How the type of diabetes can impact the cost of life insurance

Insurance providers base premiums on the applicant's expected longevity. Preexisting medical conditions can shorten life expectancy, which is why life insurance for some diabetics tends to be costlier than it is for people without any preexisting conditions. Even when blood sugar is well controlled, the disease can potentially cause problems, so it is a risk factor. Left uncontrolled, it can cause a number of serious health conditions that can lead to death. These include, but aren't limited to:

  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Issues with eyes, teeth, and other organs
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Neuropathy
  • Limb amputation

However, not all diabetics are the same. Life insurance companies rate applicant risk based on several factors, including medical history, family medical history, current health, age, and lifestyle (such as tobacco use). When setting life insurance rates for an individual policy, insurers want to determine how well the diabetes is controlled and how it may negatively impact the applicant's health in future years.

The life insurance company will typically have you complete a medical underwriting process to determine your risk to insure. This can include a questionnaire that asks about your diabetes, in addition to the standard medical questions on the life insurance application. For example, you will have to provide answers about your diabetes diagnosis, when you were first diagnosed, how it is controlled (e.g., diet and exercise, medicine, insulin, or a combination), your A1C levels, your most recent blood glucose levels, your blood pressure, and your cholesterol readings. 

The insurance company may also require medical records to verify your health history. In addition, you will often have to complete a physical exam (especially if you're applying for a high coverage amount), and the life insurance company may also require a microalbumin test, which can help detect early signs of kidney damage. If you would rather apply without a medical exam, there are policies available, but they typically cost more (see "No medical exam vs. full underwriting policies" below.)

Your life insurance rates will depend on the specifics of your disease

As part of the underwriting process, the life insurance company will also inquire about the type of diabetes you have: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes. Individuals with each form of diabetes can still get life insurance, but depending on the base diagnosis, the application process may be more cumbersome, and the coverage offerings more limited. 

Type 1 – or "insulin-resistant diabetes" – can be more difficult to control. When it occurs later in life, that means it has impacted your body and health for a shorter length of time. However, Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in children or teens, making it a higher risk, and for that reason, it is usually associated with higher premiums. 

Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed at a later age than Type 1, so it has less time to affect the body. If that is the case, and you've learned how to keep it under control with diet and exercise, you will likely qualify for the most affordable rates (in relation to others with diabetes). However, even with Type 2 diabetes, people with diabetes-related complications and those who are insulin-dependent will find their life insurance options more limited and their premium costs higher due to higher risk.

The third kind of diabetes, gestational diabetes, is usually a temporary condition caused by hormonal changes in pregnant women. In most instances, gestational diabetes goes away after giving birth, but not always. In any case, pregnant women with gestational diabetes may want to wait several months after giving birth before applying for life insurance. Assuming the diabetes goes away, it will then be easier and less expensive to get a life insurance policy.

What types of life insurance policies are available to diabetics?

People with diabetes can take out most types of life insurance policies; their policies may just cost more. When applying for life insurance as a diabetic, there are two big things to consider: the type of life insurance policy and the type of insurance underwriting. 

Term vs. permanent life insurance policies

Term life insurance policies will typically be the least expensive option in the sense that they provide the largest death benefit per premium dollar. However, term life insurance only provides coverage for a limited amount of time (i.e., the policy's term), and it has no cash value.  Many term policies can convert to permanent life insurance before the term expires without requiring additional medical underwriting. If available, conversion can be an option to consider for people who bought a term life insurance policy before they were diagnosed with diabetes

Permanent policies, such as whole life insurance or universal life insurance, are generally more expensive, but they are designed to cover you for life.1 These policies also build cash value that can be used for future expenses, such as money to supplement income in retirement - or to pay medical bills.2,3 

It may be best to purchase as much life insurance as you'll need (and can afford) as soon as possible, rather than wait to add more later on. This is because life insurance becomes more expensive the older you get, and an underlying condition like diabetes will typically raise the cost further. Also, if you have complications down the road,  you may not qualify for additional life insurance coverage at all.

No medical exam vs. full underwriting policies

You can also choose your underwriting preference. With a standard medically underwritten policy, the life insurance company will likely require health history information, a diabetes-related questionnaire, and a physical exam. While it makes the application process more time-consuming, rates are usually lower – if you qualify.

