Updated 31 March 2015

What you need to know about diabetes life insurance

Life insurance for diabetics is a relatively new product on the market. Here’s what to look out for, and how you can make this work for you.


People take out life insurance for many different reasons. If you have dependants, it is often to ensure their financial security if something should happen to you. For many years, diabetics could not get life insurance, but that has changed now.

The global rise of diabetes

The incidence of type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-related disease is rising dramatically. Worldwide, at least 366 million people have diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Foundation – and this figure is set to increase to 552 million by 2030. It must also be remembered that many type 2 diabetics are undiagnosed, especially in developing countries. Estimates of the number of diabetics in SA are hard to come by range and from 840 000 – 1,5 million according to the International Diabetes Federation. They also mention that one in every 5 South Africans over the age of 35 are diabetic.

People with type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed much later in life than type 1 diabetics, and although they have an increased risk for health complications, good blood sugar control and cholesterol control can lower the life-threatening risks associated with diabetes significantly. Between 85 – 90% of diabetics are type 2 diabetics.

Read: Could you have diabetes and not know about it?

Health risks of diabetes

High blood glucose levels affect heart health and blood vessels (hence blood circulation), eyes, kidneys, and also carry an increased risk of infection and nerve disease, which can lead to loss of feeling in the extremities. This can lead to amputations. Diabetes is also a leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Well-controlled blood sugar levels reduce the risk of all these complications. Weight control, exercising regularly, not smoking, and sticking to eating guidelines will all assist in keeping blood sugar levels under control.

Read: Proper treatment slashes diabetes complications

Diabetes and life expectancy

In the past, life expectancy for diabetics was considerably lower than for the general population – sixty years ago, it differed by almost 20 years for type 1 diabetics. But advances in diabetes care have changed that completely. Life expectancy is now almost the same between the two groups. The same cannot be said for type 2 diabetics, who are estimated by Diabetes UK to have a reduced life expectancy of at least 10 years.

In short, if you are a healthy 25-year-old, you will have no difficulty finding life insurance, but if you are 50 and you are a type 2-diabetic, you could find your applications turned down, or, at best, your premiums loaded.

Life insurance for diabetics

People with chronic health issues, such as diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), often find that they are turned down for life insurance based on their state of their physical health. Often, examinations for life insurance are rigorous, and the results seemingly used to protect the insurance companies against likely claims.

While medical schemes can, at most, exclude an applicant from treatment for a specific condition for a 12-month period, the Medical Schemes Act of 1998 does not apply to the insurance industry where applications can be turned down based on a person’s state of health. This has effectively meant that diabetics have had great difficulties in securing life insurance at comparable prices offered to non-diabetics. Traditionally, diabetics have been seen as high-risk clients and have had their premiums loaded because of this, if they were give life insurance at all.

There are now life insurance companies specifically providing comprehensive life insurance to people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Cover is either for an unlimited period of time, or it is for a specific duration of time. These policies will pay out in the case of death of the life insured, or in the case of accidental death. Cover is for up to R5 million rand with premiums starting at R150 per month. Death income benefits carry maximum entry ages, and maximum expiry ages, in other words if you die after a certain age, such as 70, benefits will not be paid out. It is essential that clients should be aware of these stipulations.

If you can prove, that you are keeping your blood sugar levels under control, you will be eligible for ongoing life insurance. Your monthly premium will be influenced by the following factors:

- Whether you have type or type 2 diabetes

- When you were diagnosed

- Whether you are a smoker

- How committed you are to the diabetic control monitoring programme

A blood glucose test, known as  HbA1C, are required regularly, and results are to be submitted to the insurer. Should blood glucose levels be out of control two times in a row, clients could be referred back to their GPs for management of their diabetes. At worst, their life insurance could be reduced to accident insurance only.

This is aimed at both encouraging diabetic control and giving peace of mind to people with diabetes who want to provide a better and more secure life for their families. Your health issues should no longer be a barrier in your desire to provide security for your loved ones.

General tips

When applying for life cover, remember the following:

1. Submit evidence of carefully controlled blood sugar levels when applying for the first time. If you are refused as a client, you would have to declare that you were turned down for cover, which reduces your chances of success second time round.

2. Do go for all the necessary screenings and submit evidence of the results to your insurer timeously.

3. If you already have life insurance when you are first diagnosed with diabetes, you can stay on your existing policy with no loading of your premiums. 

Read more:
12 things you should know about diabetes
Diagnosing diabetes
Causes of diabetes


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