Getting Insurance When You Have Diabetes
8th November 2022
What is diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes
Also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune condition whereby your body cannot produce insulin, which leads to high blood sugar. It usually develops early in life, when the patient is a child or adolescent. Its cause is unknown but may be related to genetics or environmental factors. Risk factors include genetics, geography, family history, and age (onset is usually at 4-7 years old or 10-14 years old)
Complications from type 1 diabetes include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, foot damage, skin and mouth conditions, and pregnancy complications. In some cases, these can be life-threatening.
Type 1 diabetes is treated by monitoring glucose levels, taking insulin through injections or pumps, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (i.e., keeping a healthy weight through a good diet and regular exercise). In some cases, you might take other medications in addition to insulin. Currently there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes
Also known as adult-onset diabetes, type 2 diabetes is a preventable chronic condition whereby your body does not respond well to insulin, leading to high blood sugar. It typically develops later in life, over the course of many years. It is usually caused by insulin resistance in muscle, fat, and liver cells. Sometimes the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to manage blood glucose levels.
Risk factors include age (over 35 years old), race (Asian, Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, Native American), family history of obesity, family history of type 2 diabetes, and lifestyle (overweight, sedentary, poor diet). Complications include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, skin conditions, sleep apnea, delayed healing, hearing impairment, and dementia. Managing diabetes and controlling blood glucose levels can reduce the risk of complications.
Type 2 diabetes is treated by monitoring blood glucose levels and implementing lifestyle changes. This means eating a healthy diet, managing your weight, and getting regular exercise. In some cases, treatment might involve taking insulin or other medication. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by adjusting your lifestyle and habits.
Getting insurance when you have diabetes
In Hong Kong, most insurance companies discriminate against pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is a medical condition, disease or illness for which you’ve had symptoms or received treatment or of which you were aware (even without seeking treatment) before you apply for insurance.
Typically, if you have a pre-existing condition, one of the following things will happen:
- Your condition will be added to the list of policy exclusions. You will be granted insurance coverage, but this condition will not be covered.
- The insurance company will impose a premium loading so that, in exchange for a higher fee, they will cover your condition. This premium loading can range from 10% to 150% of the standard premium.
- The insurance company will decline your application for insurance coverage.
Diabetes is a common pre-existing condition. In most cases, the insurer will either accept your application for insurance but impose a premium loading, or they will decline your application altogether.
The ease with which you can get insurance as a diabetic depends on which type of diabetes you have.
Insurance for type 1 diabetes
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for people with type 1 diabetes to get health insurance and life insurance. That’s because type 1 diabetes requires lifelong insulin therapy, which can be expensive, and often leads to life-threatening complications affecting the heart, blood vessels, eyes, nerves, feet and kidneys. Most insurance companies consider these risks too high.
That said, if by chance an insurance company does accept your application for insurance coverage, then people with type 1 diabetes can expect to pay higher premiums to account for the risks.
Insurance for type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes will have an easier time getting health insurance, life insurance and critical illness insurance. That’s because this form of diabetes is more manageable than type 1 – it can often be managed without medication – so insurance companies consider the risks to be lower.
When you apply for insurance with type 2 diabetes, insurance underwriters consider factors such as your age, sex, and smoking habit. If the insurance company considers you too young or too old, your age will influence their decision to cover you. The insurer will also look at other conditions you might have, such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) or high BMI. Based on these factors, the insurance provider will either add a premium loading or decline your application.
On this topic, Alea advisor Shannon Kapoor offers the following advice: “Apply [for insurance] as soon as possible, even if you’ve just been diagnosed. There is a scope within which insurers will cover type 2 diabetes, but it will also be influenced by factors like age, sex, smoking habits, and other health conditions.”
Insurance plans specifically designed for people with diabetes
In Hong Kong, there are some insurance policies tailored specifically for people with diabetes.
For example, the Cigna HealthFirst Diamedic Plan is a health insurance plan tailored for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. According to the policy’s terms and conditions, a customer must meet a set of “Policy Renewable Criteria” to renew their policy each year. These criteria include blood sugar level, blood pressure, body build, cholesterol, and the presence of protein/albumin in a random urine sample. Cigna also runs a Health Reward program based on these criteria to incentivize clients to keep their health readings within range.
Another diabetic-specific product is YF Life’s PrimeHealth Diabetes Care, a critical illness plan designed specifically for people with type 2 diabetes (unfortunately, type 1 diabetics are not eligible). This plan includes a one-time payment benefit for specific types of critical illness or surgery.
If you’re not sure what type of insurance plan is right for you, it’s a good idea to get in touch with an insurance advisor or broker. They can give you advice and recommend plans that are most suitable for you. Best of all, consultations are free.
Can I get life insurance with diabetes?
It depends. Type 1 diabetics will have a hard time getting life insurance. Type 2 diabetics, on the other hand, may be able to get life insurance – albeit probably with a premium loading applied.
What obstacles do diabetics face when getting insurance?
Because insurance companies discriminate against diabetes and other pre-existing conditions, it may be difficult to get insurance if you have diabetes. In most cases, it is almost impossible for type 1 diabetics to get insurance. Type 2 diabetics have a higher chance of getting insurance, but insurance providers will look at factors such as age, sex, smoking habit, and other conditions that you may have; these factors will help the insurance provider to determine if they will cover you with a premium loading or decline your application altogether.
Can people with diabetes get health insurance?
In most cases, it is incredibly difficult for people with type 1 diabetes to get health insurance. For those with type 2 diabetes, it is possible to get health insurance, but the insurance provider will look at other factors related to your health and physical condition and decide if they will apply a premium loading or decline your application for insurance.
Can people with diabetes get life insurance?
Most of the time, it is very hard for people with type 1 diabetes to get health insurance. On the other hand, it is easier for type 2 diabetics to get life insurance, but the insurance provider will look at other aspects of your health to decide if they’ll apply a premium loading or decline your application.
Can people with diabetes get travel insurance?
It is possible to get travel insurance if you have diabetes, but be sure to check the terms carefully. It is likely that the travel insurance policy will not cover anything related to pre-existing conditions (such as diabetes). It will cover you for other things like unexpected trip cancellations, travel delays, lost or damaged or stolen luggage, accidents, personal liability, evacuation, emergency medical expenses and more.
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.