[7 Common COPD Medications] Qualifying For a Life Insurance Policy
Your Medications Matter
Insurance underwriters that handle high-risk cases like COPD understand that, in most cases, the medication your physician prescribes is a very strong indicator of the types of symptoms you are dealing with. We will review the 7 most common medications that life insurance agents run across when working with COPD patients to help you you navigate qualifying for a life insurance policy.
Caution: It’s important to understand some life insurance terminology when you apply for a life insurance policy as a COPD patient.
Simplified Issue Life Insurance (Best Value)
We consider the simplified issue life insurance policy because it is the easiest method to purchase insurance at affordable rates. Fortunately for applicants with COPD, there are several insurers that offer simplified issue life insurance for individuals with COPD, whether they have gone through treatment or not.
Simplified issue life insurance policies do not require medical exams or blood tests. The policies are underwritten using the information the applicant provides on the application along with reports from the Medical Information Bureau and a national prescription drug database.
Since these policies are not fully underwritten, the rates are a little higher than a traditional life insurance policy, but the higher rates far outweigh the aggravation of a medical exam and waiting two or three months to either get your policy issued or declined. Unlike guaranteed issue life insurance, the simplified issue policy does not have a waiting period for coverage or a very low limit on the death benefit. These policies are designed to provide first-day coverage with a more reasonable death benefit.
Independent agents like Life Policy Shopper specialize in high-risk insurance cases and represent multiple insurers that offer simplified issue life insurance for individuals with COPD. They have a successful track record with getting these cases issued at very affordable rates.
The Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance Policy
Guaranteed issue life insurance can certainly benefit individuals who have multiple health issues or are attempting to purchase insurance at 65 or older. The upside about the product is that if you are alive and not incarcerated, you can typically get coverage since there is no medical underwriting or even questions on the application about your medical history. But, like most insurance products that are guaranteed issue, there are some serious drawbacks when you purchase guaranteed issue life insurance.
1. Policies typically have a two or three-year waiting period before they will pay the full death benefit for death from natural causes.
2. The insurance company will have a low ceiling on the death benefit, like $20,000 or $25,000 which generally is only enough money to cover a funeral.
3. The monthly premiums are typically double what a simplified issue policy costs.
Fully Underwritten Life Insurance
Life insurance policies that are fully underwritten are usually the most affordable if your policy is issued with a standard rating or better. The rates are more affordable because the insurance company has fully underwritten the policy by ordering medical records, a medical exam, and the appropriate blood and urine tests.
For example, if your physician has prescribed for you take Theophylline, your underwriter will know that it is used to treat symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest which are generally associated with patients needing to manage moderate to severe COPD. Theophylline is used to relax and open the patient's air passages in the lungs.
Even though Theophylline will significantly help with controlling COPD symptoms, it will not cure them so the patient should continue taking the medication even when they feel much better after taking it. There are some common side effects when taking Theophylline:
o Nausea and upset stomach
o Stomach pain
o Restlessness and insomnia
Since Theophylline does not provide immediate relief and is taken on a regular basis over time, patients are recommended to continue using a rescue inhaler for immediate symptom relief.
Salmeterol is prescribed as a bronchodilator to facilitate relaxing the muscles in the airways and help to improve breathing. The medication can also be used to prevent asthma attacks or exercise-induced bronchospasm.
It’s especially important for COPD patients to understand that salmeterol is not effective for treating shortness of breath events once they have already started. Since it is a long term treatment for COPD, the patient should continue to use a rescue inhaler for sudden attacks of shortness of breath. Salmeterol is a long-acting beta-antagonist (LABA) and works by relaxing and widening the airways in the lungs thus helping the patient breathe more easily.
Like other bronchodilators, salmeterol may cause various side effects:
Uncontrollable shaking in a part of your body
Headache, dizziness, and nervousness
Persistent coughing and sore throat
Mild flu-like symptoms
Stuffy or a runny nose
Nausea and heartburn
Difficulty sleeping or remaining asleep
Burning or tingling of the hand or feet
As with any medication, patients are instructed to call their physician if any symptoms are persistent or overwhelming.
Albuterol is a bronchodilator that helps relax the muscles in a patient's airways resulting in an increase of airflow to the lungs. Albuterol is typically introduced using a rescue inhaler but may patients use it during the day using a nebulizer.
