Posted 21 Apr 2020

Facts about Diabetes Insurance

(Author: Daniel Sharpe-Szunko)
iam|INSURED is the #1 life insurance expert for people with Diabetes Type 1 and Type 2 as well as other medical conditions. Over the past 20 years we’ve worked with some of the UK’s leading insurance and medical experts to help our customers to get the best cover to protect their families and homes.

We’re proud to have been part of several major initiatives and product development forums to help improve diabetes life insurance for our clients. Through our many years of working hard to get people the cover they need to protect their loved ones, we’ve developed an in depth understanding of the condition and underwriting terms. Our management team has also been part of helping to develop new ways to offer cover for people with diabetes which includes life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection.

Our mission is to make sure that people with diabetes are treated fairly and to give you the best cover as well as saving you money. I personally have helped to develop some incredible products for people with diabetes and worked out new ways to help people with diabetes to get life insurance much quicker.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious medical condition which has two main types known as type 1 and type 2, but there are also a number of other types of diabetes as well. It is also a chronic condition which means that once you have diabetes then you will generally have it for the rest of your life.

The body normally produces glucose (sugar) which we all need for energy and insulin which is a hormone that allows the glucose to enter our blood stream to fuel our bodies. Glucose which gives us energy is produced when our bodies break down a thing called carbohydrates which comes from the food we eat and what we drink, the glucose then gets released in to our blood.

Our pancreas produces insulin which the body uses to control the amount of glucose that we have in our bloodstream. This process then allows the body to manage how much glucose getting in to our cells, but for people with diabetes this system doesn’t work properly.

Some of the main symptoms for someone with diabetes include:

  • Excessive urination, usually at night
  • More thirsty
  • Being tired and lethargic
  • Weight loss
  • Thrush or genital itch
  • Blurred vision
  • Scars and wounds don’t heal as quickly

Some people with type 2 diabetes live with these symptoms for up to 10 years before they get them checked by a medical professional.

What are the main types of Diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes as well as a number of other less common and less well known types.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type which affects roughly 90% of people who have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. People most commonly and mistakenly in a lot of cases, associate this type of diabetes with a poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight. But this is not necessarily the case as type 2 diabetes can develop for a number of different reasons.

Generally type 2 diabetes will develop later in life and occurs because the body still produces insulin but the insulin can’t work properly which means that glucose levels continue to rise. Over time, higher than normal sugar levels in the body can cause potentially serious and long lasting damage to your heart, eyes, feet and kidneys.

Managing type 2 diabetes is usually done with diet, tablet (Metformin) or in some cases insulin injections. It has been known in recent years for people with mild type 2 diabetes to reverse the condition with a specific diet and healthy lifestyle including exercise.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong (chronic) and serious medical condition which is currently found in approximately 8% of people with diabetes in the UK. Generally this type of diabetes occurs more in younger people and is also known as ‘childhood diabetes’ or ‘juvenile diabetes’.

The main difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is that in type 1, the body actually attacks the cells in your pancreas that would normally produce insulin. Whereas in type 2 the body can still produce insulin, in type 1 the body simply does not produce any insulin which can have a dramatic effect on the us and our entire bodies.

Having known someone with quite severe type 1 diabetes for many years I can say from personal experience that this condition can be very scary. Treatment that has included many years on kidney dialysis, eventually receiving a full kidney transplant after several years on an NHS waiting list and almost complete loss of sight in both eyes.

Gestational diabetes is the last of the more common types of diabetes which gets its name from how it develops in pregnant women. This type of diabetes can affect almost any woman at any stage of pregnancy regardless of your diet, lifestyle or health. Gestational diabetes will also generally go after the pregnancy or can sometimes develop in to type 2 diabetes.

Pre-diabetes is a newer type of diabetes which has been developed in the modern medical world to help people to manage their health and make sure that they don’t develop full blown diabetes. Someone may be told by their GP or a medical professional that they have pre-diabetes and then advised on how to manage their health to stop them getting diabetes.

Diabetes Statistics (UK)

According to the latest statistics by the leading diabetes charity, Diabetes UK, the latest figures for the UK are:

  • 3.9 million people living with diabetes (plus almost a million with undiagnosed diabetes – making the total over 4.8 million people)*
  • More than 100,000 people were diagnosed with diabetes in 2019 in the UK (projected to increase to 5.3 million by 2025)*
  • 1 in 15 people living in the UK has diabetes
  • 6 in 10 people with type 2 diabetes has no symptoms
  • People with type 2 diabetes are approximately 50% more likely to die early*
  • Risks of Heart Attack or Heart Disease is much more likely in someone with type 2 diabetes (almost 2 to 2.5 higher risk)*

*The latest figures are provided by Diabetes UK, Diabetes Prevalence 2019 report.

Does diabetes affect me being able to get Life Insurance?

