Jeff is a well-known speaker and expert in life insurance and financial planning. He has been featured and quoted in Nerdwallet, Bloomberg, Forbes, U.S. News & Money, USA Today, and other leading finance websites. He is a licensed life insurance agent and has helped over 3000 people secure life insurance. He is licensed in all 50 states & DC. Jeff has spoken at top insurance conferen...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 14, 2020

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Take a deep breath. Hold it for a second, and then release the breath in your lungs.

Now hold your breath for as long as you can. Notice the difference? When the air is circulating through your lungs you may feel rejuvenated and calm. When you cut off the air to your lungs, you probably began to feel panic and tightness in your chest.

Now imagine if your lungs constriction was outside of your control and you occasionally – or frequently – experienced difficulty taking in oxygen.

How Asthma Works

It’s pretty scary to think about having trouble breathing. After, all, oxygen is essential for healthy cell and brain function in the human body.

When your lungs are fully functioning, they take in oxygen, which is then dissolved into the alveoli. Alveoli are small sacs in the lining of the lungs which allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and the bloodstream.

Individuals with asthma; however, experience airway obstruction, which hinders the flow of oxygen into the bloodstream. This obstruction can be caused by a bronchial infection, smoke, exercise or an irritant, such as allergies or a pollutant.

Asthma can also be triggered by emotional distress.

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Types of Asthma

There are three main categories of asthma. Each type of asthma is named for its trigger; however, they all work in a similar manner.

Extrinsic Asthma

Extrinsic asthma is typically brought about by an allergic reaction.

Intrinsic Asthma

Intrinsic asthma occurs when there is no identifiable allergen as a trigger.

Exercise-induced Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma is, as the name insinuates, brought about by exercise.

What Are Asthma Attacks?

During an asthmatic “attack,” the airways become swollen and narrow. Occasionally, the airways can become clogged with mucus. The muscles around these airways constrict, making it difficult to breathe.

Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing and chest tightening all occur during asthma attacks. Feelings of panic and anxiety can also occur, further reducing the amount of airflow to the lungs.

In severe cases, the lips or fingers of someone experiencing an attack may turn blue as oxygen is reduced. If you or someone around you is experiencing an intense asthma attack and the aforementioned symptoms, please contact a medical professional immediately.

Severe asthmatics may also be at-risk to develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or emphysema, particularly is the asthma is triggered by smoking.

Many asthmatics use a bronchodilator as treatment. This is a form of medication – typically an inhalant – that widens the bronchi and bronchioles, which decreases respiratory resistance and allows more air to flow into the airways. Oxygen therapy, steroids and quitting any form of tobacco use may also be used as forms of treatment, depending on the causes of your asthma.

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How Asthma Affects Life Insurance

In order to underwrite a patient with asthma, there is a chart that many underwriters will want to know the frequency attacks occur, the severity of the attacks and how they are being managed.

Frequency is ranks on the following scale:

  • Occasional, occurring seasonally or less than 6 times per year
  • Frequent, more than 6 attacks per year
  • Mild, occurs with no disability and clear lungs in between attacks
  • Moderate, acute attacks which require frequent medications or occasional steroids
  • Severe, requiring continuous bronchodilator use or steroid treatment

Severity of attacks are typically placed into two categories – occasional and frequent – with three subcategories of mild, moderate or severe. The tables used to rate these attacks also have three additional categories detailing the occurrence of the last attack (either during the past 2, 3 or 4 years).

Because healthy lungs are essential to overall health, most ratings for asthmatics begin at “standard” risk levels. If it’s seasonal or or very well controlled, some carriers will give you a preferred rate.   There are no medical exam options as well. If interested please get in contact with us about those.

An individual suffering from asthmatic conditions may find that he or she is classified as “uninsurable” (declined for coverage) if he or she is a smoker whose asthmatic attacks fall under the “frequent severe” category.

Asthma does not necessarily mean that affordable life insurance is out of your reach. In fact, a number of carriers will insure an individual with asthma; it’s simply a matter of finding which carriers will look favorably upon your risk.

This is where a life insurance agent comes in handy.

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Asthma Underwriting

Typical life insurance agents will ask your age, sex, weight, and height on an instant quote form or a questionnaire prior to finding carriers. This is standard information, as is your status as a smoker.

The most important question your life insurance agent will ask you – particularly if you are asthmatic – is whether your are a smoker.

It is important to be as truthful and detailed as possible about your current smoker status or your history as a smoker. This way, your agent can assess your medical condition, pre-screen you as an insurance candidate and help you find the carriers who will insure you.

Your agent will also need to know what type of asthma you are suffering from, what triggers your attacks, the date that your asthma was diagnosed and the number of attacks that have occurred within one to four years.

Another piece of information your insurance agent will need to know is if you have ever been hospitalized for your attacks. If you have, your agent may ask you to disclose the circumstances surrounding the hospitalization.

Finally, be sure to list any treatments or medications you are taking to manage your asthma and to include a copy of a recent medical screening.

How to Find the Best Policy with Asthma

Your agent will then be able to find carriers that suit your life insurance needs, taking into account the specifics of your asthmatic condition and the policy size and type you need.

If you have found yourself declined by insurance carriers in the past because of your asthma, it is important to be patient with the process of finding the right carrier for you. Depending on your unique circumstances, there are carriers that will look favorably upon your risk.

Once your agent has found the carriers that specialize in insuring individuals with asthma, it’s simply a matter of comparing premium prices. If you have asthma, give us a call today to find affordable life insurance.