If you want to get coverage without a medical exam, or you're concerned you may have undiagnosed diabetes issues, you can opt for a no-medical-exam term life insurance policy. Typically, these policies are not available for more than $500,000 of term life protection or $50,000 for whole life. With these policies, you may still have to fill out a diabetes-related questionnaire and grant permission for the life insurance company to request your health records. The premiums are higher, but they may allow you to get coverage you would not be able to qualify for with a medical exam. However, you should also know that if a person lies about their health issues on the insurance application, their coverage could be canceled – or worse, life insurance companies can deny the family's claim when the policyholder passes away. 

What if you're turned down? 

There is a possibility you might not be considered for coverage, even with a no-medical-exam insurance policy, due to your diabetes. In this case, a guaranteed-issue "final expense" policy may still be an option, although many of the top life insurance companies don't offer them. This is generally the most expensive form of life insurance coverage and is typically purchased by seniors to cover funeral expenses and the like.

These insurance policies may only allow for a maximum death benefit of $25,000 or less, and they often have a waiting period that can be as long as two to three years. That means if you were to die before the waiting period was up, your beneficiaries would not receive the full death benefit. Instead, they would only receive the amount you paid into the policy, plus an additional small amount of interest. 

What's the best way to buy life insurance if I have diabetes?

If your work offers group life insurance, talk with your employer and see if you can get coverage in their plan. This will likely be your most affordable option, although you may only qualify for a limited coverage amount.

If you are buying individually, Guardian can put you in touch with a financial professional who can help you. Make sure to speak frankly with your agent and let them know about your diabetes so that they can advocate on your behalf. And be sure to talk about the steps you are taking to effectively manage your diabetes so that the insurance company can take this into consideration.

Frequently asked questions about life insurance for diabetics

Can you get life insurance if you have diabetes?

Yes, diabetics obtain life insurance policies every day. However, the type of life insurance coverage and the cost will depend, in part, on the type of diabetes you have and whether you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle that helps you manage your blood sugar levels and symptoms.

How much is life insurance for a diabetic?

The cost of life insurance is based on a number of factors that go beyond blood sugar levels, including age, gender, medical history, overall health status, family history, tobacco use, and the type and amount of the policy. Diabetes will impact the policy rates, but not always by the same amount. Type 2 diabetes is usually considered less of a risk than Type 1 diabetes, especially if you are diagnosed at an older age and can control it with diet and exercise. The best answer is to talk with an insurance professional about your specific situation. 

What is the best life insurance for diabetics?

There is no best type of diabetes life insurance. All insurance needs are different. Diabetic life insurance premiums may be higher, but some factors can mitigate the cost impact, such as how long the person has had diabetes, how well-controlled it is, and any medical exam results. In any case, a term policy will give diabetics more affordable life insurance protection with a larger death benefit compared to a permanent policy, such as whole life insurance.

Do I have to inform insurance of diabetes?

Yes. Life insurance applications ask questions about your health, and the process typically requires you to give the insurer permission to access any health records needed to validate your information. In addition, you will usually need to have a medical exam as part of the underwriting process. They will look for specific markers in your blood work and other tests that indicate an underlying medical condition – whether you are aware of that condition or not. If you neglect to disclose your health information, it could adversely affect your policy or impact the benefits your beneficiaries would receive after you pass away.           

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This article is for informational purposes only. Guardian may not offer all products discussed. Please consult with a financial professional to understand what life insurance products are available for sale.

1 All whole life insurance policy guarantees are subject to the timely payment of all required premiums and the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Policy loans and withdrawals affect the guarantees by reducing the policy’s death benefit and cash values.

2 Some whole life polices do not have cash values in the first two years of the policy and don’t pay a dividend until the policy’s third year. Talk to your financial professional and refer to your individual whole life policy illustration for more information.

3 Policy benefits are reduced by any outstanding loan or loan interest and/or withdrawals. Dividends, if any, are affected by policy loans and loan interest. Withdrawals above the cost basis may result in taxable ordinary income. If the policy lapses, or is surrendered, any outstanding loans considered gain in the policy may be subject to ordinary income taxes. If the policy is a Modified Endowment Contract (MEC), loans are treated like withdrawals, but as gain first, subject to ordinary income taxes. If the policy owner is under 59 ½, any taxable withdrawal may also be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty.

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