Applying for Life Insurance With Diabetes

With more than 26 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, and another estimated 6 million people who have the disease but aren’t aware of it, there’s a good chance that you know of someone who has been impacted by this disease.  And if you don’t just yet, there’s a good chance you will, because another estimated 57 million Americans have pre-diabetes, meaning that there’s a chance they will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetimes.

While these statistics are a bit shocking, in many cases diabetes can be controlled through regular check-ups, a good diet, exercise and if needed, regular injections of insulin.  Because of this, many life insurance companies are willing to insure people who suffer from diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

The formal name for diabetes is actually diabetes mellitus.  All forms of the disease share the common characteristic that this condition restricts the body’s ability to use energy that is found in food.

In a normal functioning body, sugars and carbohydrates are broken down into a sugar called glucose, and it is the glucose that provides the fuel for the cells to run your body.  In order to make this happen, the cells need a hormone called insulin to help transform the glucose into a form that can be used to produce energy.  When a person has diabetes, the body can’t make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin it produces, causing the body to become starved for the energy it needs.

When glucose can’t be used by the body, it builds up in a person’s bloodstream and can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the heart, eyes, kidneys and nervous system.  This can eventually lead to strokes, heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.

There are three major types of diabetes, each presenting its own set of symptoms and treatment responses.

Type 1 Diabetes – This is sometimes referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes because it usually begins when a person is a child.  It is an autoimmune disease caused by the body attacking its pancreas with antibodies.  Because of this, the pancreas becomes damaged and is not able to produce insulin.  It is believed that Type 1 diabetes may be caused by a genetic disorder or that there are faulty cells in the pancreas that prohibit the organ from making the insulin that the body needs.

Type 1 diabetes does require careful monitoring of a person’s lifestyle, including frequent testing of blood sugar levels, appropriate attention to diet and exercise regimens and taking insulin to prevent secondary diseases from occurring.  These can include diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the eyes), diabetic neuropathy (damage to nerves, especially those in a person’s feet), and diabetic nephropathy (damage to kidneys).

Type 2 Diabetes – This is far and away the most common type of diabetes, accounting for about 95% of all diabetes cases in adults.  At one point, it was called adult-onset diabetes, but as more and more cases have been diagnosed at earlier ages, it is now more commonly referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes.

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is a milder form than Type 1, but it can still cause a sufferer to have significant health problems if left untreated.  Like Type 1 diabetes, it affects the tiny blood vessels in a person’s eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves, increasing the risk for strokes and heart disease.

The main difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is that with Type 2, the pancreas is still producing some insulin, but not enough to meet the body’s needs.  In some cases, cells in the body may be resistant to the insulin.  This insulin resistance happens primarily in muscle, liver and fat cells.  That’s why people who are obese are at a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be managed with good nutrition, exercise, weight loss and eventually with the use of medications.

Gestational Diabetes – When a woman becomes pregnant she may develop insulin resistance.  This can lead to putting the unborn fetus at risk including abnormal weight gain, breathing problems or a greater chance of obesity later in life.  Up to 10% of women who become pregnant may experience gestational diabetes, but in most cases, it goes away following the birth of the baby.

Applying for Life Insurance When You Have Diabetes

In most instances, you will have to take a medical exam to qualify for life insurance.  If you’ve disclosed that you have diabetes (and you should, because lying on an application will disqualify you from getting a policy), then a life insurance company will want to know if and how you are managing your diabetes.  Your medical history will take on added importance as well.

In addition, a life insurance company will look at these things:

  • What type of diabetes you have
  • When you were first diagnosed with it
  • How the disease has progressed
  • What your most recent glucose and insulin readings are
  • What kind of treatment you are undergoing to combat it
  • What lifestyle changes you have undertaken related to diet, weight and exercise
  • Whether you are a tobacco product user
  • Whether you have any secondary issues related to diabetes that may be impacting your kidneys, eyes, heart or nerves
  • Whether you keep regular appointments with your doctor

If it can be demonstrated that you are doing a good job in managing your Type 2 diabetes, then you may be rated in a Standard classification.  This means that you will be rated similar to someone who is in average health and pay an average amount of premium for your coverage.

However, if you have Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes and they aren’t being managed as well as possible, it’s likely that you will fall into a Substandard category because you will be deemed to have a higher than average health risk.  This means you’ll pay higher premiums to offset the risk associated with your condition.

In some instances where your diabetes is advanced and is causing health problems to the degree that a traditional life insurance policy can’t be written, you still have the option of looking for a no medical exam life insurance policy.  While this premium can be substantially more than the premium for a traditional classification policy, at least you will be able to have some form of coverage to protect your family in the event of your death.