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From 1980 through 2002, the number of Americans with diabetes more than doubled, from 5.8 million to 13.3 million, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control.

Furthermore, according to the CDC, adult-onset diabetes (often called Type II diabetes) may now be accounting for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases in the U.S.

Most experts agree that a key factor behind this upward trend is the fact that Americans are “super-sizing” their eating habits. That leads to obesity, which often leads to diabetes. That is the bad news! The good news is that the underwriting departments of most life insurance companies are very aware of this fact and are making great strides in the way they underwrite diabetic clients.

It was not too long ago that a person with diabetes had very few options of where to get their life insurance coverage at an affordable rate. At that time, they were either highly rated or declined coverage altogether.

Fortunately, that is no longer the case. This is mainly due to the amount of research that has been done on diabetes and the effect the disease has on mortality. It has been determined that diabetics who have optimum control of their disease can expect their mortality to be similar to that of someone without diabetes.

Now that you know that diabetes is an insurable disease, what are the basics that you need to know in order to get your client a quote for life insurance coverage?

First, you will want to know their age of onset. In other words, how long have they had the disease? You should know there are 2 types of diabeticsType I, generally referred to as Juvenile diabetes, and Type II, the Adult-Onset diabetes referred to above.

Second, you will need to ask them for their latest A1C reading and/or current blood sugar level. You may feel reluctant to ask this because you think they might not know their level. Rest assured, if a person has diabetes, he or she will know both of these numbers!

Third, you will want to find out how they are controlling their diabetes. There are basically 3 ways diabetics do this: Through diet, oral medication or insulin.

Finally, you want to find out if your client has any other complications associated with the diabetes. These include heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy and retinopathy among others.

Now that you have the information you need, you have a variety of options that you can and should explore. First and foremost, you should check with your primary carrier and see what type of offer it is willing to extend. Secondly, you should make a call to your favorite brokerage general agent. BGAs usually have a variety of carriers that may specialize in working with diabetic clients.

If you dont have a favorite BGA outlet, you can visit www.nailba.org to find one close to you. NAILBA, the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies, has members in every part of the country that can help you find coverage for your clients.

Checking with multiple outlets is the best way to find out which companies are the most aggressive in the underwriting of diabetics. Also, underwriting philosophies change over time so checking every time you have an impaired risk case is also a good idea.

What is a good offer? Generally, if you have a client who is a Type II diabetic (and has been for a number of years) and the persons diabetes is controlled by diet or oral medication, the client can expect to receive a “standard” offer with no extra rating. This assumes that other factors are normal (other than the fact that your client has diabetes).

While there are carriers that will give Type I and insulin-controlled diabetics an offer of “standard” with no extra rating, many times these clients will receive offers anywhere from Table 2 to Table 8. The reason for the difference is primarily the overall mortality experience in these 2 segments.

Please note that these offers are just generalities. There are a variety of factors that go into underwriting a diabetic client. Control and compliance are 2 of the most important factors, and these are looked at on each individual case. Obviously, the client who is taking care of him/herself and is doing exactly what the doctor has prescribed is looked at more favorably than one who is not taking the disease seriously enough.

Learning about the disease and how to handle cases should help you feel comfortable working with diabetic clients. There is no magic in getting coverage at prices they can afford. It is simply a matter of finding out how they are controlling the disease and matching that with an insurance carrier who is willing to look at the case on a favorable basis. Once you do this, you will find out that diabetes is truly “an insurable disease.”

is president and general agent with the Tennessee Brokerage Agency, Knoxville, Tenn. His e-mail address is jfelton@tba.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, November 11, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.