Life Insurance With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Need life insurance with COPD on your medical record? We can help.

The first thing you need to know is, you have options. While not every company is a good fit, there are several who have very liberal underwriting guidelines when approving someone for coverage with COPD. Let’s first discuss what COPD is, and why it makes a difference on a life insurance application.

What Is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or more commonly known as COPD, is one of the more common lung diseases. It is considered a progressive disease making it hard for you to breathe. It is considered “progressive” because over time it will only get worse. The most common symptom of COPD is coughing which produces large amounts of mucus, but others include shortness of breathe, chest tightness, and other symptoms. The leading contributor to COPD is smoking, but can also be caused by lung irritants such as air pollution, gas fumes, or even dust.

Causes Of COPD And Its Effect

If smoking has caused your COPD, life insurance companies will want to know if you are continuing to smoke, or have since cut back or quit smoking. If you have quit smoking you have a much better chance at obtaining a better rating, and in get a cheaper premium. If you are still smoking with COPD, it will be much tougher to obtain life insurance at an affordable rate. Anytime you go against doctors orders for any condition or disease, life insurance companies will view you at a higher risk, since you are less likely to live longer.

If you have COPD, and it is due to something like pollution or secondhand smoke than life insurance companies will give you the benefit that you are living a healthier lifestyle than someone who is inflicting themselves with things harmful to their lungs.

How Different Companies View COPD

It’s important to understand every life insurance company will look at you differently, and in order to obtain an accurate rate, the underwriter would have to know detailed information about your COPD. One of the main indicators the life insurance company is looking for is your FEV1 which is included in your Pulmonary Function Tests through your doctor. The higher the percentage, the better your life insurance rates will be. Normal values are around 80%. Someone with COPD typically has levels around 70%. If you know this value or can get this from your doctor, it will be much easier to find the most affordable life insurance rates. If you don’t know these, underwriters can assess your COPD by gathering other details. Your ratings will also be affected by other health concerns, height and weight, and the lifestyle of the insured.

Severity of COPD And Applying For Coverage

COPD is often classified into 4 categories: Mild, Moderate, Severe, Extreme

  • Mild COPD: Mild chronic cough is often associated as shortness of breath after physical exertion. Your FEV1 value should be between 60%-80%. You must be a non-smoker and not be receiving any treatment. Mild COPD will typically receive a Standard Table 2 rating with the most competitive companies. If you do continue to smoke after being diagnosed with COPD it will not qualify you with this rating.
  • Moderate COPD: Increased coughing and shortness of breath at moderate exertion levels. Pulmonary function tests show moderately decreased levels of lung functioning. Moderate COPD can cause inhaler use on occasion. Your FEV1 will typically be between 50%-59%. Moderate COPD will typically receive Standard Table 4 life insurance rates with certain companies, others could rate you higher or possibly decline.
  • Severe COPD: Shortness of breath occurs with daily activities. Pulmonary functions show decreases. Treatment includes inhaler, steroids or other medications. Your FEV1 will be 40%-49%. You would most commonly be at a Table 6 – Table 8 rating with some companies and most companies will decline to offer you coverage.
  • Extreme COPD: If you’re unable to complete normal day to day activities and shortness of breath happens while resting, or even with minimal physical activity, your COPD is considered extreme. Treatment usually requires an oxygen tank or treatment at home. Anything below a FEV1 or 40% is considered severe. A traditional life insurance policy will decline you, but you may still have options with a guaranteed issue type of policy on a case by case basis.

The main factor is to know your FEV1 percentage from your pulmonary function tests, but if those aren’t available you can accessed by asking you these questions:

  1. Date of Diagnosis?
  2. Type of Lung Disease associated with COPD? (Asthma? Chronic Bronchitis? Emphysema?)
  3. Have you ever been hospitalized for COPD? (dates, details)
  4. Are you taking medications? (details)
  5. Has a chest x-ray been done? (date, results)
  6. Has an ECG been completed? (date, results)
  7. Any other medical conditions?

Buying Life Insurance With COPD

There are life insurance options available for those who have been diagnosed with COPD, but it is important to work with an agent who can ask the right questions in order to get you the best rate possible. Because COPD is a progressive disorder, it is extremely important to apply for life insurance coverage sooner than later in order to lock yourself into an affordable premium.


Case Study

A female, aged 61 was diagnosed recently with COPD. She had used tobacco products previously, but had quit for one year before applying. There was also a previous medical history of high cholesterol, although it was well under control. No other medical concerns were present, with positive results from an EKG, colonoscopy and sleep study (not required for insurance purposes). Many companies came in from a table 2 to table 6, and even some declines, but one company stood apart from the rest with a possible Standard Plus.

We just received her approved at Standard Plus!

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