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Can I get life insurance if I have sleep apnea?

SUMMARY

If you have sleep apnea, you can get life insurance—but depending on the severity, it may cost more. If your sleep apnea is mild/moderate and is treated, you’ll likely receive standard rates. If you have a more severe case or do not comply with treatment, you will either face higher premiums or your application may be denied. To determine your outcome, a medical examination is usually required, which details your sleep apnea severity and treatment.

IN THIS ARTICLE

A person’s health is one of the most important factors insurance companies consider when evaluating life insurance applications. Illnesses and pre-existing medical conditions like sleep apnea can influence your eligibility for life insurance and your premium rates.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that disrupts breathing while a person is sleeping. The condition affects over 6% of the Canadian population and is linked to a number of other serious health conditions. Studies show sleep apnea can shorten your lifespan by several years if untreated. Because of this, life insurance companies will want to know more information if you’ve been diagnosed or suspect you may have sleep apnea.

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Are you eligible for life insurance if you have sleep apnea?

Yes, you can get life insurance if you have sleep apnea. The cost of life insurance will depend on the severity of your diagnosis—if you have moderate or mild sleep apnea, you’ll likely qualify for standard types of life insurance.

Sleep apnea life insurance

Is sleep apnea considered a pre-existing condition for life insurance?

Yes, if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea before applying for a life insurance policy, it is considered a pre-existing condition. In general, a pre-existing condition is any illness, injury, or physical or mental health condition that you are diagnosed with before applying for a life insurance policy.

For traditional life insurance applications, all pre-existing conditions must be declared. This is because your health record will influence the life insurance policies you are eligible for and the premium rates you are offered. As a medical condition that can be diagnosed and treated, sleep apnea is therefore a pre-existing condition.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that affects people while they sleep. The causes of sleep apnea vary. In general, the condition is characterized by recurring breathing obstructions or total cessation of breathing during sleep that lasts anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. People with sleep apnea experience pauses in breathing, which causes drops in blood oxygen levels and results in disrupted sleep patterns and symptoms like snoring.

Other sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Waking up with a sore throat
  • Waking up with a headache
  • Loud Snoring
  • Shallow breathing
  • Difficulty staying asleep

Life insurance companies take into consideration what type of sleep apnea you have. There are three types of sleep apnea, each of which can have both mild and serious symptoms.

Sleep Apnea Type Description Underwriting Outcomes
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Most common form of sleep apnea. It is caused by the relaxing of the throat muscles and tongue during sleep, which blocks airways and obstructs breathing.
  • Standard underwriting if sleep apnea is treated and case is mild/moderate.
  • Premium increase of 150% more than standard if it’s a severe case.
  • Possible decline if you don’t comply with treatment or severe case.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)  Rarer form of sleep apnea that is caused when breathing muscles do not receive the right brain signals during sleep. With this type you stop breathing when you sleep. Application is usually declined.
Mixed Sleep Apnea  Also known as complex sleep apnea syndrome, mixed sleep apnea is caused by a combination of OSA and CSA.
  • Standard underwriting if mild/moderate sleep apnea is treated
  • Premium increase of 150% more than standard if it’s a severe case.
  • Possible decline if you don’t comply with treatment or severe case.

Does sleep apnea disqualify you from life insurance?

A sleep apnea diagnosis does not automatically disqualify you from getting life insurance coverage. Sleep apnea can however influence the type of policy you qualify for and the cost of your premiums.

For example, if you have obstructive sleep apnea that is mild and you are seeking treatment for it, you can still be approved. If you have severe sleep apnea or it is not treated, you can still be approved with higher premiums. If you have central sleep apnea, your application for standard life insurance policies will likely be declined.

During the underwriting process, insurance companies take into account how serious your sleep apnea is and whether it is treated. For example, if you have sleep apnea that is managed using proven treatment methods—like Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines—and have no other risk factors, you may qualify for standard (and even preferred) life insurance premium rates.

Other sleep apnea treatments may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Use of tongue retaining devices
  • Use of mouthguards
  • Orofacial therapy

They also look at whether you have other risk factors, like additional medical history and smoking status. The combination of these factors determines your eligibility for traditional life insurance policies and the best rates.

It is important to note that sleep apnea is linked to other conditions and risk factors that can influence whether you qualify for life insurance. They include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease and heart failure
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression

Sleep deprivation caused by untreated sleep apnea can also have other side effects like tiredness, poor concentration, and loss of memory. These can increase the likelihood of other risk factors, like work-related injuries and motor vehicle accidents. If you have sleep apnea, life insurance companies will evaluate all of these risks and decide if you get a standard rate.

If your life insurance application is denied based on your sleep apnea diagnosis, you still have options. One is applying for no medical life insurance, simplified, or guaranteed issue policy. With these types of policies, you are usually not subject to a medical exam or extensive health questions. Additionally, you can seek effective treatment for your sleep apnea and reapply for a policy at a later date. Life insurance companies may be more inclined to approve coverage if you can show your symptoms are consistently well-managed.

