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Diabetes

What to know about life insurance when you have diabetes

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You can find affordable coverage, especially with successful treatment.

Diabetes affects the lives of millions of Americans — many surveys estimate that more than 8% of the US population are diagnosed with one of its formed, with some 7 million people estimated to not yet know they have it. It’s just one of the health conditions that life insurance companies consider when insuring you.

Underwriting can be complicated, but many providers are willing to provide you with a policy as you maintain Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?

Yes. Many of the top life insurers in the United States extend coverage to people with diabetes, some at more affordable rates than others.

While not every life insurance company weighs diabetes the same way in underwriting, you’ll likely pay a higher premium than for a person who doesn’t have it. Just how much depends on the measures you’re taking to control and treat your situation.

What about gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that’s associated with pregnancy. Yet if you apply while you suffer from it, your provider will weigh your diagnosis as heavily as it does Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you may want to wait until after your condition subsides before applying for life insurance. That way, you can avoid the higher premiums that come with this disease.

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What do insurers look at when assessing people with diabetes?

Insurance underwriters evaluate diabetes along with most of the same health and lifestyle factors they use to evaluate any applicant.

But the severity and type of diabetes you have can complicate specific factors, which means your provider may pay closer attention to:

  • Your age at diagnosis. Generally, the longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you’ll suffer complications later in life. A person diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes might pay a lower premium than somebody who was diagnosed in childhood.
  • Your diabetes type. Further illustrating how important the when of your diagnosis is, if you have Type 2 diabetes, you may find lower rates than for somebody with Type 1 diabetes. Because Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed earlier in life, it’s considered a more serious disease, making you a riskier applicant to providers.
  • Your alcohol use. Alcohol can exacerbate diabetes, accelerating the more extreme effects of the disease and sometimes interfering with medication. You could be denied a policy if you drink excessively.
  • Your family’s history. An underwriter will look at more than just your family’s history with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, for instance, carries a higher genetic risk for renal and cardiovascular disease.
  • How you’re managing your disease. You’ll nearly always get a stronger premium if you successfully manage and treat your diabetes. You’ll likely need to take a blood test so that the provider can assess your glucose levels. Generally the better your blood test, the lower your rates.

What about complications caused by diabetes?

So much goes into how diabetes affects your health and overall lifestyle. Recent breakthroughs have improved treatments that make diabetes easier to manage today than in the past.

But diabetes can dramatically increase the risk of medical complications that can lead to blindness, kidney dysfunction, heart attack and nerve damage.

Because an insurance underwriter considers your overall health in relation to your diabetes, you’re typically required to submit to a medical exam to determine whether you’re suffering from diabetes-related complications. Your doctor may need to provide documentation on your behalf that prove any serious complications are under control.

What medical questions might I need to answer?

Depending on your diagnosis, treatment and overall health, you may be required to answer invasive medical questions that include:

  • What type of diabetes do you have? You may need to be more specific than simply Type 1 or Type 2, indicating diabetes insipidus, glucose intolerance or insulin resistance as well.
  • Do you experience diabetes-related complications? You could be asked specifically about kidney or nerve problems, high blood pressure, vision impairment or reduced blood circulation.
  • Have you ever experienced a diabetic or insulin coma? If your history includes coma, you’ll likely need to provide hospitalization records that detail the outcome.
  • When was your condition last checked? Your insurer could ask for test results over a series of recent appointments.
  • What were the results of your most recent hemoglobin A1c test? This test reveals your average blood sugar level over several months.
  • Where are you receiving ongoing treatment? You may need to provide the names and contact info for each of your doctors — even those outside of endocrinology or diabetes treatment.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that can affects how your body produces and uses glucose. It stems from the body’s inability to produce a sufficient level of insulin, which allows the body to transform glucose into energy. The inability to regulate blood glucose levels can result in a dangerous overload of sugar in your bloodstream.

When people with diabetes eat foods that contain glucose, their bodies can’t successfully convert it into energy. These foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Fruit and starchy vegetables
  • Cereal and grains
  • Sweets
  • Breads
  • Beans
  • Eggs

How is Type 1 diabetes different from Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes

Typically diagnosed in earlier in life, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease resulting from a person’s antibodies attacking the pancreas. It’s also called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.

With Type 1 diabetes, the impaired pancreas becomes unable to continue making insulin, preventing blood from converting glucose into energy. If left untreated, Type 1 can lead to ketoacidosis, an accumulation of acids in the body that can be fatal.

Type 1 diabetes makes up roughly 10% to 15% of all cases of diabetes. To prevent ketoacidosis, people with Type 1 diabetes are required to inject insulin up to four times a day. The condition typically occurs in people under the age of 30.

Type 2 diabetes

Accounting for up to 90% of all diabetes diagnoses, Type 2 diabetes is generally more easily treatable than Type 1. It’s also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or late-onset diabetes.

With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produce some insulin. But it’s not enough for the body to work effectively.

Type 2 diabetes is often a result of genetic makeup, largely associated with lifestyle factors that can result in high blood pressure and obesity. Many people with Type 2 diabetes can manage the disease with healthy eating and regular exercise, supplementing the condition with tablets or insulin when required.

How much will life insurance cost?

Life insurance underwriting is a process that calculates your age, health and lifestyle against complicated algorithms and actuarial tables. Because each provider’s underwriting weighs factors differently, it’s hard to estimate what you might pay for your policy.

If medical tests and documentation support that you’ve managed your disease well, you have a better chance for affordable rates. Diabetes-related complications can make it more difficult to find low rates, if you’re approved at all.

If you’re finding it difficult to get even a quote from top providers, consider seeking out a broker that specializes in high-risk applicants. Life insurance is a competitive industry, and many brokers maintain relationships with insurers willing to take on specific health and lifestyle risks — including diabetes.

Critical illness insurance and diabetes

Critical illness insurance is a type of life insurance policy that can ease the financial strain of a serious medical diagnosis. You can bundle critical illness insurance with your existing life insurance policy, though many providers also offer a standalone policy.

While diabetes is not commonly included in the list of medical diagnoses covered by critical illness insurance, you might be able to protect yourself from diabetes-complications that arise later in life.

You’d disclose your pre-existing diabetes in your application for coverage. If your later diagnosis meets the conditions defined by your provider, you receive your benefit as a lump sum of money that you can use to cover medical costs, mortgage payments or any gaps in income that come with being unable to work.

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Bottom line

It may feel like diabetes is just another reason for a life insurer to deny you a policy. But it’s a common disease that many providers are willing to cover, provided you’re successfully managing your illness.

You may pay a higher premium than a person without diabetes would, but your rate ultimately depends on your age at diagnosis, the type of disease you have and your overall health and lifestyle. You may also be required to submit documentation to support pointed questions about your disease.

Learn more about coverage, policy options and what affects your premiums in our comprehensive guide to life insurance.

Richard Laycock

Richard is the Insurance Editor at finder, and has been wrangling insurance Product Disclosure Statements for the last 4 years. When he’s not helping Aussies make sense of the fine print, he can be found testing the quality of Aperol Spritzes in his new found home of New York. Richard studied Journalism at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism, and has a Tier 1 certification in General Advice for Life Insurance. He has also been published in CSO Australia and Dynamic Business.

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