Getting Life Insurance with Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association revealed that in 2015, approximately 30.3 million Americans (9.4% of the total population), had diabetes. Each year, an additional 1.5 million individuals are diagnosed with it.

One of the most oft-asked question among diabetics is this:

Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?

Here’s the short answer: Yes, you can still get approved for life insurance.

This article aims to show you all the important stuff you need to know about getting life insurance if you have diabetes.

We’ll also show you tips on how to improve your chances of getting approved even if you are a diabetic.

The 3 Main Types of Diabetes

Let’s begin by discussing the 3 main types of diabetes and how they affect the body. All data and description are taken from the American Diabetes Association.

Type 1 Diabetes

The body is unable to produce insulin. For the unfamiliar, insulin is a hormone created in the pancreas. Its main job is to move glucose from your blood into your cells. Without it, your body won’t be able to regulate your sugar levels which can lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Since the body is not capable of generating insulin, artificial insulin needs to be taken regularly.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes are unable to use insulin properly. They have developed what is called “insulin resistance”. At the early stages, the pancreas tries to keep up by generating additional insulin for regulating sugar levels. Over time, however, it won’t be able to keep up if the individual remains on a high-sugar diet.

In most cases, however, type 2 diabetes can be “regulated” via a change in lifestyle (less sugar and more exercise). This involves constant monitoring and check-ups from the doctor. This is also the main reason why type 2 diabetics usually have an easier time getting approved for life insurance versus people with type 1 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

This type of diabetes occurs among pregnant women. During pregnancy, the body becomes more insulin-resistant in order to make way for more glucose to nourish the baby. This is a natural phenomenon and in most cases is not an issue.

However, if the mother develops high sugar levels during this time, demand for insulin will increase as well. And if not addressed on time, the pancreas will no longer be able to keep up which leads to gestational diabetes.  

Among all three types, type 1 diabetics will likely find the most difficulty getting life insurance (we’ll discuss the factors considered later). Most often, they get rated in a lower health class (substandard) versus type 2 and gestational diabetics.

How will diabetes affect my life insurance premium?

When you have diabetes, you have high blood glucose levels. When this happens, blood circulation inside your body is affected. It puts additional stress to your heart and the blood vessels since it needs to pump harder in order to deliver blood to other parts of your body.

In addition, it damages the nerves and small blood vessels too which leads to decreased circulation of both oxygen and blood in your body.

These things negatively impact your body so dramatically that in fact, the American Heart Association estimates that people with diabetes are 2x to 4x more likely to experience fatal heart disease than adults with normal sugar levels. A good portion of people aged over 65 years old (about 68%) die due to heart diseases and about 16% of those are caused by heart attacks.

What does this mean? It means that while the abnormal blood sugar levels of diabetes is a health risk by itself, it triggers a lot of other potential health risks which significantly affects a person’s mortality.

And, since life insurance is all about assessing a person’s risk and matching it with the appropriate premium, people with diabetes are likely to pay more for life insurance versus individuals who don’t have it.

What is A1C and how does it affect my life insurance?

The A1C is a test conducted to measure the levels of glucose in your blood. It’s your blood sugar level score for the past 2-3 month period. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, the normal A1C level is 5.6 or lower.

If a person is diagnosed with an A1C score of between 5.7 to 6.4 percent, they are categorized as “pre-diabetes”.

Individuals with scores of 6.5% and above are identified as diabetics.

Underwriters look at A1C in determining if a person has been diagnosed with diabetes. A high enough score will likely generate more related health questions from the life insurance company.

Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the answer is yes.

Do note that the success of getting approved for a policy varies from one person to another since plenty of factors are considered. What are these considerations, you ask? Here are the top 4 factors that could determine the success of your approval.

  • Type of Diabetes – I’ve shown you the 3 main types of diabetes conditions above. Type 2 diabetics have a better chance of getting approved versus type 1 diabetics. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes almost always get approved since the condition usually goes away after childbirth.
  • How long you’ve been diagnosed – The statistic I mentioned above from the American Heart Association shows how important of a factor age is when it comes to diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes early in life, you’ll probably be quoted with a much pricier premium. Why?
Getting Life Insurance with Diabetes

Because if that person has had the disease for quite some time now, other organs of the body have been likely to be negatively affected already (as explained earlier) and thus exposing that person to other risks and diseases.

The result? A much higher premium will be imposed or that person may not even get approved for a policy at all depending on how worse the person’s condition is. A 50-year old diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during his 30s, for example, will have a harder time to get approved compared to someone who acquired the disease at 60.