COPD patients need to have Albuterol on hand at all times since shortness of breath can happen at any time. The side effects from the use of Albuterol can be dangerous to some patients, and an overdose can be fatal. Patients should always inform their doctor before taking Albuterol if they have any of the following conditions:
hypertension, heart disease, or congestive heart failure
any type of heart rhythm disorder
diabetes, any type
overactive thyroid disorder
low levels of potassium
Because of the side effects of Albuterol and its dangers of overdose, the medication will have an impact on your classification and the resulting insurance rates.
The best news for applicants with COPD is that having the condition does not translate to an automatic decline. In fact, many applicants who have COPD in its mild stage and require an Albuterol rescue inhaler will likely get a standard rating or a slightly below standard rating as long as there are no other major health issues and they do not smoke.
This means that your insurer is willing to offer rates that are available to most people and that your premium will be very affordable. If, however, your COPD is in a moderate or severe stage, and you have been prescribed meds that contain steroids, you should expect a substandard rating or even a possible decline.
SPIRIVA is different than a rescue inhaler and does not replace it. The medication is designed to be inhaled once per day every day. When SPIRIVA is taken as directed, it will relax the airways and keep them open for about 24 hours. The medication makes it easier to breathe and improves your overall lung function.
Although the drug starts working with the first inhaled dose, it can take a couple of weeks for you to notice its full effects on your breathing, so it’s important to give the drug enough time to work for you. It’s important to note that SPIRIVA is not a replacement for a rescue inhaler. Patients are advised to keep prescriptions for a rescue inhaler up to date and always have one nearby. As with most drugs, there are certain side effects that have been reported by users of SPIRIVA:
• Dry mouth
• Sinus infection
• Sore throat
• Upper respiratory tract infection
• Chest pain
• Urinary tract infection
• Runny nose
• Blurred vision and eye pain
Patients who should not take SPIRIVA are those who may be allergic to tiotropium and ipratropium. Patients are advised to gargle with water after each dosage. Since SPIRIVA can be prescribed for more than one health issue, your underwriter will have specific questions about it:
o Why were you prescribed SPIRIVA and when was it first prescribed?
o Are you taking any other medications such as a rescue inhaler?
o Have you smoked tobacco in the past 12 months and if so, how much?
o Have you smoked marijuana in the past 12 months and if so, how much?
o Have you ever been hospitalized for your condition?
o Have you had to visit the ER because of symptoms?
o Are you currently working?
o Have you applied for or received any form of disability benefits?
If you are in the early stage of COPD and experiencing minor symptoms, it's unlikely that you will have been prescribed SPIRIVA. In these cases, many insurers who entertain high-risk applications are likely to assign a standard rating, and you will be paying what most others pay for your life insurance.
If your case of COPD has progressed to the point that you need to use medications like SPIRIVA, you may still be offered traditional life insurance coverage, but you will likely be assigned a table rating which will result in a higher rate.
For people suffering from COPD and the disease has progressed to a point where you are unable to work, have been awarded disability benefits, or need some assistance with normal daily activities, you will benefit most by applying for a simplified issue insurance policy.
The medications that COPD patients are prescribed depending on the stage of their condition. Almost always, some brand of rescue inhaler is prescribed to resolve shortness of breath issues. Patients with early-onset COPD are likely to experience shortness of breath after exercise or any type of strenuous activity.
Those patients with more severe cases that cause tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, or wheezing after any exercise or even minimal activity, are likely to be prescribed a combination anticholinergic and long lasting beta-adrenoceptor agonist like Anoro Ellipta which is used for long-term, once-a-day, maintenance treatment of airflow in patients with COPD.
Anoro Ellipta is known to cause many side effects such as:
A sore throat
Sinusitis (ringing in the ears)
Respiratory tract infections
Chest discomfort or chest pain
Irregular heartbeat and palpitations
Itching of the skin and scalp
Taken once per day, Anoro Ellipta has been found to offer long-lasting relief of symptoms associated with chronic or severe COPD. Patients are warned, however, that Anoro is not a replacement for a rescue inhaler in the event of severe symptoms.
Taking medications similar to Anoro Ellipta or Combivent Respirator will cause underwriters to be concerned because of the various side effects and the chances of death from an accidental overdose. Therefore, you will benefit most by applying for a simplified issue insurance policy and qualify for 1st-day benefits.
