Life Insurance

How to Get Life Insurance as a Diabetic

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People with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can get life insurance coverage, though the policies you'll qualify for and the ease of the process will depend on your type of diabetes, the age you were diagnosed and how it's controlled.

A diabetic who was diagnosed at a later age, has Type 2 diabetes and is able to control it with diet and exercise alone will typically have the best chance of qualifying for the best life insurance rates. If you've experienced any complications due to diabetes or depend on insulin to control the disease, you can still get life insurance, but your coverage options may be more limited.

How the type of diabetes you have impacts life insurance

You can purchase life insurance if you have diabetes. However, you may have a more limited set of coverage options and a policy will likely cost more since you're considered higher risk by insurers. In addition to your other health factors, the type of diabetes you have will significantly impact how life insurance companies evaluate your application, since each type of diabetes affects your health differently.

Life insurance for Type 1 diabetics

People with Type 1 diabetes are generally considered higher risk than those with Type 2 diabetes and therefore may have a more challenging time purchasing life insurance. Life insurers consider Type 1 diabetes to be less manageable, particularly as it often requires insulin in order to be controlled.

In addition, life insurance companies consider the age of diagnosis when evaluating risk for a person with diabetes, as a diagnosis later in life means there are fewer years it will impact your body and health. However, Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed when a person is a child or teen, which would cause you to be viewed as a higher risk when applying for life insurance.

Life insurance for Type 2 diabetics

Type 2 diabetes is generally considered lower risk by life insurance companies, particularly if you're able to manage it with lifestyle adjustments or oral medication and have had no complications. And, since Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed in adulthood, you're also more likely to be viewed favorably by insurers. So long as you're otherwise healthy and haven't had complications, although having Type 2 diabetes will affect your life insurance rating and increase how much you pay for coverage, it shouldn't prevent you from getting a policy.

Life insurance with gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can occur in pregnant women due to hormonal changes in the body and is often a temporary condition that goes away soon after giving birth. However, this isn't always the case, and it will cause some women to develop Type 2 diabetes. Life insurance companies will therefore rate you as higher risk, meaning you'll pay higher rates than a woman without gestational diabetes.

If you are already pregnant and have gestational diabetes, you may want to wait until several months after you've given birth before applying for a life insurance policy. The condition may go away after pregnancy, in which case you'll have an easier time qualifying for life insurance and likely receive lower quotes.

Why is it hard for diabetics to get life insurance?

Life insurance is consistently harder to qualify for and more expensive for people with pre-existing health conditions. Life insurance companies rate applicants based upon their expected mortality, which is influenced by both your current medical conditions and likelihood of developing additional critical conditions. Since diabetes is often accompanied by other health issues, such as obesity, and is a risk factor in developing other medical conditions, it can be particularly difficult to find a life insurance policy with good rates as a diabetic.

Diabetes increases your likelihood of a number of conditions and operations, including:

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • 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)

Given the severity of these side effects, even diabetic-friendly life insurance companies will consider you a high-risk applicant if you've had any complications or your application shows signs that your condition isn't well-controlled.

What health factors impact the cost of life Insurance for diabetics?

When you have diabetes and apply for a life insurance policy, the insurer will determine whether they offer coverage and the rates you qualify for based upon your current health, medical history, family history and lifestyle. For diabetics, life insurance companies will primarily want to determine if your condition is well-controlled, how it has impacted your body so far and how likely it is to negatively impact your health going forward.

In order to apply, you will need to complete a questionnaire about your diabetes in addition to the standard life insurance application. They may also request for additional records and details from any physicians you've visited in the past few years. And, unless you're purchasing a no-medical-exam policy, the insurer will require you to take either a paramedical exam or complete physical.

Below are some of the questions commonly asked of diabetics and the details insurers will be looking for when evaluating your application.