Should you get simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance? Check out PolicyAdvisor's life insurance calculator.

Does sleep apnea affect your life insurance rates?

Yes, having sleep apnea can have an effect on your life insurance rates.

Applying for life insurance with any kind of pre-existing condition may have an effect on the price of your monthly premiums. Because sleep apnea can shorten your lifespan (and potentially increase your chance of death by 17% if not treated) life insurance companies take on greater risk to insure your life.

But you still may be able to get standard or preferred rates with sleep apnea. Like many other illnesses, if you actively participate in your sleep apnea treatment plan (such as using a CPAP machine), you have no other side effects, and your condition remains stable, you may qualify for competitive life insurance rates.

Sleep apnea rating chart

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sleep apnea considered a critical illness?

Sleep apnea is not considered a critical illness when you are applying for critical illness insurance. This means that the insurance carrier will not pay out a lump-sum tax-free benefit if you have critical illness coverage and receive a sleep apnea diagnosis.

Sleep apnea is not considered a life-threatening health condition largely because it can be successfully managed through compliance with treatment. That being said, sleep apnea is linked to some conditions covered by critical illness insurance, including heart conditions and heart attacks. You can find more information on critical illness insurance here.

Is sleep apnea a disability in Canada?

To be considered a disability under Canadian law, a condition must meet certain criteria. It must be a substantial impairment that limits a person’s ability to perform essential activities of daily living, such as working, eating, or sleeping. It must also be long-lasting, with symptoms that persist for at least six months. Finally, the impairment must be unrelated to any medication or treatment that the individual may be receiving.

While sleep apnea can certainly have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, whether it qualifies as a disability in Canada depends on the severity and persistence of the symptoms. In some cases, individuals with mild sleep apnea may be able to manage their symptoms with therapy and lifestyle changes, allowing them to function normally. In other cases, however, the condition may be more severe, leading to ongoing fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and other impairments that limit a person’s ability to perform essential activities.

Disability insurance covers lost income when you are unable to work because of a disability. If your sleep apnea affects your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability coverage. However, each claim is decided upon by the individual insurance company at the time of your claim.

Other insurance for sleep apnea

CPAP insurance coverage in Canada

Many health insurance plans in Canada cover the cost of CPAP machines and related supplies, such as masks and hoses. However, the extent of coverage can vary widely depending on the specific insurance plan and the province or territory in which the individual resides. Some medical insurance companies may cover the full cost of the equipment, while others may only cover a portion of the cost, leaving the individual responsible for the remainder.

Those looking for sleep apnea coverage may also want to explore government programs, such as the Assistive Devices Program in Ontario, which provides funding for eligible equipment, including CPAP machines, to residents with a demonstrated need. Additionally, some CPAP suppliers offer financing options or rental programs to make the equipment more affordable for those who need it.

Are sleep tests covered by insurance?

Sleep tests, also known as polysomnography, are diagnostic tests used to diagnose common sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. In many cases, sleep tests are covered by health insurance in Canada. However, the extent of coverage may vary depending on the specific plan and the province or territory in which the individual resides. For example, some plans may require a referral from a physician, while others may cover only a portion of the cost of the test.

What to expect when applying for a policy with sleep apnea

When applying for life insurance with sleep apnea, prepare to share your diagnosis information for the life insurance application process. With traditional life insurance applications, you are asked to provide basic information about yourself (i.e. name, age, occupation) as well as answer a series of questions about your lifestyle (including hobbies, travel history, smoking status, and drug and alcohol habits).

During the application process, you also have to disclose details about your physical and mental health in a medical questionnaire (and in some cases a physical medical examination). When you disclose a sleep apnea diagnosis in your life insurance application, underwriters will ask for more information from the doctor who provided your diagnosis. Your doctor will provide an Attending Physician Statement (APS) to the insurance company. This includes common questions that give insurance providers more information about your condition, including:

  • When you were diagnosed with sleep apnea
  • What type of sleep apnea you have
  • What is the severity of symptoms
  • What treatment you are following
  • What medications you are taking
  • What sleep studies you’ve undergone
  • And whether you have other conditions related to your sleep apnea

From there, life insurance underwriters will use your medical records to evaluate whether you qualify for life insurance coverage and what premium rates you are offered.

Still unsure if you qualify for life insurance with sleep apnea or another medical diagnosis? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert advisors. As a life insurance broker, we can help you understand how your situation affects your life insurance application and find the most affordable life insurance coverage for your needs.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • You can still get life insurance if you have sleep apnea
  • Severity, frequency, and treatment of medical conditions like sleep apnea are rating considerations and your premiums may be affected
  • A medical exam or paramedical exam will have questions that determine your eligibility for coverage

By Carly Griffin
Senior Insurance Advisor, LLQP
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