"Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?" It’s a question that matters to nearly 10% of the population. The CDC’s 2014 report says that 21 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease (and another 8 million are undiagnosed).
Our customers ask us this all the time, because they’re worried that once they disclose that they have diabetes, they’ll be turned down.
So can you still get life insurance if you have diabetes? Yes.
To be clear, diabetes does affect how the insurer sees you in terms of risk. But diabetes is a complicated thing to factor in because its effects on one’s health can vary so widely from person to person.
Here are the things insurers look at when they go over your case.
What type of diabetes is it?
Type 2 will get you better rates than Type 1, because it tends to appear later in life, and it responds better to diet and exercise as well as oral drugs and insulin.
There’s not much you can do with this information other than just be aware of it as you shop for life insurance, so let’s move on.
When were you diagnosed?
The later in life you are diagnosed, the less time the disease has to cause any damage. (Typically the dividing point is age 40.) If it was diagnosed late enough in life then it may not affect your quote much if everything else is good. This, along with the degree to which you currently have the disease under control, are the two biggest factors in determining cost.
What treatment(s) are you using?
If you’re controlling the diabetes through diet and exercise, that’s great. If you’re taking oral medication for it, that’s still better than insulin.
But when you apply for a life insurance quote, you might be surprised that you’re not asked for much detail about the type of treatment. That’s because what really matters to an underwriter are the results, which leads us to...
Is it under control?
The underwriter wants to know whether you’ve got the disease under control, and the easiest way to determine that is to look at:
Your A1C level (should be in the sixes)
Your fasting blood glucose levels (should be under 100)
This, along with age of onset as described above, are the two biggest factors in determining cost.
Are there any related health complications?
If your diabetes has led to other problems like kidney disease or heart disease, that will play a factor in determining cost.
Remember, these are the extra things an insurer looks at when assessing the risk mortality for someone with diabetes. All the other standard factors—age, height and weight, smoking history, occupation, health history other than diabetes, family history, and so on—still matter as much as ever.
Other options if you can’t qualify
If it looks like there’s no way you can buy a life insurance policy in your current state of health, you still have a few options such as graded benefit plans and guaranteed issue plans. Both require no medical exam, but they come with other downsides. They’re more expensive than regular term life, for example, and they have special restrictions on when and how much of the death benefit is paid. Before you look into these products too deeply, be sure to talk to your broker or agent about all of your options.
Tips and things to remember
1. Go through a broker or agent. This is one situation where you absolutely don’t want to be stuck reviewing options from just one insurer.
2. Take every step imaginable to get your diabetes under control. The longer you are able to show you’ve managed it, the more favorably the underwriter will consider it.
3. If you bought your existing term policy while you had diabetes but before it was under control, once you can show a history of managing it, you should go back to your broker and see if you can get a better rating now.
4. Some insurers offer crediting programs where they’ll give you credit for positive factors in your life like exercise or maintaining a healthy weight, so be sure to ask your broker about this.
5. Lastly, our own in-house quoting engine is built to take health issues like diabetes into consideration when determining quotes. If you have details like the date of diagnosis and your current A1C level, you can enter that as part of the quoting process and get more accurate estimations. You might be surprised at how affordable it really is.
Photo: Lassi Kurkijärvi