Diabetes and Life Insurance

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With the number of Canadians living with diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, or prediabetes poised to jump to one in three if current trends continue by 2020, families need to become more knowledgeable in the nuances of getting life insurance if you have diabetes. While there are challenges with insuring diabetics, it’s far from impossible. Insurance companies can choose not to insure you, based on your diagnosis or build in an extra premium based on your health.

Let’s Start with Facts


Our bodies’ cells are fueled by absorbing sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream.  In order to do this, they need insulin. However, diabetes affects the body’s ability to either use or produce insulin. As a result, there is an excess of sugar in the bloodstream, which can damage blood vessels, the heart, kidneys, and eyes.

Type 1 Diabetes

It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills the beta cells of the pancreas. Very little or no insulin is released into the body. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy. About 5% to 10% of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes generally develops in childhood or adolescence but can develop in adulthood. Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin. Meal planning also helps with keeping blood sugar at the right levels.

Type 2

It occurs when the body can’t properly use the insulin that is released (called insulin insensitivity) or does not make enough insulin. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy. About 90% of people with diabetes has type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes more often develops in adults, but children can be affected. Depending on the severity of type 2 diabetes, it may be managed through physical activity and meal planning, or may also require medications and/or insulin to control blood sugar more effectively.

Some studies suggest that a middle-aged person with type 2 diabetes has as much chance of having a heart attack as someone without the disease who has already had one heart attack, while the chance of having a stroke is one and a half times higher. The key to obtaining coverage revolves around proving to the insurance company that the disease is under control and there are no serious complications. Family advisors like myself do that by showing the applicant has a doctor who they see on a regular basis, the disease is monitored and medication is being taken as prescribed. Knowing a few of the key variables insurance companies will consider when determining if you qualify, could mean the difference between insured and uninsured.

1. If you are insulin dependent – All things being equal, an insulin-dependent diabetic will pay a higher premium than those who don’t depend on insulin.

2. The age when you were diagnosed – Younger diabetics are usually underwritten more carefully than older diabetics. In fact, diabetics fifty and over with no other health issues can qualify for the same standard rates as non-diabetics.

3. Duration of diabetes – Once diabetes is under control you should work to obtain life insurance as soon as possible since it can lead to other extraneous health issues that can make it even more difficult to obtain life insurance.

4. Height and weight – Traditional insurance is normally unavailable if you’re diabetic and overweight.

In addition to requesting an attending physician’s report, the insurance company may also request a blood profile, urine test and vitals (build and BP check) too. More than 35% of Canadians with diabetes have two or more other serious chronic conditions such as obesity, hypertension or elevated cholesterol. The blood test will demonstrate the degree of blood sugar control and check for cholesterol levels. The urine test is to rule out concurrent kidney disease.

If traditional insurance is closed to you, all is not lost. You can look for a simplified issue or guaranteed issue policy. Guaranteed issue plans have no medical tests and no health questions.


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