Obtaining term life insurance if you have asthma

Asthma is a disease that inflames airways, restricting the flow of air in and out of a person’s lungs.  The airways, or bronchial tubes, are always inflamed when a person suffers from asthma, but they become even more swollen when something triggers the muscles around the airways, making asthma symptoms worse.  While this can be a challenging chronic condition, many asthma sufferers can still qualify for term life insurance.

It’s estimated that more than 25 million people suffer from asthma, and cases have been on the rise since the 1980s.  Each year, asthma accounts for in excess of 10 million outpatient visits and close to a half million hospitalizations for sufferers.  Despite such large numbers, it’s estimated that only about 3,300 people die from asthma annually, but many of those could have been avoided with proper medical care.

Types and symptoms of asthma

In broadest terms, asthma is broken down into two main categories.

Extrinsic asthma is also known as allergic asthma.  It is the more common form of asthma and many times develops during a person’s childhood.  Between 70% and 80% of children with asthma also suffer from documented allergies.  And in many of those cases, there is a family history of allergies.  As a child grows to adulthood, allergic asthma will go into remission, but may reappear in later years.

Intrinsic asthma is much less common and appears later in life, typically after a person turns 30 years old.  It is not connected with allergies and many times will be triggered by an infection in the respiratory tract.

Different symptoms will present themselves in each sufferer, but in general, the following will health issues will be present:

  • Wheezing as evidenced by a whistling or scratchy sound when a person takes a breath.
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Chronic coughing, especially noted when a person is asleep, in cold air or that is triggered by exercise
  • Fatigue, especially prevalent in children who stop taking part in activities or who are active in play time.
  • Sleep problems due to difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Difficulty breathing in stressful situations
  • An onset of any of these symptoms after being exposed to allergens such as pets, pollens, molds, or dust mites. Using tobacco or being exposed to secondhand smoke can also trigger asthma attacks.

While there is no known cure for asthma, once it is diagnosed, it can be treated effectively in most instances, allowing people to live relatively normal and healthy lives.

Factors that will influence underwriting term life insurance

Many things will go into determining the rating class for an asthma sufferer.  The best possible case is that asthma triggers have been identified and they are being effectively treated with medications.  Cases where a person still suffers from some symptoms or has to be hospitalized occasionally to be treated will still allow a person to obtain coverage, but their rating will be lower and thus they will have to pay higher premiums.

Aside from the symptoms presented by asthma, an underwriter will also look at the overall health of a person applying for term life insurance.  If you have no other high risk factors, then you should enjoy relatively low premiums.

Some of the key issues that an insurance company will look at when trying to evaluate asthma and it’s impact on a person’s health include:

History of asthma – An insurance company will want to know how long a person has had asthma and create an accurate picture of symptoms and intensity of asthma attacks, as well as how a patient has responded to treatment.

Control of triggers – Trigger factors are different for each asthma sufferer.  In some instances, pollens or allergies are the culprit, while in other cases, certain foods, medications, reactions to exercise or any number of things can bring the onset of asthma.  If a person knows their triggers, then they can be the most effective in countering those factors and controlling how much asthma impacts them.

Severity – Insurance companies will categorize the degree of asthma into one of four classes:

  • Seasonal asthma – Normally caused by pollens being released into the air or other climate related issues, seasonal asthma takes place infrequently, perhaps only a couple of times a year, and can be effectively mitigated with medications until the seasonal conditions pass.
  • Mild asthma – Attacks that take place only from time to time and can be treated effectively with inhalers or medications.
  • Moderate asthma – When the severity and frequency increases, a case may be classified as moderate. This can include stronger medications such as steroids and nebulizers, and could occasionally result in a trip to the hospital or emergency room for treatment.
  • Severe asthma – Is characterized by frequent and strong ongoing asthma attacks that require regular treatment by doctors and include a strong use of medications and steroids.

Frequency – The math is simple on this issue.  The more times a person has asthma in a specified period (generally a year), the greater the chance they will be insured at a lower rating.

Smoking habits – This is a huge determining factor for insurance companies.  If a person smokes or they are in a home where secondhand smoke is an issue, and they have asthma, this could be a big red flag.  It won’t disqualify a person from getting coverage, but it will impact what rating they get.

Diagnostic testing – Insurance companies will want to know when the last time was that you had diagnostic testing related to your asthma.  This may include chest x-rays, spirometry, or testing for allergens.

Be selective in choosing a life insurance company

Although most life insurance companies will write term life insurance for people who suffer from asthma, in some instances, certain companies will charge a higher premium than others.  Other companies who are trying to remain as competitive as possible may afford a better deal, especially if they are trying to establish themselves in a certain niche in the industry.  The bottom line is that a person with asthma should undertake a fair amount of due diligence when in comes to shopping for an insurance policy, recognizing that the differences in premium payments could be significant.