Type of diabetesWhether you have Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes.
Current age and date first diagnosedThe longer you've had diabetes, the longer it's impacted your body, increasing your likelihood of side effects. A later-in-life diagnosis is better, with over age 50 being ideal.
Doctor and care recordsYou'll need to provide the name, address and phone number of all doctors you've seen in the last two years. The insurer may also want documentation of all follow-up appointments and referrals.
A1C levelsA1C levels are used to judge the severity of your diabetes and how well it's controlled. Essentially, the lower your A1C, the better. If it's below 7.0, you'll generally be viewed favorably, but levels above 7.5 show less control and you'll be viewed as higher risk.
How your diabetes is controlledInsurers want to know if your diabetes is controlled through diet and exercise, oral medication, insulin or a combination of these. They may also want details on any of these methods used, such as your current diet, exercise frequency, types of medication and doses, or number of insulin units per day. Control through diet and exercise alone is ideal, but consistent control through any method is preferable to a lack of control.
Medical historyYou'll need to provide your current height and weight, details of your family's medical history, whether you take any additional medications, details of any other conditions you've had and whether you smoke.
Blood sugarThe insurer will ask for your most recent reading and whether you monitor it yourself. A blood glucose level below 135 is typically considered good, but you can often get coverage if your level is higher and controlled.
Blood pressureIf you've had issues with high blood pressure, this will raise your life insurance rates.
CholesterolInsurers want to know your readings for LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can cause coronary artery disease, and HDL (good) cholesterol.
MicroalbuminA microalbumin test is used to detect early signs of kidney damage, a common side effect of diabetes.
Other conditions or complicationsIf you've had any diabetes-related complications or other serious medical conditions, you'll be considered a significantly higher risk by insures. Some diabetes-related conditions they'll want to know about include: chest pain, coronary artery disease, protein in the urine (proteinuria), neuropathy, retinopathy, abnormal ECG, obesity, elevated lipids, kidney disease, blackout spells and hypertension.

Choosing the best life insurance policy with diabetes

When choosing the best life insurance policy for yourself, diabetics need to determine:

  • The type of policy (term, whole, guaranteed universal or universal)
  • Level of underwriting (fully underwritten, no medical exam or guaranteed acceptance)
  • The amount of coverage needed

We recommend first reviewing your finances and goals to determine how much coverage you may need and how long it will need to remain in force.

These factors will directly influence which policies you should consider and the amount of underwriting required in order to qualify. In addition, if you later realize that you want a greater amount of coverage than you originally purchased, you'll likely need to undergo additional underwriting. Given you may experience side effects or complications related to your diabetes over time, you risk either not qualifying for additional coverage later on or paying significantly higher rates.

Type of policy

Term life insurance policies are the cheapest in terms of cost per dollar of coverage because they only extend for a predetermined period of time, such as 10 or 20 years, and have no cash value. So, for instance, if you're concerned about your children being able to pay for college if you passed away due to diabetic complications, you may want to purchase a term policy that extends into their adulthood. And most term policies offer the option of converting to a permanent policy without additional underwriting, meaning later diabetic complications wouldn't be considered if your circumstances change.

On the other hand, if you know that you want to leave an inheritance or ensure that your spouse receives support no matter when you pass away, you may prefer a permanent life insurance policy. Just note that permanent life insurance policies with a cash value component, like universal and whole life insurance, will be the most expensive alternatives.

Since you're likely to already pay higher rates due to having diabetes, you may want to compare the cost of these against a guaranteed universal life insurance policy, which is generally more affordable. Guaranteed universal policies typically have cheaper rates, since they have little to no cash value component, while still providing lifelong coverage.

No medical exam vs. fully underwritten life insurance

Diabetics can purchase either term or whole life insurance policies without a medical exam, but these policies are both more expensive and limited in the amount of coverage that can be purchased.

No-medical-exam term policies typically won't exceed $500,000 of coverage, and no-exam whole life policies typically offer a maximum of $50,000 of coverage. And, if you choose the no-medical-exam option, the life insurance company will still ask that you complete a diabetic questionnaire and request records from your doctors. So, while you may not undergo a paramedical exam, the insurer will still likely find out if your diabetes isn't well controlled or you've been diagnosed with complications.

However, a no-medical-exam life insurance policy may be your best solution if you believe that you might have diabetes-related side effects or complications that haven't been diagnosed. Say, for example, you'd experienced numbness in your hands and feet but hadn't been diagnosed with neuropathy. If you applied for a fully underwritten term life insurance policy and the complication was discovered during the paramedical exam, you could be rejected from receiving a policy.

In addition, the results of the insurer's investigation would be available to other life insurance companies, including those that offer no-exam policies. However, if you initially applied for a no-medical-exam policy, the insurer would still consider you a higher risk due to your having diabetes but would only be able to evaluate your risk based upon your questionnaire and medical records.

Just keep in mind that, whether you apply for a no-exam policy or a fully underwritten policy, it's incredibly important that you answer all questions asked by the insurer honestly. Otherwise, your coverage may be canceled or your family's life insurance claim may be denied if you pass away during the period of coverage.

What if you're rejected for life insurance coverage?

If you're rejected for fully underwritten and no-medical-exam life insurance policies due to your diabetes, you can still purchase a guaranteed-issue life insurance policy. We only recommend this as a last resort if you need coverage, because guaranteed-issue whole life insurance, also called final expense insurance, is the most expensive form of coverage.

