COPD and Life Insurance

What is COPD?

Finding life insurance with COPD can be difficult.

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a respiratory disorder often brought on by a history of tobacco use. As the name implies it’s main symptoms cause a chronic obstruction of air getting into and out of the lungs.

The diagnosis of COPD is not the end of the world and often times life insurance protection is available. But, and this is an important but, you must find the companies that specialize in underwriting individual’s with COPD.

All life insurance carriers underwrite risk based on health and lifestyle. But, a handful of companies are more aggressive in underwriting these particular risks, known as “special risks“.

How is COPD diagnosed?

There are several ways that COPD can be diagnosed. The most common are:

  • Lung (pulmonary) function tests– Pulmonary function tests measure the amount of air you can inhale and exhale, and if your lungs are delivering enough oxygen to the blood. Spirometry can detect COPD even before you have symptoms of the disease. It can also be used to track the progression of disease and to monitor how well treatment is working. Spirometry often includes measurement of the effect of the bronchodilator administration. Other lung function tests include measurement of lung volumes, diffusing capacity and pulse oximetry.
  • Chest X-Ray– A chest X-ray can show emphysema, one of the main causes of COPD. An X-ray can also rule out other lung problems or heart failure. 
  • CT SCAN– A CT scan of your lungs can help detect emphysema and help determine if you might benefit from surgery for COPD. CT scans can also be used to screen for lung cancer.
  • Arterial blood gas analysis– This blood test measures how well your lungs are bringing oxygen into your blood and removing carbon dioxide.
  • Lab Tests– aren’t used to diagnose COPD, but hey may be used to determine the cause of your symptoms or rule out other conditions.

Underwriting life insurance for COPD

When evaluating a case for COPD an underwriter iwll look at different pieces of the medical history to determine the severity and to assign a risk class. The forced expiratory volume or FEV 1 test is the best single test to use for evaluation.

Typically the disorder is characterized as:

  • NORMALFEV greater than 80% with no symptoms.
  • MILD- FEV 65- 79% minimal to no symptoms
  • ModerateFEV 50-64% mild dyspnea on exertion can climb 2 flights of stairs
  • Severe- FEV 40-49% dyspnea on slight effort, fatigue noted and can climb about 1/2 flight of stairs.
  • Very Severe- FEV 35-39% very dsypnecic on slightest effort, some cynosisl, weight loss, tachacardia, unable to climb stairs
  • ExtremeFEV less than 35%- use of oxygen

From a life insurance underwriting perspective we will focus on the normal to severe category since most cases of very severe to extreme are uninsurable with traditional insurance, but may be insurable thru a guaranteed issue type plan.

As menitoned earlier, smoking is a big factor in how life insurance carriers will evaluate the risk for COPD. If someone is a non-smoker he can expect his rates to be approximately 50% of what a current smokers rate will be. Now let’s look at some scenario and get some idea of where you may qualify if you have COPD.

Examples of Risk Classification

Bob, age 60 is a former smoker that has been quit for 5 years. He was recently diagnosed with a Mild case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His most recent FEV 1 test came back at 70%. With no other medical history and good lab results, Bob could still qualify for standard non-tobacco rates.

Not it is important to remember that we are talking about companies that actually underwrite these particular risks more aggressively than the typical companies. They are out there and we are here to help you find them. 

Jim is 70 years of age and continues to smoke about a pack a day. He was diagnosed 2 years ago with COPD. His most recent FEV 1 result was 45%. This put him in the severe class. His best possible rating is probably about 300% above the standard rates for someone his age. From an insurance companies rating scale a 300% increase is about the maximum an insurance company would assign before you are classified as a declination.

Treatment for COPDCOPD and life insurance

Once diagnosed, it is important from a general health point of view and an undewriting of life insurance point of view to get the best possible treatment to help you improve your mortality risk. Here are some of the most common treatments:

  • Smoking cessation– Of course this is the most essential step to help with COPD.
  • Bronchodilators- These medications usually come in an inhaler. They relax the muscles around your airway. This can help coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Inhaled steriods– Corticosteriods medications can reducte airway inflammation and help prevent exacerabations.
  • Oral Steriods- For people who have moderate or sever exacerbation, short courses of oral steriods can prevent worsening of COPD.
  • Oxygen Therapy– If there isn’t enough oxygen in the your blood, you may need supplemental oxygen. There are several devices that can help deleiver oxygen to your lungs.

