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If you have sleep apnea, and aren’t treating it, you could see your personal health insurance premiums increase.

 

It’s important to see a sleep medicine specialist – either a physician or dentist – if you are concerned that poor sleep quality may be impacting your health, and possibly putting others at risk. 

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep. This happens when your muscles relax during sleep and the soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse and obstruct your airway (obstructive sleep apnea) – one of the symptoms is snoring. These breathing pauses or “apneas” typically last 10 to 30 seconds and can happen many times throughout the night. When these apneas occur you may snore loudly or make choking noises as you try to breathe. You may also wake up frequently due to a lack of oxygen. This will affect the quality of your sleep and can have severe negative health consequences.

As well, you may be impacting the quality of your partner’s sleep with loud snoring which can cause them to wake up tired or feel sleepy throughout the day. Because of this, sleep apnea can impact both you and your bed partner’s ability to function adequately throughout the day. It might also put you and them at risk for functions requiring alertness, like driving a vehicle or operating industrial equipment.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may be at risk for: excessive daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, decreased sex drive, driving and work-related accidents.

If sleep apnea goes untreated, you might also be declined coverage by your life insurance company, charged a higher rate, or be given limited coverage. Factors affecting coverage and rates depend on the severity of your sleep apnea (mild, moderate, or severe) and your compliance with treatment. Other health factors that may impact your risk class include your weight or body mass index (BMI), whether you smoke, blood pressure, and whether you have any other health implications.

While the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea may affect your life and health insurance premiums and coverage, it does not directly affect premiums and coverage related to vehicle insurance. However, since fatigue is a factor in vehicular accidents, your sleep apnea can result in compromised driving behaviour that can result in accidents, and consequently, higher insurance rates.

In a study undertaken by the Vancouver Coastal Heath Research Institute and the University of British Columbia, they found that people with sleep apnea are at double the risk of being in a car crash. Using data from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, researchers studied nearly 1,600 people including patients with and without sleep apnea.

“We were startled by the number of crashes, but even more surprised about the severity of the crashes and how many involved personal injury,” said study author Dr. Najib Ayas of the Vancouver Coastal Health Sleep Disorders Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at UBC.

“Even those patients with fairly mild sleep apnea had an increased risk of serious crashes.” Treatment of your sleep apnea is important for health quality, but it can also have a real impact on your wallet. To help offset any additional insurance premiums you might be assessed, treating your sleep apnea and being compliant with that treatment is key. If you don’t treat your sleep apnea or aren’t compliant with your prescribed treatment, your premiums could rise – by as much two, three or even four times. 

The use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine (which uses a mask and air pump to provide airflow during breath inhalation to prevent collapse of the airway) is an effective treatment, however compliance amongst users is low. “Despite the highly effective treatment CPAP offers, poor adherence limits its efficacy. Compliance has been variably classified in the literature and thus adherence rates range from 40–85%.” (Journal of Thoracic Disease, Oct. 2016)

An alternative to CPAP, with a much higher rate of compliance is an oral appliance. These dental devices are custom made to fit over your teeth to move your lower jaw, tongue, and soft palate forward and opens the airway.

The major benefits of oral appliances are that they are comfortable and easy to wear.

Unlike CPAP, an oral appliance is non-invasive, you can sleep in any position and they are easy to travel with. To empower dental practices to effectively tailor an oral appliance to treat your sleep apnea with confidence and precision, Zephyr offers the MATRx™ plus home sleep testing and fitting device. The MATRx™ plus’ predictive algorithms select patients who will be effectively treated with a sleep appliance by detecting the target position for effective treatment in advance of appliance fabrication. The MATRx™ plus provides a faster and easier path to treatment.

To find out if there is a MATRx™ plus dentist in your area, please check out our “Find a Dentist” locator. To learn more the MATRx™ plus, and how it provides a simpler, easier path to treat your sleep apnea, and potentially help address any impacts to your insurance, please read more here.

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