asthma. As a result, as soon as you start feeling sick or have a sick little one, it’s time to step up your medical treatment.
3) Main forms of drug treatment. The main forms of drug treatment for allergies and asthma are:
Montelukast: An anti-inflammatory drug aka Singulair. It’s a pill that’s taken once a night as it may cause drowsiness. Montelukast is most effective for treating allergies. It is often prescribed with anti-histamines like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra.
The side effects include sleepiness and more vivid dreams. Dr. Grant mentioned the side effects are minimal, and the drug can be taken daily as needed.
BREO ELLIPTA Inhaler: This is a steroid inhaler that covers the lungs. Its main purpose is to treat asthma and COPD, not so much allergies. It takes at least two or three days to take into effect, and two weeks to have the full effect. This is why it’s good to be proactive.
The side effects may include feeling more high strung, not being able to sleep, and more.
Albuterol: Brand names include ProAir and Ventalin. This is a “rescue inhaler” that is to be used when you are suffering an asthma attack or general shortness of breath. You can take one or two puffs.
Pneumococcal Vaccine: This is a vaccine that is recommended for folks over the age of 65. It helps prevent bacteria from causing pneumonia. But for folks with lung disease, your doctor may ask you to get this vaccination to 1) help reduce your chances of getting pneumonia and 2) reducing the severity of your pneumonia once you get it.
My doctor mentioned the pneumococcal vaccine is about 60% effective versus the polio vaccine, which is 99% effective.
Once again, please talk to your doctor before taking any drugs.
Asthma, COPD, And Life Insurance
One of the first questions your life insurance carrier will ask you when applying is whether you smoke. The reason why is that smoking is one of the leading causes of death. It has recently been shown that vaping has shown troubling signs as well.
You could like and say you don't smoke, when you really do. However, if the life insurance company finds out you've been lying when it's time to make a claim, your beneficiaries could be denied their life insurance benefits.
If you are a regular smoker or you currently live in a very polluted area, it's a good idea to get life insurance at a younger age. The reason why is because you can lock in a lower premium. If you end up getting asthma or COPD, your life insurance premiums will increase.
Even if you don't lock in a low life insurance premium when you are young, you can still get life insurance at an older age with asthma or COPD. You just have to pay more.
Asthma And COPD Questions For Life Insurance
When applying for life insurance, the insurance company will ask you a series of questions to determine your premium. Be prepared to be asked several of the following questions or have several of the things discovered about your condition.
- When was COPD diagnosis confirmed?
- Medical history of the treatments you received
- Medications you are taking to treat COPD and asthma
- Chest X-ray and pulmonary function test history
- Whether you smoke
- Forced Expiratory Volume test: Many insurance companies will want you to undergo a test called Forced Expiratory Volume per second, which will show the severity of your condition. Healthy people will get a result between 80% and 120%. If you FEV in under 80% but not far from it, you can expect standard rates. The further the result is from 80%, the more difficult it will be to get approved.
When applying for life insurance, make sure you provide as much information about your condition as possible. Always answer in a truthful manner so there are no surprises during the contestability period when your death benefit is supposed to get paid out.
Different Rate Classes for Life Insurance
During underwriting, your insurance company will determine your rate class to calculate your premium. Here are the three main categories:
- Preferred and Preferred plus: This is the best rate, which will allow you to pay the lowest premiums. This category is largely dominated by under 35, healthy people.
- Standard: These rates are a higher than Preferred plus. However, being considered Standard in America is not very good since 60%+ of Americans are overweight with many health issues.
- Substandard: This is the worst category with the highest rates due to the highest risk of dying early.
When I got my $1 million term life insurance policy in 2013, I was considered a Preferred Plus policyholder. When I went to renew in 2017, I was dropped down to standard because I got treated for sleep apnea. As a result, my proposed premium increased by 10X!
Lesson learned: Lock in a life insurance policy before seeing your doctor for a non-immediate life-threatening health issue.
Although asthma and COPD are not curable, you still can get life insurance. In my case, I was treated for asthma 30+ years ago. There are no records I do have asthma. Therefore, I wouldn't have paid a premium until I went to see a pulmonologist for my recent breathing issues.
If your asthma or COPD symptoms are moderate and can be easily managed with medication, you will be offered a Standard or Substandard rate. You need to control what you can control by staying in shape, taking your medication, and stop smoking.
Getting a life insurance policy is very efficient and quick nowadays. Just take a look online at PolicyGenius to compare and get the best rates.
How To Get Better Rates With Asthma Or COPD
Here are some obvious things you can do to get a better life insurance rate with asthma or COPD:
- Stop or avoid smoking and vaping.
- Lose weight and get in the best shape of your life.
- Shop around aggressively. Luckily, a website like PolicyGenius can help you compare and get the best rates.
- You may also want to try speaking to an independent agent who specializes in life insurance for people with asthma, COPD, and other health issues.
What If You Get Rejected?
If at first you succeed, try, try again! Spend time over the next 11 months getting yourself in the best shape of your life. Don't wait longer than a year to reapply because every year, your premium ticks up since you have one less year to live. However, if you get rejected again, continue to stay smoke free and healthy for another 11 months and reapply.
If you can't get a normal term or whole life policy, consider Guaranteed Life Insurance, where acceptance is nearly guaranteed.
Guaranteed life insurance, also called burial insurance, is a kind of whole life insurance for seniors or those who can’t qualify for a traditional life insurance policy.
Unlike traditional life insurance, guaranteed life insurance involves no health questions. If you want the security of knowing you can pay for end-of-life expenses such as funeral costs, as well as covering any outstanding debts so they don’t get passed on to your family, guaranteed life insurance is worth considering.
Premiums are usually pretty expensive – upwards of $200 per month for some elderly consumers – and death benefits are pretty low – usually topping off at around $10,000 – $25,000. Policies last for as long as you pay for them; there is no term limit or expiration date. Usually, you must be a policyholder for two years before you can collect the benefit.
Life Insurance With Asthma And COPD Is Possible
Don't let lung disease stop you from getting life insurance if you really want or need it. I got life insurance to protect my wife and two kids even though I have asthma, and so can you.
Make it your goal to lose weight, exercise regularly, stop smoking, and live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. Reduce stress by sleeping more and taking on a less stressful occupation. Learn to regularly meditate and go for nice long walks. All these activities will help extend your life.
The most efficient way to get competitive life insurance quotes is to check online with PolicyGenius, the #1 life insurance marketplace where qualified lenders compete for your business. It's much easier to apply on PolicyGenius than go to each carrier one-by-one to get a quote. I've known the founders for years and they have truly build a fantastic resource for individuals and small business owners.
About the Author: Sam worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse for 13 years. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, taking care of his family, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom too. He started Financial Samurai in 2009 and has grown it to be one of the largest independently owned personal finance sites in the world.