Questions for underwriting COPD

When you work with a special risk agent it is important to provide as much information as you can in order for your agent to shop the marketplace. Here are some of the questions your agent will need answered:

  1. Date of birth
  2. Height/weight
  3. When were you diagnosed with COPD?
  4. Most recent FEV1 reading?
  5. Current treratments and medications?
  6. Use of tobacco within last 5 years?
  7. Any other major medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Any addition to this information it is important to know the amount of protection needed as well as the plan of coverage. (Term or whole life)


We are experts in the special risk marketplace. We have over 30 years in this special niche. If we can help you find affordable protection, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-888-393-9003 or mike@specialriskterm. com Thanks for reading this blog post.




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Mike Raines

I am an independent life insurance agent with over 30 years’ experience. I am an expert in finding coverage for those with past or current medical history such as heart disease, diabetes, post cancer, etc. I also specialize in those that participate in scuba diving, mountain climbing, private pilots, etc. I work with the best life insurance companies in the nation, such as Prudential, AIG, Protective Life, Transamerica to name a few. Each carrier has different opinions on rates and underwriting, and it is my job to match you with the best company. To do that, I need to ask you a few questions about your health and lifestyle to qualify you.

For a FREE quote, call, text or email:

Call: 678-207-8160

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As someone with a past cancer diagnosis, finding life insurance had been a huge annoyance. Mike made it easy, and somehow found quotes that were significantly more affordable than what others gave me.

- Matthew from St. Louis, MO.

Best rates and best service I have ever received.

- Robert from Kennesaw, GA.

Mike was extremely helpful in locating a life insurance company that would accept a preexisting condition at a reasonable price. He saved time by submitting health records to several companies for a quick preview then following up with the one who offered the most reasonable premium. He knows which companies are most likely to accept certain conditions. Throughout the application process Mike was very quick to respond to e mails and phone calls. We highly recommend Mike if you need life insurance and have a preexisting condition.

- Henry R. from Springfield, TN.

I could not be happier working with Mike Raines to get life insurance coverage for myself after having been declined for health reasons by my employer. My wife and I just had a son and it had become more imperative than ever that my family be protected if I were to pass away. The health screening appointment was conducted at my home around my schedule, which was very convenient. It was clear to me that Mike went above and beyond to make sure the underwriter fully understood my situation, going to bat for me so that I would not be declined again. I am a very happy customer.

- Daniel S. from Seaside, CA.

As part of the process of buying a new business, I needed life insurance. However, my congenital heart defect made agents squirm over the phone. Then I found Mike, who not only understood my situation, but found two solutions for me. Within a week, I had confirmation of an AD&D policy and a Term Life policy…all at very reasonable rates. The sense of relief can’t be underestimated. Thank you, Mike!

- Heather G. From Crestview, Fl.

It’s not easy to find life insurance with a chronic condition such as crohn’s disease which is why I greatly appreciated having Mike on my team. Mike is responsive, patient, professional and indefatigable- all things you need when you’re looking for a competitive policy. Knowing my family will be taken care is not only a relief but a huge confidence boost and I’m thankful Mike works in the special risk insurance arena. I would absolutely work with him again. Thank you Mike!

- Bobby from Washington D.C.

Thank you very much, Mike, for all your help in this long process. I know it wasn’t easy, but I appreciate you not giving up on my application and helping provide peace of mind to me and my family.

- Craig S. from Savannah, Ga.

I contacted Mike for advice with life insurance. I had recently left a large firm (where I had life insurance coverage as part of compensation package) to start my own company.  Therefore I needed to self fund my life insurance.  Because of some past health issues I figured I may need to do extra tests to validate my current excellent health status and insurability.  Mike was great to work with, knowledgeable about how underwriters view things, how they will want lots of data from my doctors, and he explained the normal full battery of new tests and data as well as additional or special tests they might want based on my history.  He helped me through the valley to the other side of the life insured promised land for $500K term policy with a duration that meshes well with my retirement date/options and coverage for my family if needed. I highly recommend Mike with Special Risk Term.  He can help you too, so call or email today.

- Richard M. from Ann Arbor, MI

Mike and his team made the entire process from start to finish very seamless and also overcame the task with us being multiple states apart with ease. With the easy process and very competitive priced insurance for high risk athletes, you have no need to look anywhere else for coverage. Thanks to Mike and his team for all they did and I highly recommend them for your Special Risk Life Insurance needs.

- Tyler C. from Danville, VT.

Two Thumbs Up for Mike at Special Risk Term

- Yaniv from Troy, MO.

We work with individuals across the nation to secure the best life insurance rates.

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