Occurrences of asthma have been steadily increasing during the last couple of decades, with asthma now being the most common chronic medical condition amongst children.

In fact, there are now over 3 million Canadians and at least 25 million Americans with asthma.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is defined as a “chronic inflammatory disease of the airway”. Symptoms during an asthma attack vary from person to person, and may consist of:

  • Shortness in breath
  • Tightness around the chest area
  • Excessive wheezing
  • Excessive coughing

During an asthma attack, a person will experience difficulty breathing. This occurs as a result of:

  • Inflammation of the airway’s lining, and/or:
  • Narrowing of the airways due to muscle constriction around those airways

How is Asthma Classified?

Life insurance companies usually classify asthma as follows:

  • Mild/Intermittent: attacks are not debilitating and there is no hospitalization required. There is no breathing impairment between the occasional attacks and frequent airway infections do not occur. Any medications taken are classified as “first-line” controller therapies such as inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators.
  • Moderate: there can be some mild difficulty breathing in between attacks, and hospitalization may occur. Medications are either first-line controllers (mentioned above) or some second-line controller therapies such as cromoglycate.
  • Severe: multiple hospitalizations are common as well as frequent use of steroids. There are frequent attacks along with difficulty breathing in between attacks. In addition, medications used are “third-line” controller therapies such as theophylline and sodium cromoglycate/nedocromil.

Asthmatic Factors That Affect Underwriting

(Please note that “underwriting” is the insurance company’s investigation of an insured’s health and lifestyle that determines both eligibility and premium rates).

Here are the most important factors that underwriters examine when looking at a life insurance application from a person that suffers from asthma:

  • Age of person with asthma
  • When the asthma was diagnosed
  • Frequency of attacks
  • Severity of symptoms
  • Types of medication used along with usage frequency
  • Whether or not medications have been used regularly
  • Any side effects of medications
  • If hospitalizations have occurred, and if so how often
  • Any debilitating affects (that reduce activities)
  • If a person is a smoker
  • Positive lifestyle changes

Remember, to get a medically underwritten life insurance plan you must allow the insurance company access to your medical records. Anything you have divulged to a doctor will be on record and available to the underwriters (be honest when applying)!

We strongly urge anyone with asthma who wants to get life insurance coverage to get regular physical activity. Even walking every day for a half-hour can make a difference, both to your health and well-being as well as helping with a life insurance application. For smokers with asthma consider quitting!

How to Speed Up an Application

Asthmatics can speed up the processing of a life insurance application by having the following ready to go:

  • Recent pulmonary function test results
  • Record of when any hospitalizations occurred
  • Lifestyle changes made to reduce asthma symptoms (e.g. quit smoking, and if so the quit date)
  • Description of physical activities (e.g. walking, cycling, etc.).

Likely Underwriting Decisions

The following are the most likely underwriting decisions for applicants that have asthma:

  • Mild/Intermittent asthma: standard rates apply
  • Moderate asthma. 150% – 200% of standard premiums
  • Severe asthma: 250% of standard premiums or declined

Contact Baker & Baker

We hope you found this article about asthma and life insurance helpful.

Remember, regular physical activity as well as a balanced, healthy diet is good for your health and is also looked upon favourably by life insurance underwriters!


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