People living with diabetes can be extremely healthy and should not be too greatly affected when applying for life insurance. It is increasingly likely that you’ll also be able to get accepted for life insurance without the need for further medical underwriting so can be covered immediately so you won’t need to provide evidence from your GP or Diabetic Nurse. Our experts at iam|INSURED has worked very closely with some of the UK’s biggest and best insurance companies to make sure that people with diabetes get the lowest rates available and the best cover.

A standard life insurance application will ask questions about your general health and lifestyle to gather information about you. In the case of someone with diabetes, you’ll be asked to provide specific information about your condition, such as:

  • Do you take insulin?
  • Which type of diabetes do you have?
  • When were you first diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Has your diabetes affected any other areas of your body (e.g. eyes, kidneys, nerves or limbs)?
  • Have you ever been hospitalised because of your diabetes?
  • When did you last get your blood glucose levels checked by your GP?
  • What was latest HbA1c (or Mmol) reading?
  • Have you been diagnosed with High Blood Pressure or Raised Cholesterol?

These types of questions and some others will enable underwriters to assess your application and apply an accurate decision. Another major positive impact on premiums for people with diabetes over the past 15 years has resulted from insurers competing for policyholders with diabetes. You should also know that life insurance rates and terms for people with diabetes are constantly improving so it’s always worth reviewing existing policies as well.

What about Diabetes and Coronavirus (COVID-19) for Life Insurance?

It is also usually not an issue to get life insurance for someone with diabetes regardless of whether we are in a state of national emergency such as during Coronavirus. These were unprecedented times in 2020 which caused a huge impact on the diabetes community due to the additional cardiovascular risks on these people.

From a life insurance point of view there are no issues with getting cover for people with diabetes as long as they are not exposed to risks or displaying symptoms. This is a highly unusual situation and questions such as:

  • Are you currently self-isolating?
  • Do you currently have any symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
  • Have you been exposed to the risk of contracting Coronavirus?
  • Do you know anyone with symptoms who you have been in contact with?

While this is a one off and isolated event, we wanted to mention it as it may have longer lasting effects on life insurance and this is a common question we get asked about.

Which Types of Diabetes get Life Insurance?

It is and always has been possible to get life insurance for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The main difference between getting life insurance for people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is that generally people with type 1 diabetes will require some additional medical underwriting. We are increasingly seeing applications for type 2 diabetes accepted instantly with no further underwriting requirements which is a smaller percentage for people with type 1 diabetes.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes life insurance rates have reduced dramatically over the past 20 years thanks to better treatments, more information about the conditions and higher survival rates which means that people are living longer. All of this has had a positive impact on the cost of cover for people with diabetes which we expect to continue for many years to come.

Which are the Best Life Insurance providers for people with Diabetes?

There are several major life insurance providers in the UK currently which include Aviva, AIG, Aegon, L&G, Zurich and LV. iam|INSURED works with all of the TOP insurance companies in the UK as well as some specialist insurers who provide more bespoke or unique solutions for people with more severe symptoms of diabetes and other conditions.

We know the best insurance companies for each person based on their medical history, health and age but this can vary dramatically. It’s very difficult to say which insurers are best for each condition simply because of the fact that people’s circumstances are so different and no application is generally the same. Also the fact that underwriting can change dramatically and quickly which means that there can be a major shift in the insurers we would go to at any time.

Once we know more about you and your medical history then we can simply apply our expertise to help get you the best cover to protect your family. The main reason why you would use an expert like iam|INSURED is to save time and money to make sure that you get the cover you need at the right price.

How does my HbA1c reading affect Life Insurance rates?

The main consideration and influencing factor for underwriters looking at life insurance for people with diabetes is their HbA1c (Mmol) reading which is the blood sugar levels. The term HbA1c is an abbreviation for Glycated Haemoglobin which develops when haemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body) meets glucose in the blood, which becomes glycated.

There are two types of measurements for this type of reading which is usually taken by your doctor, the readings can be given as mmol/mol or % (HbA1c).

HbA1c levels for people with diabetes are as follows:

    Levels Mmol/mol Percentage (%)
    Normal Under 42 Under 6.0%
    Prediabetes 42 to 47 6.0% to 6.4%
    Diabetes Over 48 Over 6.5%

In terms of life insurance underwriting for people with diabetes there are several levels to consider that have an impact on your premiums:

    Levels Mmol/mol Percentage (%)
    Low (good control) Under 53 Under 7.0%
    Moderate (could improve) 54 to 74 7.0% to 8.9%
    High (poor control) 75 to 85 9.0% to 9.9%
    Very High Over 86 Over 10.0%

You should also know that in recent years there has been changes to the acceptable levels so more and more we are seeing decisions for people with readings over 10.0% (86Mmol/mol). We also appreciate that this is not an exact science and there are situations where people are asked by their GP to maintain higher readings, such as sports people.

Can I get Critical Illness Cover with Diabetes?

