Juvenile Diabetes and Life Insurance

Underwriting life insurance has always been a conservative undertaking, and nowhere has this been more evident that when it comes to underwriting the individual with juvenile diabetes.  Also known as Type 1 diabetes, this disease affects newborns, children and adolescents. 

In the non-diabetic, the pancreas produces a hormone, insulin, in the correct amount to change glucose in the blood into energy.

Type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin.  They must inject the proper amount so that their bodies do not build up glucose in the blood causing high blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia. The key to control is using the correct amount of insulin.  Too little or too much can cause serious damage to the body’s systems, and can therefore lead to difficulty when it comes to purchasing life insurance.

Current underwriting by insurance companies has not kept pace with the many advances in the control of juvenile diabetes.  In the past, the amount of insulin necessary to perfectly compensate for the body’s lack of insulin had been an approximate decision at best.  However, in the past few years technological advances have made the amount of insulin one needs a more exacting process.   To further complicate matters, insulin need changes as individuals’ age and diet changes.

So how does the client with Juvenile Diabetes purchase life insurance?  The answer is not simple.  Many carriers will not insure type 1 diabetics.  The underwriting guidelines simply put these individuals outside their scope of insurable persons.  While this complicates insurability, it does not mean the type 1 diabetic is uninsurable.  The type 1 diabetic should only apply to those carriers whose guidelines allow for “table ratings” sufficient to accommodate the juvenile diabetic.  Table ratings are premiums above standard or preferred ratings and are used to accommodate risk associated with various illnesses, build and other factors that can affect insurability.

Type 1 diabetics should make sure that their blood sugar levels are under control.  This is important not only for insurance, but for the diabetics’ well being.  Most diabetics are familiar with their measure of long term control.  This is known as the “Hemoglobin A1c” or more commonly, simply “A1c” and measures the blood sugar over the past three months.  Generally, a reading of “7” or below is considered by insurance companies as evidence of good control, and is extremely important when applying for coverage.

When considering life insurance it is also important to apply with a so-called “independent” agent or agency with experience in this area.  This is essential not only from a convenience standpoint, but more importantly it will keep “declines” out of your record with the database insurers use known as the “MIB” or Medical Information Bureau.  This entity is utilized by all carriers to guard against fraud by the applicant.  It is the job of the independent agent to present the best possible case to the underwriter and having one or more “declines” on the record cannot help.  

Today, many type 1 or juvenile diabetics can enjoy life expectancies close or equivalent to those without the disease.  Unfortunately, the life insurance industry has not yet advanced their underwriting to account for these recent advances.  In the meantime, insurance is available in most cases, and should become more affordable as the industry recognizes the positive change that medical research has produced.