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Diabetes is more common than many of us realize, affecting more than 1 in 10 people. Historically, getting life insurance wasn’t always easy for people who have diabetes.
Fortunately, with better treatments now available and a stronger understanding of how diabetes affects us, affordable life insurance coverage is within reach for most people.
Several years ago, doctors diagnosed one of my close relatives as pre-diabetic, a condition that affects nearly 90 million adults in the US. Following doctor’s orders, he cut down on the hoagies, became more active, and is now in better health.
For those of you not from the Philadelphia area, a hoagie is a sub sandwich, which is not to be confused with a cheesesteak sandwich, another Philly favorite.
Sometimes the story has a different ending. I lost a good friend to diabetes-related health issues a couple years back. He was 62 when he passed, but I remember that he was as tough as nails and he kicked harder than I’ve ever been kicked in my life.
To give some context to why grown men might kick each other, he was my friend but also my karate instructor.
In training, he frequently used me to “demonstrate” techniques to the class because I didn’t complain (much) if I ended up flat on my back, which happened often.
Diabetes can be a serious health concern — even for the seemingly invincible, and the group of diseases collectively known as diabetes mellitus can lead to other health complications as well.
Health risks such as nerve damage, kidney damage, or even an increased risk of heart disease have been associated with diabetes.
Because diabetes can affect us in so many ways, life insurance can be more costly for diabetics. But diabetes doesn’t carry the same stigma with insurers that it once did. If you have diabetes but are in good health otherwise, life insurance may be more affordable than you think. If you're new to the whole life insurance scene, you might need a refresher on how life insurance actually works. Otherwise read on to learn how to get quality life insurance for an affordable price.
Life insurance for type 1 diabetes vs. type 2 diabetes
The type of diabetes you have can affect life insurance rates. Type 1, also called juvenile diabetes because it’s often diagnosed during childhood, can be more difficult to insure.
You’ll see type 1 diabetes referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes as well. Expect higher rates for type 1 when compared with type 2 diabetes.
Recent reports suggest type 1 diabetics still have a shorter life expectancy, on average, when compared to people without diabetes. Increased risk leads to higher life insurance rates.
However, by working with an independent insurance agent like the experts at Policygenius, you can compare rates to find the right policy.
We were able to compare life insurance quotes for policies for people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes at rates lower than we expected to see.
Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1, with type 2 affecting up to 95% of all people who have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In the past, type 2 was also commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes.
However, an increasing number of children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In many cases, diet and exercise can help manage glucose levels, although some people may still need medications or insulin therapy.
A third type of diabetes, called gestational diabetes affects up to 10% of pregnant women.
While gestational diabetes may call for special attention to diet or even medical treatment, the condition goes away after giving birth. However, gestational diabetes can indicate risk of getting type 2 diabetes at a later point.
How do A1C levels affect life insurance rates?
A1C testing offers an easy-to-understand way of measuring blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association provides a great breakdown of A1C numbers and what they mean in regard to your health. A1C levels of less than 5.7% fall into the normal category.
Levels of 5.7% but less than 6.5% indicate pre-diabetes. Levels of 6.5% and higher fall into the diabetes range, with lower percentages indicating lower risk.
Generally, diabetes life insurance rates favor people with A1C levels in the high fives to high sixes.
Crossing over to an A1C level 7 or higher can spike rates for life insurance because elevated A1C levels can indicate greater risk, possibly leading to other health concerns. Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle and watching your diet can help manage A1C levels.
A1C is a measure of estimated average glucose (eAG), but insurers may weigh this metric differently. In a way, higher rates are a way for an insurer to say they don’t focus on a certain part of the market or that a segment of the market doesn’t reflect their primary business model.
Market focus is part of the reason why one insurer might quote a rate 2, 3, or even 4 times higher than other insurers for diabetics.
Yes, you might find rates as much as 4 times higher than others for the same type of policy. In fairness, the insurer with higher rates may be a better fit for someone else who fits a different profile.
This segmentation is common in life insurance (and many other industries). As an example, some insurers may offer better rates to cannabis users, while others may offer better rates for diabetics by comparison.
This analogy may not be perfect — and the reference might even spike your blood sugar, but we buy birthday cakes from a bakery while we buy pizza from a pizzeria, although both places bake tasty treats made with flour. Life insurance works similarly.
