Since 1980, the number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled to more than 400 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease is particularly prevalent in the U.S., where roughly 8 percent of the population is stricken–19 million diagnosed, and 7 million undiagnosed.
If you have diabetes, it is still possible to find affordable life insurance. Don’t let your disease keep you from seeking financial protection for your loved ones.
With this guide and the help of an independent life insurance agent, you can secure the coverage you need–and likely at a much better price than working with a captive agent at a big-box insurance company.
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While both are characterized by elevated blood sugar, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are quite different in terms of how they affect your health and chances of securing life insurance.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed early in life and treated with insulin injections or an insulin pump. It cannot be controlled without insulin. Type 2 diabetes, often called the “silent killer,” is a lifestyle disease and is often associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
It is dangerous because early symptoms are often invisible. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, though, Type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled with diet, exercise, and oral medication. In extreme cases of Type 2 diabetes, insulin may be required.
Life Insurance for Type 1 Diabetics
Type 1 and insulin-dependent diabetics diagnosed before the age of 30 typically present the largest challenges for securing life insurance coverage. If you are a type 1 diabetic using an insulin pump, the insurance approval process is more stringent because of the possibility that your blood sugar could easily spike to dangerous levels if you were to miss a treatment or if your body were to simply stop responding to treatment.
Insurance companies will typically only approve type 1 diabetics who: 1) are not more than 50 pounds overweight based on clinical charts and 2) demonstrate well-controlled blood sugar (an A1C of 6.9 or lower).
Life Insurance for Type 2 Diabetics
Some life insurance companies are much more lenient with applicants who are able to control their diabetes through diet and exercise and/or with an oral medication such as:
- Metformin (Glucophage)
If you do not require insulin to control your blood sugar, there are potential workarounds for getting a competitively priced policy approved with “underwriting credits.” Type 2 diabetics with an A1C of 7.0 or lower will usually have an easier time finding the most affordable life insurance and may even qualify for Standard or Standard Plus rates depending on the age of diagnosis.
At What Age Were You Diagnosed?
When it comes to getting approved for life insurance, the older you were when you were diagnosed with diabetes, the better. Life insurance companies view diabetes as a progressive disease, meaning the longer you have it, the more susceptible you are to complications from the elevated blood sugar, and thus the more risky you are to insure.
This is part of why type 1 diabetics who were diagnosed early in life (usually before age 30) have a more difficult time getting insured than type 2 diabetics who were diagnosed fairly recently and are able to better control their condition. For information about diagnosing diabetes, please read here.
An A1C/glycohemoglobin test is the most important factor in determining whether you are eligible for a fully underwritten term life insurance policy as a diabetic. Your A1C score is the result of a blood test used to determine the average level of your blood sugar over the past three months. The higher your A1C, the higher your average blood sugar, the higher your rates for life insurance.
A1C scores usually range from 5.5 to 9.0. If your A1C is below 7.0, your diabetes is considered well controlled, and there are a handful of life insurance companies that will offer you their most aggressive rates for diabetics (their third most aggressive rate overall)—Standard Plus.
If your A1C falls in the 7.0 to 7.9 range, don’t worry, you are still eligible for life insurance. However, your rates will be affected, as Standard will be the most favorable rate class available to you.
An A1C over 8.0 typically indicates poor control of your blood sugar or that your body is not responding to medication. An A1C above 8.0 is considered a substandard risk and might cause your application to be denied or approved at Substandard Table Risk Category.
If your A1C is above 9.0, unfortunately, fully underwritten term life insurance is not available to you. Life insurance companies will postpone or decline your application until your A1C falls below the 9.0 mark.
See the chart below for average blood sugar to A1C comparisons. If you haven’t had your A1C tested in a while, this will give you a general idea of where you stand.
What is Your Height and Weight?
Your current height and weight can also have an impact on life insurance for diabetics. In general, life insurance companies will not penalize someone for their build unless their height and weight are above the Standard rate class build tables used for underwriting. A Standard build for a male who is 5’10” is up to 234 pounds.
If you are 5’10” and weigh more than 234 pounds, insurers will consider you “overweight,” which means your rates will be approximately 20% higher than someone who weighs less than 234 lbs.
The table below shows the “Standard” height and weight allowances from our top “A+” rated company known for approving diabetics.
Do You Have Any Complications?
Complications from diabetes can pose additional challenges in qualifying for life insurance. Diabetes can cause heart disease, kidney disease, and kidney failure. It is also among the leading causes of blindness and lower limb amputations in the United States.
In general, the lower your A1C, the lower your risk of having complications from diabetes. So, life insurance companies are most lenient with diabetics who have an A1C between 6.0 and 7.0. If your A1C is between 7.1 and 7.9, you may still be eligible for life insurance, but the majority of insurers will approve your application at a substandard rate, while others may decline.
Keep in mind that some life insurance companies are more lenient with A1C than others, so it’s important to speak to a life insurance agent who can help you survey what’s available to you.
If an applicant has other health issues in addition to diabetes, finding life insurance can be more of a challenge. Many clients come to us having had heart stents or bypass surgery. As a general rule of thumb, the longer it has been since the surgery was performed, the better your chances of approval—especially if you’ve had regular checkups and tests.
If you have recently had heart surgery, it’s best to wait at least one year before applying for life insurance. For more information on which other medical conditions are insured, read here for a full description of 13 serious health problems that don’t rule out insurance.
Estimated Rate Class and Rates
Many of our clients who maintain reasonable control over their diabetes qualify for Standard rates. In some cases, if a client has documented excellent control through diet and exercise and has an A1C below 6.0, certain carriers will approve them at Standard Plus rates.
We even work with one carrier that sometimes approves diabetics over age 60 with Preferred or Preferred Best rates. See the charts below to compare quotes for Preferred, Standard, and Table B or Table 2 ratings. We have used examples for both males and females ages 35, 45, 55, and 65, who are non-smokers and live in California.
Get a Medical Exam
If you’re a diabetic searching for life insurance without a medical exam, our best advice to you is to take a medical exam, especially if you are a Type I diabetic. Some older applicants with well-controlled Type II diabetes may qualify for an affordable no-exam policy, but this is not the norm.
While it may seem like a good idea to mask or downplay your diabetes, it’s always best to be honest and upfront with insurance companies. Even the no exam life insurance companies will likely review your attending physician’s statement and they’ll want to see that your diabetes is “well-controlled.” Read more about why you should take a medical exam for life insurance here.
Roughly 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes. While nearly 19 million people have been diagnosed, 7 million are undiagnosed. If you are a diagnosed diabetic, you are a step ahead of the many people who have diabetes and don’t know it.
Our agents at JRC Insurance Group are experts at the underwriting process for diabetics and matching your needs to a life insurance policy you can afford. We have helped countless diabetics qualify for life insurance and can do the same for you. Get a FREE instant life insurance quote today, or call us at 855-247-9555.
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