Life insurance for diabetics: What you need to know in 2021

Applying for life insurance with a pre-existing condition like diabetes may present some hurdles. Fortunately, more and more life insurance companies offer tailor-made products for diabetics.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2020 National Diabetics Statistics Report, 34.2 million Americans (just over 10%) have diabetes, and 88 million Americans (approximately 33%) have prediabetes. Unfortunately, many of these people are under the false impression that they can’t be approved for life insurance coverage.

Though it is more difficult and expensive for them to be accepted because of their diabetes, they also face other challenges getting approved. The report indicated 15% of adult diabetics are smokers, 89% are overweight, and 38% are physically inactive. However, a large number of diabetics will be approved for life insurance this year.

Life insurance for people with diabetes

Life insurers are reluctant to issue new policies to people with pre-existing conditions, not only those with diabetes. People who have had heart problems, cancer, stroke, and many other illnesses also find it challenging to be approved for a new life insurance policy.

Life insurers scrutinize people with diabetes because the disease is a risk factor for other medical conditions and operations, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • The negative impact to organs, eyes, and teeth (due to uncontrolled glucose levels)
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Neuropathy
  • Surgeries (such as bypass surgery or limb amputation)

How well your diabetes is controlled is a significant factor when you’re being considered for coverage. Because of the severity of the other medical conditions associated with diabetes, even diabetic-friendly insurers consider diabetics high-risk if they’ve had any complications or problems controlling their condition.

How your type of diabetes affects insurability

The type of diabetes you have will impact a life insurance company’s underwriting decision to insure you or not, as well as the rate you’ll pay for coverage since each type of diabetes affects your health differently. Let’s look at three types — Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes — and their impact on your insurability.

Life insurance for Type 1 diabetics

If you have Type 1 diabetes, it will prove more challenging for you to be approved because life insurers consider Type 1 more difficult to control, necessitating the need for insulin.

Your current age and how old you were when diagnosed are significant determinants of your insurability. Someone more senior with a recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes will be viewed as a more acceptable risk than someone diagnosed as a child or a teen because later-onset means there will be fewer years for the disease to impact their health.

Life insurance for Type 2 diabetics

Type 2 diabetes that is well managed will cause you to be considered a relatively low-risk applicant by life insurers, particularly if you can manage it with oral medication or lifestyle adjustments. If you haven’t had any complications, you have an excellent chance of getting approved for a life insurance policy, though it may impact your rates.

Life insurance for Gestational diabetics

Women with gestational diabetes are often considered insurable because it's typically a temporary condition during pregnancy and will no longer be present after childbirth. However, it is still a factor in the underwriting decision and rates because some women with gestational diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes.

It’s advisable if you’re already pregnant and you have gestational diabetes that you wait until after you’ve given birth before you apply for a life insurance policy. Your diabetes may disappear after pregnancy, which will make it easier for your life insurance application to be accepted at a more favorable rate.

Learn More: Life Insurance & Pregnancy

Term life vs. whole life insurance for diabetics

If your primary consideration is cost when deciding whether to buy term life insurance or whole life insurance, term life will probably be the best choice for you. Since there are more complications with diabetes as you age, buying a term policy for the maximum term, typically 30 years, is a good strategy to protect your family.

Another advantage of term life insurance is its convertibility while the policy is in force. You’re able to convert your term life policy to a whole life policy, if your policy has this feature, without having to provide any evidence of insurability to the insurer, which is a big advantage for anyone with a pre-existing condition.

However, whole life insurance may be a better choice if you want life insurance protection and a policy that will accumulate cash value that you can withdraw or borrow from as the policy matures.

Because whole life insurance will pay a death benefit as long as you pay your premiums, you’ll pay substantially more for a whole life policy than you will for a term life policy.

Life insurance companies like John Hancock, Mutual of Omaha, and Prudential, have policies written specifically for people with diabetes. An independent life insurance agent can compare companies for you and see whose underwriting practices will be most favorable for your situation.

Learn More: Term Life Insurance vs. Whole Life Insurance

Alternatives if you’re denied life insurance coverage

If your application for life insurance is declined, you do have several alternatives.

Simplified issue life insurance

Simplified issue life insurance is one alternative. With simplified issue life, you’ll be asked several health questions, one of which concerns diabetes, but you won’t have to undergo a medical examination to qualify. In addition, life insurance companies that offer simplified issue policies typically will have more liberal underwriting practices, giving you a greater probability of being approved.

Simplified issue policies are whole life insurance policies that are issued with lower face amounts and a limited death benefit for the first few years. Premiums are higher for simplified issue than they are for term life insurance or whole life insurance that is fully underwritten.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance is another alternative if your application is rejected. When applying for a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, you won’t be asked any questions concerning your health history, and you won’t be required to have a medical examination. As the name implies, coverage is guaranteed to be issued.

Since the life insurance company will know very little about you, your gender and age will determine your rates, making this the most expensive form of life insurance someone with a pre-existing condition can buy.

If you’re a diabetic who wants to purchase life insurance, don’t worry – you can get coverage. It may take some searching, and you’ll very likely have to pay more for your coverage, but you can find the protection you’re looking for. An experienced life insurance professional specializing in higher-risk cases can be a great asset for you.


Having grown up in upstate New York, Bob Phillips spent over 15 years in the financial services world and has been making freelance writing contributions to blogs and websites since 2007. He resides in North Texas with his wife and Doberman puppy.

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