Last Updated on August 15, 2017 by lifepolicyshopper

Worry Free Life Insurance for Nonsmokers with COPD

How can I have COPD, I’ve never smoked?

For most of us, breathing is natural and comes relatively easy, and we continue through each day without thinking about how critical this normal function could be when compromised. When Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is present, however, things change significantly, and insurance agents need to be aware of how this disease has an impact on underwriting for life insurance.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is made up of two main lung disorders, chronic bronchitis, and chronic emphysema. Both of these conditions develop gradually over many years and involve obstruction of airflow which inhibits normal breathing, and are almost always linked to smoking.

Chronic Bronchitis

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that for 2014, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and about 15.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD but they also admit that number is likely much higher.

Chronic bronchitis, which is one of the two associated disorders, is characterized by symptoms of frequent coughing that produces sputum (saliva mixed with mucus). It causes your mucus glands in the lungs to increase size and number, resulting in a mucus buildup that results in airway obstruction. Although there are many causes, cigarette smoking is the most common.

The symptoms of the condition are often neglected until it eventually advances to chronic obstructive bronchitis. At this stage, the symptoms will typically include dyspnea (difficulty breathing). The weakness that results makes the lungs more susceptible to dangerous bacterial and viral infections

Chronic Emphysema

The other disease associated with COPD is chronic emphysema. This disease obstructs the airways by destroying the alveoli or air sacs in the patient’s lungs. When air sacs are destroyed, the lungs cannot move oxygen freely to the bloodstream, which results in the shortness of breath.

Other symptoms of chronic emphysema typically include rapid breathing or wheezing which can easily be heard using a stethoscope. There may also be cyanosis (a bluish discoloration of the skin), which results from a reduction of oxygen in the blood and is associated with heart failure and lung diseases.

The Effect of Smoking

A history of cigarette smoking is also typically associated with this disease. Other risk factors on a much smaller basis include work-related pollutants and environmental pollution. Individuals at risk for occupational pollutants are metal workers, construction workers, and coal workers. A genetic predisposition is also indicated when there is a history of childhood respiratory infections, and second-hand smoke is considered to be a contributing factor as well.

As with bronchitis, emphysema does not come on suddenly. It develops slowly during and after years of exposure to irritating pollutants and especially cigarette smoke. Researchers agree that cigarette smoking is responsible for about 80% of cases of COPD, so knowing this, only a foolish person would continue to smoke after being diagnosed.

Underwriting Considerations

COPD, including chronic bronchitis and chronic emphysema, cannot be reversed or cured. The damage it causes to the airways and lungs is permanent, and underwriters must take this into consideration with every case. Typically, when there is no history of smoking presented with an application, underwriters will look to environmental causes and assess the case on that basis.

For example, if the applicant has been diagnosed with COPD within the previous year, and there is no evidence that cigarette smoking is the culprit, the underwriter is likely to conclude that the disease will progress very slowly and may be more inclined to award a favorable rate classification.

When reviewing a nonsmoker case for underwriting, the use of inhaled steroids would likely lead to an individual receiving a higher rating; this is due to the side effects associated with the steroids. Of course, individuals using oxygen or receiving respiratory therapy would be considered uninsurable since these cases would be categorized as severe and usually are accompanied by further complications, such as respiratory failure. In these cases, guaranteed issue insurance may be the only alternative.

Nevertheless, those who receive immediate treatment are favorably insurable if COPD is diagnosed early and pulmonary function remains mild to moderate.

Although the disease almost always progresses, the progression can be slowed, by smoking cessation and being removed from any environment that may contain hazardous pollutants. Those who quit smoking immediately have a better outcome because further lung damage does not occur.

Treatments for COPD

Treatments such as bronchodilators make the patient feel less breathless and expand the airways. Inhaled steroids also help breathing capacity; however, prolonged treatment with these steroids risks serious side effects. Pulmonary rehabilitation is often used to manage the disease and help aid with fatigue. All treatments provide relief, help combat complications, and will assist in slowing progression as well. For severe cases, oxygen, respiratory or ventilator therapy may be necessary.

When focusing on risk selection during the life underwriting process, it's best to consider the degree of the applicant’s COPD impairment and any complications and treatment. If the person is currently smoking, for instance, this may increase the risk of disease progression and involvement. Pulmonary function declines in smokers almost 40% faster as compared with non-smokers.

Challenges of high blood pressure and weight loss must also be considered. A background of asthma resulting in inflammation of the respiratory tracts would also play a significant role in assessment.

Be sure to check out our article on Worry Free Life Insurance with COPD and Other Health Conditions

Review and Assessment

Review of spirometry results revealing a mild to serious impairment would need to be regarded. Today, many insurance carriers use a TVC test on older patients during the exam process--because it gives the underwriter a much better indication of an individual's pulmonary function as a probable result of smoking history or exposure to air-borne pollutants and any damage eventually caused over the years.

Treatment with bronchodilators used to improve and open the airways is an excellent way to manage and relieve symptoms. Nevertheless, this may have varying success in some individuals who may not show a substantial improvement in spirometry results after treatment was started. As a result, further therapy may be necessary, by using inhaled steroids (which have a greater effect on reducing inflammation and narrowing of the airways).

Worry Free Life Insurance for Nonsmokers with COPD

Underwriters should remember to review the workup particularly smoking history, physical exam, and testing. Assess any other factors such as increased weight loss of more than 15 pounds, blood pressure readings and any history of asthma. If these elements remain encouraging, the applicant will likely be considered a standard risk.

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. You 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 cancelled as long as premium payments are made.
8. This is a protected asset that you will never be forced to liquidate.

Program Guarantees

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. Here we will 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.

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 surving spouse, money for grandkids, or to charity (Cancer Society, Church, etc)

For more information on finding Worry Free Life Insurance for Nonsmokers with COPD, contact the insurance professionals at Life Policy Shopper through our website 24/7.