You want to choose a company that specializes in the type of coverage you need as a diabetic.
What affects life insurance rates?
Life insurance for diabetics can cost more than coverage for those without diabetes, but a number of factors drive life insurance rates. In many cases, age tops the list of rating factors. We aren’t built to last forever and getting older brings more risk.
On the low end, we found rates for a $125,000 policy ranging from less than $25 to just over $30 per month for a term policy for a younger person who has diabetes. Higher rates in this range correspond with a longer 20-year term policy.
However, life insurance rates climb with age. Rates for longer policy terms nearly can increase significantly if you’re older. The moral of the story is that it’s better not to wait on life insurance.
With every passing birthday, rates increase. Other health concerns can creep into the picture as well. But once you secure coverage, you’ve locked in a price.
In general, you can expect higher life insurance premiums if you have diabetes, but the difference in cost due to a diabetes diagnosis may be lower than you think.
We found several options with affordable monthly premiums. When budgeting, it’s also useful to know that insurers generally charge higher premiums for people who have type 1 when compared to type 2 diabetes.
The amount of time you’ve had diabetes can play a role in life insurance rates as well, which offers another reason not to wait. Assuming all other rating factors are equal, someone diagnosed with diabetes a year ago can expect to pay less for coverage than someone diagnosed 10 or 20 years ago.
Life insurance carriers also look at family history and your overall health. Height to weight ratio can play a big role. Many policies also require a medical exam with a blood sample, the results of which can suggest other potential risk factors that can affect life insurance rates.
A diabetes diagnosis is one part of the big picture. Based on health, habits, and family history, insurers assign life insurance applicants a health classification. Think of these classifications as risk groups. For most insurers, the groups follow this structure:
- Preferred plus
- Standard plus
Some insurers may use different names for their classifications, but still follow a tiered structure in which the top tier (preferred plus) indicates the lowest risk and earns the lowest rates.
Rates increase for lower tiers, reflecting higher risk for people in these classifications.
Diabetics can still earn the best health classification with some insurers. However, expect to pay a bit more than someone who fits a similar health profile but who does not have diabetes.
What types of life insurance are available?
Term life insurance is the most popular type of life insurance sold in the US. A term policy is meant to provide coverage for a fixed amount of time, called a term.
Policy terms range from as low as 5 years (uncommon) to as long as 40 years (also less common), with the most common term being a 20-year policy. Because term life insurance focuses coverage on a shorter time period, monthly costs are lower for term policies.
Whole life insurance options are available as well, although rates for whole life insurance coverage can be considerably higher when compared to term life insurance.
As a unique benefit, whole life insurance builds cash value, a feature not offered by term life insurance policies. However, a longer commitment to paying premiums can make whole life insurance less attractive to some people.
As the name suggests, whole life insurance policies are designed to provide coverage for your entire lifetime, often with premium payments for your entire lifetime as well.
Another option you can consider is a guaranteed issue life insurance policy. With a guaranteed issue policy, you’ll get a whole life insurance policy with no questions and with no medical exam.
However, guaranteed issue life insurance is often only available to applicants between age 50 and 80. Guaranteed issue life insurance also costs more than policies that use medical underwriting to rate risk and set premiums. These policies are among the most expensive ways to secure coverage.
How do I get life insurance with diabetes?
Getting life insurance with diabetes is easier than you might expect, and the hardest part (getting started) is the easiest part.
Internet-based insurance agencies like Policygenius make getting quotes a snap. In just a few minutes, we were comparing rates from multiple leading life insurance companies with sturdy A and A+ financial strength ratings.
Policygenius takes the hard work out of getting the best life insurance rates and their licensed agents can walk you through if you have questions about your coverage.
Because Policygenius uses non-commission agents, you can take comfort in knowing your agent’s only goal is to help you find the right life insurance coverage.
Be honest when applying for coverage. It’s Important to provide accurate information during the application process.
Insurers may require a physical and life insurance underwriters may pull medical records. But as importantly, by being forthright, initial quotes for coverage will hit closer to the mark.
For most life policies, expect to wait about a month or two from the time you apply before your coverage takes effect.
Choosing the best life insurance for diabetics
More than 1 in 10 people have diabetes and 1 in 3 are prediabetic according to the CDC. I’ve lost people I cared for to diabetes-related illness. Many families have.