In recent years we’ve found that more and more that people with diabetes are able to get critical illness cover again thanks to changes in underwriting rules. Currently critical illness cover is only available for type 2 diabetes from the mainstream or more popular high street insurance providers. It is possible to get more specialist critical illness style products for people with type 1 diabetes which come with slightly different terms to standard cover.

You can now get critical illness cover through the major insurance providers as long as you fit certain criteria. These criteria questions include:

  • Do you smoke?
  • Have you got type 2 diabetes?
  • Do you have any diabetes complications (e.g. Retinopathy, Neuropathy or Nephropathy)?
  • What is your height and weight (BMI)?
  • Is your diabetes well controlled and readings low (HbA1c / Mmol)?

As long as you can answer these questions positively then you should have no problem being able to get critical illness cover. These terms are constantly changing so you’ll find that this will change over a period of time which we’ll be able to keep you informed about through our blogs and news articles.

Can I get Income Protection if I’ve got Diabetes?

It is also now possible to get income protection insurance with diabetes which is a more recent development and again shows promising signs for the future. In previous years it would have seemed almost impossible to get more strictly underwritten products like income protection insurance for someone with diabetes so this is good news. We appreciate that this may not seem incredibly positive to everyone but from our perspective it shows that things are progressing.

Income protection can provide cover for someone if they were unable to work because of long term sickness or because of an accident. The reason that diabetes has historically been difficult to get this type of cover is because of the strict underwriting guidance but with new technologies and bespoke products, this is changing.

There are also products that are available through some of the major insurance companies that offer a short term income protection cover (called Accident and Sickness) with no medical underwriting. This type of product is quite unique and we’re delighted to be able to offer this as a solution to our diabetes clients. This type of cover can be incredibly cost effective to people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes to you with the solution that you need.

How much is Travel Insurance for Diabetes?

Anyone who is travelling overseas who has a medical condition such as diabetes, should have adequate travel insurance in case anything happens to them whilst abroad. Diabetes travel insurance is no different and as long as you disclose details about your medical condition then you will be fully covered. You should be aware that if you fail to disclose certain information about your medical history then you may not be covered.

The main reason why it is essential to have appropriate levels of cover when travelling abroad is to make sure that you don’t get stuck with expensive medical bills if anything happens to you. It can be extremely difficult and costly to get treatment or medical attention in a foreign country, and especially for those with a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes. If you’ve got diabetes then you’ll know that your health and your symptoms can be unpredictable which is why it’s important to be covered.

You should also be able to get travel insurance which can cover any specific diabetes equipment whilst you are abroad. There are policies that will cover your medications and specialist equipment which includes diabetes pumps, insulin injections, tablets and other related items.

What about Diabetes Complications with Life Insurance and other type of Cover?

There are a number of diabetes related complications which can have an effect on all types of insurance when making an application. The main types of diabetes complications that can impact your insurance terms include:

  • Retinopathy which is a common form of eye disease in people with diabetes which is most common in people who have had diabetes for longer periods of time
  • Neuropathy is a nerve disorder which comes in three main categories including Sensory Neuropathy, Motor Neuropathy and Autonomic Neuropathy
  • Nephropathy also known as Kidney Disease which will affect approximately 40% of people with diabetes

Anyone with diabetes who has any of these complications will usually still be able to get cover and may find that there are some limitations such as insurers prepared to offer terms.

Diabetes Awareness events

Due to the high levels of diabetes both in the UK and globally, there are a number of major events that have been dedicated to raising awareness for diabetes. These events are annual events which help to raise money for research as well as raise awareness for people living with diabetes and the risks of developing diabetes.

Diabetes events include:

World Diabetes Day which is held every year on November 14th to increase awareness around the world for diabetes. The reason that the event is held on this specific date is that it coincides with the birthday of Dr. Frederick Banting who helped to discover insulin

Diabetes Awareness Week is held in the UK usually in June and is operated by Diabetes UK which is the biggest British diabetes charity

National Diabetes Month is primarily an American event which is held by the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and the American Diabetes Association

Diabetes Charities and Support organisations (UK)

Over the past century there have been a number of organisations that have been established to help people living with diabetes. These charities and companies provide vital information, guidance, support and services to people with diabetes. Some of the main organisations include:

Diabetes UK

Link: https://www.diabetes.org.uk

Helpline: 0345 123 2399

Address: Wells Lawrence House, 126 Back Church Lane, London, E1 1FH

Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation

Link: https://www.drwf.org.uk

Helpline: 0239 263 7808

Address: Building 6000, Langstone Technology Park, Havant, Hampshire, PO9 1SA

Diabetes.co.uk

Forum: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/forum/

Address: Technology House, Sir William Lyons Road, University of Warwick Scient Park, Coventry, CV4 7EZ

For more information or if you’ve got any questions about insurance for people with diabetes, call iam|INSURED on 0800 009 6559 or submit an enquiry

Daniel Sharpe-Szunko