Policies typically have a maximum death benefit of around $25,000 and come with a two- to three-year waiting period during which if you die due to a nonaccident, your beneficiaries would not receive the full death benefit. So, for instance, if you passed away due to diabetic complications one year after purchasing your policy, your family would just receive the sum of premiums paid plus a small amount of interest.

Best life Insurance companies for diabetics

The cheapest life insurance company for a person with diabetes will vary depending upon the type of policy you want, the amount of coverage you need, the type of diabetes you have, the medication you take and when you were diagnosed. Therefore, we recommend reviewing and getting quotes from multiple life insurance companies in order to determine which one will provide the best rates for your preferred coverage.

As a starting point, with the following life insurance companies, diabetics may be able to qualify for at least $250,000 of term coverage depending on their age of diagnosis and how well controlled their condition is.

InsurerTypes of diabetesMinimum age of diagnosisMedical exam?
AIGType 230Exam
American NationalType 240No exam option
AmericoType 230No exam option
Banner LifeType 2VariesExam
John HancockType 1, Type 2VariesNo exam option
Mutual of OmahaType 1, Type 250No exam option
North American Co.Type 240No exam option
PhoenixType 1, Type 2VariesNo exam option
ProtectiveType 2VariesExam
PrudentialType 1, Type 2VariesExam
Royal Neighbors of AmericaType 230No exam option
SagicorType 250No exam option
United of OmahaType 2VariesNo exam option

John Hancock Aspire Vitality Program

A new life insurance product tailored specifically to diabetics is the Aspire Vitality Program offered by John Hancock. The program pairs John Hancock's existing Vitality option and the company's traditional life insurance options to provide reduced life insurance rates and diabetes wellness tools.

The original John Hancock Vitality program provides a policyholder with exclusive life insurance benefits such as free health magazines, discounts on wearable fitness devices and even annual premiums savings for participating in healthy activities. The Vitality rider is included in the price of your policy — usually $2 per month — and requires you to complete a brief health questionnaire before being registered for the program. As you complete health living goals, such as exercising, eating well or participating in preventative care, you can be awarded points that can lead to better rewards.

Aspire is an additional diabetes-centric program on top of the Vitality product. Instead of the 15% premium discount maximum that is available in the regular Vitality program, the discount can be increased up to 25% depending on your Vitality Status level. Status level is gained by participating in those healthy activities mentioned above.

In addition to gaining access to Vitality, if you are a Type 2 diabetic, then you would be allowed to sign up for the Onduo diabetes management program. This is a system that allows you to monitor your diabetes accurately, report the results to John Hancock and then potentially receive larger premium discounts for your life insurance.

What if you were diagnosed with diabetes after buying life Insurance?

Once you've purchased life insurance and the policy is issued, the insurer can't cancel the policy or alter your rates if you're diagnosed with diabetes later on. So if you purchased a permanent life insurance policy, such as whole life insurance, your premiums and coverage will remain the same even if you become diabetic. There are only three situations in which it would be problematic to become diabetic after buying life insurance:

You bought a term life insurance policy and want coverage to continue after the initial term ends.If your term policy included a conversion option, you can choose to convert it into a permanent life insurance policy without undergoing a new medical evaluation. Permanent policies cost more, but you won't have to requalify and coverage will extend for as long as you choose. Alternatively, if you only need coverage for a few more years or are healthy and controlling your diabetes well, you can apply for a new term life insurance policy.
You have group life insurance through your employer.If you're no longer employed by a company, your group life insurance will cease to be in place. Some group life policies have a conversion or portability option -- these give you the ability to convert your existing coverage to an individual life insurance policy without a medical review. Just note that these converted policies are often quite expensive and may cost more than you'd pay elsewhere, even with diabetes. We recommend porting or converting your policy if possible, so you don't forgo coverage, but also apply for other life insurance policies to determine if you'll qualify for better quotes.
You want to increase your policy's coverage.In order to increase your life insurance policy's death benefit, you'll typically need to undergo additional underwriting, meaning the cost of coverage can increase if you've been diagnosed with diabetes. If you have whole or universal life insurance, you may be able to purchase paid-up additions which increase your policy's coverage without requiring a health evaluation, but this option isn't always available. And if you have a term life insurance policy, you likely won't be able to increase your coverage without additional underwriting. You may instead want to consider a second policy with no medical exam, if the amount of additional coverage you need isn't too large.
Maxime Croll

Maxime is a Director at ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry. Previously she was the Director of Product Marketing at CoverWallet, a commercial insurance startup, and helped launch NerdWallet's personal insurance business. Maxime has contributed insurance insights and analysis to Forbes, USA Today, The Hill, and many other publications.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.