Buying life insurance if you have diabetes

Read the Spanish version: Adquirir un seguro de vida si sufres de diabetes

An estimated 23.6 million Americans have diabetes and another 5.7 million people don't know they have it, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A whopping 57 million Americans have "pre-diabetes," which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 65 percent of people with diabetes die of a heart attack or stroke. While diabetes can cause serious health problems, you can reduce difficulties when applying for life insurance.

[Let Insure.com help you find affordable life insurance now.]

The key to buying affordable life insurance if you have diabetes is this: Control. If you are controlling your diabetes by visiting your doctor regularly, taking your medications and responding well to your treatments, you may still be able to get a good rate on life insurance.

Insurers look primarily at your blood-sugar levels and your hemoglobin A1C count to determine how well you are responding to your treatment over time. According to Genworth Life Insurance and Annuities, A1C levels are normal for nondiabetics when they are under 6. If A1C levels are between 6 and 7, this generally means a diabetic has good control of his condition and may be offered a policy with "standard" rates. But if A1C levels peak into the double digits, this shows that the diabetic has poor control of his condition and will likely be offered a more expensive policy. If an insurer finds that the person applying for a life insurance policy has A1C levels that are more than 12, it will likely postpone offering a policy until the applicant gets the condition under control, or the application could be declined.

Shopping tips for people with diabetes

Make sure you can show your diabetes is managed before starting a life insurance application.

Find a life insurance agent who specializes in "impaired risks." They will know the market and which companies insure those with chronic health conditions.

Shop around for comparative insurance quotes.

Your best strategy is to show a history of effective treatment, including yearly eye exams, and that your other risk factors — such as weight and blood pressure — are in normal ranges.

Ratings classes

Life insurance companies determine your premium by evaluating your medical conditions and deciding which ratings classification you fall into. The higher the rating class, the lower the premium. The typical rating classes are:

  • Super Preferred (sometimes called Preferred Plus)
  • Preferred
  • Standard
  • Substandard

As a general rule, the older you are at the onset of diabetes, the easier it will be to buy a life insurance policy.

Patients with Type 1 diabetes will likely have a tough time finding traditional, medically underwritten life insurance. A person who has had diabetes for some time already — say, someone diagnosed five, 10 or 15 years ago with juvenile-onset diabetes — is much more likely to suffer "end organ" diseases brought on by a lifetime of diabetes. This makes life insurance more expensive.

In the best scenarios, Type 1 diabetics may be quoted premiums in a "high substandard" rating class, no matter what their level of control of the disease — and that's going to be expensive.

People with Type 2 diabetes account for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases, according to the CDC. Type 2 diabetes can be treated by adjustments to diet and exercise, oral medications or insulin therapy, and insurers tend to focus on how well you are responding to your treatments.

Type 2 diabetes, once considered rare in young people, used to be referred to as adult-onset diabetes. But Ed Hinerman, owner of Hinerman Group life insurance agency in Salida, Colo., says there has been an uptick of Type 2 diabetes cases in children, teens and folks in their 20s.

"Obesity and poor diet has contributed to this problem in younger folks," says Hinerman.

If you can show your Type 2 diabetes is under control, you will likely fall in a "standard" rating class for life insurance pricing, or even slightly better with some life insurers who are more aggressive in writing policies for diabetics. Many life insurers have a rating class that falls between standard and preferred, called standard plus, which is where the ideal Type 2 diabetic applicant might end up.

"Most people with Type 2 diabetes are insurable at some rate," says Christopher Graham, vice president and chief underwriter for Hartford Life. "And many are able to get 'standard' rates once the diabetes is under control."

Six months may be enough of a history for a newly diagnosed case of diabetes, or for someone who has changed treatments, to show he is responding better. But if you have had poor control in the past you will have to establish a longer history of good control — perhaps a year — to get a better price for your life insurance policy.

The savings you can realize by improving your control of the disease can be substantial.

Ready to get a quote?

Get quick and easy life insurance quotes.

Insure.com Redesign Survey