Life Insurance for someone who has COPD

Asthma and Respiratory diseases

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a persistent obstruction of the airways. Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema are the two main conditions comprising the COPD group of diseases. Cigarette smoking is by far the number one cause. The Mayo Clinic says that “COPD is treatable and that with proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduced risk of other associated conditions”

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis is caused by a persistent inflammation of the bronchial tubes. It is characterized by difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and increased mucus. Cigarette smoking is the main cause, but long term exposure to other irritants like air pollution and chemicals can cause COPD.


Emphysema is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath. It is brought on by destruction of tissue. The alveoli (air sacs in the lung) weaken and eventually rupture. This reduces the surface area where the carbon dioxide and oxygen gas exchange takes place; resulting in less oxygen reaching your blood stream. Sources, including The Cleveland Clinic, say that smoking cigarettes is THE major cause of emphysema.

This disease may lead to other complications like:

  • Collapsed lung – which can be life threatening.
  • Heart problems
    • Left sided heart failure
    • Right sided heart failure
    • Congestive heart failure


Mortality concerns COPD

Since COPD can lead to complications that shorten one’s lifespan it is no wonder that life insurers will require more premium to cover someone with COPD. Depending on the severity many companies will decline these cases. In the worst case scenario someone with extreme COPD may only be able to get a guaranteed issue plan. And these guaranteed issue plans typically will not pay the full death benefit during the first two or three years; that is why I consider them to be a last resort for someone that wants life insurance.

What would the estimated cost of a life insurance policy be for someone with COPD?

Life insurance rating will be based on the individual’s age, smoking habits, and the severity of the disease.

Pulmonary Functions Tests (PFT) are used to determine the severity of COPD. Spirometry testing can determine one’s FEV1 and FVC

  • Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second (FEV1) measures the amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in one second.
  • Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) measures the amount of air a person can quickly exhale after taking a deep breath.
  • FEV1/FVC measures

These values are then compared to a reference value that is based on one’s age, gender, race, and height.

One large life insurers guidelines for chronic bronchitis, and monthly rates for $100,000 of twenty year level term for a male age 60:

SeverityFVC and FEV1FEV1/FVC
normal> 80%> 70%
mild70 - 79%60 - 69%
moderate60 - 69%50 - 59%
severe< 60%< 50%

severityratingmonthly premium
moderate75% rating$188
severe100% rating to decline$214

How to shop for the most favorable life insurance plan

Many life insurers do not look favorably on anybody with COPD. However, there are enough companies that have significant experience with these conditions to be able get multiple tentative offers. An experience independent agent should know what questions to ask in order to get reliable tentative offers. This information will allow various companies to quickly evaluate any particular case and make educated offers. Of course, the real offer will depend on the medical records, labs, and other health conditions.

The bottom line

It is not unusual for someone with a mild or moderate case to be able to get a standard rate for life insurance.



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