  • Treatment – Insurers will take a look at the type of medication and maintenance you are taking in order to keep your diabetes in check. An insurance company will consider the amount and type of medication as well as the overall related-activities you do. These are all taken in and analyzed during the underwriting process.
  • Control and overall picture – Ultimately, the most important aspect that life insurance companies look at is how well you are able to control your sugar levels and how healthy you are in spite of diabetes. Aside from checking the first 3 items we mentioned above, insurers will also look into the following factors:
    • Family history
    • Age
    • Activities and occupation
    • Other related health risks

Types of Rates to Expect

Underwriting for life insurance makes use of a rate class for determining the level or quality of health of the policyholder. In most cases, diabetics fall under the following 4 classifications.

  • Standard – This class identifies the individual to have average health with normal life expectancy. Some health issues might be present, though they’re usually minor ones. Family health history also is considered (death of a parent before 60 due to a disease, for example).
  • Standard Plus – Better health class than standard. An applicant might be identified to have high blood pressure or overweight but health condition overall is normal.  
  • Table Ratings – If applicants fail to qualify to either Standard Plus or Standard classifications, they are categorized under what is known as table rating. Under this system, a person is assigned a number or a letter to further specify the quality of his or her health. People classified under the Table Rating system are generally charged higher premiums simply because of the higher risk present in their health.
  • Simplified Life Insurance – This type of insurance allows you to skip the paramedic exam. However, since there will be no health checks involved during underwriting (you’ll only be asked to fill out a questionnaire), coverage options are typically limited and tend to have more expensive premiums versus traditional life. Still, it serves as an alternative for getting some protection if you find it hard to get approved via other options.

Tips for getting better life insurance rates for diabetics

  • See your doctor regularly – One of the main things life insurance companies look at is your blood sugar level monitoring. Your control over diabetes could greatly affect the price of your actual premium.
  • The important thing is that you do this under the supervision of your doctor or endocrinologist. That way, the insurers will know that the medication and steps you are taking to control your diabetes are appropriate and tailored specifically for you.Make sure you have your doctor record your progress and milestones in your medical history. Instead of simply writing down numbers, you can have your doctor add notes displaying your “wins”. This helps emphasize the improvement you were able to obtain which may positively affect your ratings.
  • Look for life insurance carriers that specialize in health risks such as diabetes. Some insurance companies offer “clinical underwriting,” an evaluation process that considers your overall health and not just certain health risk factors. These insurers typically have more options for diabetics and may offer better rates compared to others.
  • Skip the sweets – Sugar is your number one enemy if you have diabetes. Focus on replacing meals that have high levels of simple sugars (juice, chocolate bars, and other sweets) with food that contain complex carbohydrates instead. Not only will you have lower glucose levels, but your energy will also be more stable throughout the day.
  • Get some exercise – Some form of physical activity always helps in burning calories and stabilizing glucose levels in your body. Walking and taking the stairs when you can works wonders in squeezing in some exercise in your otherwise busy schedule.
  • Eat healthily – It all starts with the type of food you are eating. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s time to switch to healthier foods. Eat more vegetables and protein and be more disciplined with your choices. Remember, prevention is better than cure when it comes to health. Avoiding stuff that raises your glucose levels is better than taking medication to lower it.
  • Shed off some pounds – Studies show that a total body weight loss of 5 to 10% has been shown to reduce the effects of diabetes.
  • Proper medication and blood sugar tracking – When you start being more conscious about the foods you eat, the better you’ll become at avoiding blood sugar spikes. There are plenty of devices out there that allow for easy monitoring. Make sure to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Both of these help in keeping your diabetes in check.
  • Look for ways to reduce stress – Did you know that stress triggers the release of hormones that can actually spike your blood sugars levels? Aside from that, it could also lead to stress-eating, a quick but unhealthy solution to combat the mental and physical fatigue you’re experiencing.

Be conscious of the activities that raise your stress levels and look for ways to either avoid or reduce them. Also, activities such as meditation, yoga, and getting help from a specialist may also indirectly help in keeping your sugar levels low.

  • Work with a professional – If you need some help in getting some of the best possible life insurance policy as a diabetic, consider working with a professional. They can help you find the best deals based on your situation and assist you in getting the right policy for your needs.

If you have diabetes, don’t immediately think that you will have a hard time getting life insurance. It’s a case to case basis. As you’ve learned today, several factors are involved in determining your approval. And by following some of the tips we mentioned here, you may have an easier time getting a policy without paying too much.