The risk is real. Modern treatments and lifestyle adjustments can often minimize health risks due to diabetes, but life insurance can serve a role as income replacement if the unexpected happens.
Life insurance can also pay down debt or pay for schooling for children, reducing the financial burden on families.
Diabetics with a lower A1C level often qualify for better rates, so it’s important to manage glucose levels in accordance with your doctor’s advice.
Age plays a nearly equal role in rates and the combination of age with diabetes can cause higher premiums. If you’re able to secure coverage earlier in life, the savings can be significant.
Consider a term policy as a way to protect loved ones. Term life insurance remains a more popular choice for people who have diabetes, partly because it’s more affordable.
If you need lifetime coverage, whole life insurance policies are available as well and offer a permanent way to protect your family.
The independent agents at Policygenius simplify the process of choosing the best life insurance for diabetics. But rates go up with every birthday, so it’s better not to wait. The best time to compare rates and secure a life insurance policy is now.
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.
Can I Get Life Insurance If I Have Diabetes?
With everything we've discussed, it's pretty clear that the answer to the question, “Can I get life insurance if I have diabetes?” is a resounding yes! Not only can you get life insurance if you have diabetes, but you'll even have options when it comes to your coverage.
Ultimately, your rate will depend on whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, From our reports, most people have Type 2 diabetes (about 95%), though it's your A1C levels that may have the final say.
A1C levels higher than 5.6% put you in one bracket (pre-diabetic) while A1C levels higher than 6.5 put you in another (diabetic). Anything higher than 7% could be problematic, and harder to insure resulting in higher rates from the insurer.
Can you keep your existing life insurance if you were diagnosed with diabetes after purchasing it?
With how life insurance works, being diagnosed with diabetes after purchasing doesn't disqualify you from your policy. If fact, if you develop a condition or encounter a major lifestyle change after your policy takes effect, your policy and payout shouldn’t change at all. That's good, because otherwise life insurance companies could cancel a policy anytime they wanted, such as if you were in an accident or if you were diagnosed with any sort of disease.
Once you buy your policy, your rate and coverage are locked in until either the term ends or the policy is cashed out. For permanent life insurance policies, you'll have your coverage for life unless you stop payment, want to change your coverage or otherwise cancel your policy. That’s why it’s best to get life insurance when you’re younger, because you’ll probably pay a lower premium since you’re more likely to be healthier when you’re young.
The longer you wait, the more you’ll end up paying on your life insurance policy because as you age, your health can sometimes deteriorate.
With term life policies, being diagnosed with diabetes could affect your policy only in three specific instances.
- Your Policy Is Ending
If you purchased a term life insurance policy and you want to continue your coverage after the term ends, a diabetes diagnosis could make it more difficult — or costly — to continue coverage. Your insurer could also decide not to cover you.
This is because you’ll be much older and diabetes typically is amplified as you age. The provider may see you as a greater risk now, and if they do approve you for a new policy, it might cost more than you can afford this time around.
Some policies that contain a conversion option can be converted over into a permanent policy without a medical evaluation, but that's not something you can add after the fact. That said, if you only need extended coverage for a limited amount of time, you could always try to get a new policy on the open market. You'll still have options even if you've been diagnosed with diabetes, and a shorter policy could be cost effective if you go with the right insurer.
- You Have a Group Policy Through Work
For those that have a group policy through work, you'll have to read the fine print of your policy. Many times, if you leave the company or you're let go for any reason your policy will cease to exist. As for what you paid into your policy, you'll lose it all unless there's a conversion or portability option that allows you to take your policy with you or convert it into a personal policy.
If the option is available, be sure to take them up on it. By continuing your existing life insurance policy, you won't have to undergo a new medical examination or share that you're a diagnosed diabetic with your life insurance provider. However, keep in mind that converted policies can be more expensive than what you could get on your own, so make sure you shop around before making a decision.
- You Want Better Coverage
When you want better coverage than is currently provided by your life insurance, it's common to undergo additional underwriting — which may trigger an increase in your rate if you have a diabetes diagnosis. But if you have whole or universal life insurance, you may be able to extend your policy's coverage without revisiting your rate. Just check with your insurer to see what your options are.