Getting Life Insurance with COPD


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – better known as COPD – is a more common disease than people are aware. And since there is no known cure, and it is potentially degenerative in nature, it can affect your ability to get life insurance.

What is COPD?

COPD is a disease that affects the lungs, limiting airflow to and from the lungs. Generally speaking, it involves emphysema and chronic bronchitis operating in tandem.

It is thought to be caused, at least in part, by exposure to asbestos or cigarette smoking, leading to swelling and the degeneration of the lungs.

Millions of Americans have COPD, and it is one of the leading causes of death. Though the symptoms can be controlled, or at least managed, by certain medications, there is no known cure for the disease.

It is for this reason that COPD can be problematic when applying for life insurance.

The severity of COPD is a determining factor with life insurance

A COPD diagnosis does not mean an automatic decline for life insurance purposes. COPD exists in various degrees, and at the lower levels of severity a person can get life insurance coverage.

For mild COPD, you can often get a standard rating, or maybe slightly below, for life insurance purposes.

In the mild form, the effect of the condition is minimal, resulting in coughing and mild shortness of breath after exercise. Medication is rarely necessary.

Moderate COPD involves more significant coughing and shortness of breath, and people with this level are typically on some form of medication. At this level, there is an effect on a life insurance policy application.

In order to get approval, you’ll have to work with a company that specifically provides life insurance for COPD patients – not all companies will.

Even if you are successfully managing the condition, and locate a company that will provide coverage, you will be charged higher premiums as a result of the disease.

A person with severe (less than 50% lung capacity) or extreme (less than 40% lung capacity) COPD will have a difficult time getting life insurance.

Only a small number of life insurance companies will provide coverage for a person with severe COPD, and rates will be in the high risk category for the ones that do.

If the diagnosis is extreme COPD, the only option will be graded coverage, which is coverage for the terminally ill that will not pay death benefits within the first two or three-year’s of the policy. This coverage is also very expensive.

Other risk factors

As is the case with all major diseases, your ability to obtain life insurance at an affordable rate is also heavily dependent upon other risk factors that are present along with COPD.

If you are adequately managing the condition, and you have no other major risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or previous episodes of heart disease or cancer, your chances of getting approval – especially with lower premium rates – is considerably greater.

This tends to carry more weight if your COPD is in the mild or moderate categories, as approval with the severe or extreme varieties is much more limited, even under the best circumstances.

You must find an agent who specializes in high risk life insurance

What ever level of COPD that you have, it is important that you find an insurance agent who works with insurance companies that specifically provide life insurance policies for people who have the condition.

If you try to apply directly to an insurance company, you may be declined without ever knowing that the company automatically declines COPD patients.

An independent insurance agent typically works with several different insurance companies, including those for people with high risk conditions or medical histories.

If you use an insurance agent, you must be sure to disclose your COPD before even filling out any life insurance applications. First, trying to hide the existence of the condition will end up being a disaster.

There are just too many ways for insurance companies to determine the existence of significant medical conditions, just from reviewing your previous medical history.

But equally important, disclosing your COPD to the agent will provide him with an opportunity to send your application specifically to the life insurance companies that do offer coverage for people with the condition.

If you have been turned down for life insurance as a result of COPD, it might be worth making another try, but this time using an independent life insurance agent.