Atrovent HFA (Ipratropium Bromide Aerosol) is in the class of medications known as bronchodilators. The medication is used to treat spasms in the lungs that are associated with COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It works by relaxing and opening the airways so the patient can breathe easier.
Atrovent is not a fast-acting medication and will not replace a rescue inhaler that delivers immediate relief. Atrovent must be used on a daily basis to be an effective treatment. Similar to other bronchodilators, Atrovent can cause various side effects:
A persistent headache and dizziness
Hoarseness, dry mouth, and persistent cough
Sinus pain and stuffy nose
Body aches and other flu-like symptoms
Difficulty urinating or pain when urinating
Heartburn and nausea
Patients with mild COPD are unlikely to be prescribed a bronchodilator like Atrovent. In fact, many patients with mild COPD are not prescribed any medication except for a rescue inhaler.
If your doctor has prescribed Atrovent for your COPD, you can expect your insurance classification to be substandard with higher than normal rates. Your underwriter will ask several additional questions with your application:
o Why did your doctor prescribe Atrovent and when did he or she prescribe it?
o Are you taking any other medications or using a rescue inhaler?
o How many times per day on average do you use your rescue inhaler?
o Have you smoked in the last 12 months and how much do you smoke?
o Have you been hospitalized or had to visit the ER because of your COPD?
o Are you able to work?
o Have you applied for or received disability benefits?
For individuals who are suffering from COPD that is no longer considered to be in its mild stage, the symptoms can become very challenging, and a stronger medication will be prescribed in order to manage these symptoms. Symbicort is one of the more popular medications among pulmonologists.
Symbicort contains a combination of two drugs, budesonide and formoterol. Budesonide is a steroid that will reduce inflammation in the airways, and formoterol is a bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles in the airways and allows for easier breathing. This effective medication is used to prevent bronchospasm (shortness of breath) in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although Symbicort can deliver significant relief to COPD patients, there are several side effects that can be associated with taking this medication:
• Frequent headaches
• Throat irritation
• Nausea accompanied by vomiting
• Upset stomach
• Back pain
• Stuffy nose
• Muscle or joint pain
• Changes in your voice
Having COPD does not indicate an instant decline when you apply for conventional life insurance. In fact, most applicants with mild cases of COPD frequently receive a standard rating or a rating slightly below standard.
Individuals with moderate COPD usually experience considerable coughing and have bouts with shortness of breath. These types of symptoms will call for some form of medication, like Symbicort and will usually result in a sub-standard rating if the application is accepted.
For applicants who are suffering from severe COPD, the better route to take is Simplified Whole Life insurance where there is no medical exam requirement and the insurers that offer this product are usually experienced with high-risk cases. There are several insurers available that will allow a standard rating as long as your COPD is well managed and you have not been prescribed oxygen as a result of your symptoms.
Unfortunately, there are some applicants that have COPD and also present other risk factors as well and may not be able to obtain traditional life insurance even with a mild form of COPD. Applicants who have COPD and continue to smoke will be best served by a simplified issue policy as well.
DETAILS ON SIMPLIFIED ISSUE LIFE INSURANCE PLANS:
THESE PROGRAMS HAVE THE FOLLOWING GUARANTEES
1. First Day Coverage. You are fully protected the very first day your coverage goes into effect with no exclusions and no waiting period.
2. Ease of issue. No physical exams.
3. Your premiums will never go up. Lock into a rate at your current age and the cost will never increase regardless of changes to your health and age.
4. Your benefits will never go down; regardless of changes to your health and age.
5. All programs build cash values.
6. The benefit is paid to your beneficiary tax-free on the worst week of their life.
7. Your policy can never be canceled as long as premium payments are made.
8. This is a protected asset that you will never be forced to liquidate.
Seniors looking for a state-regulated final expense life insurance policy or a whole life burial plan often have medical impairments and conditions that may raise the cost of these benefits. We keep track of these medical impairments and conditions and contract with several carriers so we can find the most benefits for the amount of money that you spend. We review what we might see as we field underwrite the COPD medical condition. We can help you find first-day coverage at a standard rate using a simplified issue life insurance policy.
3 Top Reasons why folks use these programs
1. Because they do not have a DEDICATED amount for their funeral or final expenses
2. Because they’ve recently checked the pricing on what they currently have in place. They want to see if they can find more benefits than what they currently have.
3. Because they want to leave behind a legacy. Income for a surviving spouse, money for grandkids, or to charity (Cancer Society, Church, etc)