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Life Health > Health Insurance

Carrier: Diabetes Plague Also Affects Insureds

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LBOOMdiabetesAB.doc Diabetes–go page xx, with –100 lines. See bullet graphic info at bottom of file.

Banner: Disability

Flag: Risk Factors

A large disability insurer has looked in its claim databases and come up with hard data to support the anecdotes about the increasing incidence of diabetes.

The baby boomers who buy and own disability insurance really are now more than twice as likely to cite diabetes as the primary cause of disability when they file claims as they were in 2001, according to researchers at UnumProvident Corp., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Insureds are filing about 1,500 diabetes-linked STD claims with UnumProvident per year, and “the majority are in the baby boomer age group,” says Dr. Robert Anfield, UnumProvident’s medical director.

The UnumProvident researchers are basing their figures on a collection of 1.4 million STD claim records.

When Dr. Ronald Leopold and other researchers at another large disability insurer, MetLife Inc., New York, looked at that company’s claims database for 2001 to 2003, they found that diabetes STD claim rates were especially high for boomer women in the 35-44 and 45-54 age categories but that diabetes-linked LTD claims rates were highest for boomer men in the 45-54 and 55 plus age categories.

To some extent, the spike in the number of diabetes-linked claims filed with UnumProvident by boomers may be due to heightened awareness of the dangers of diabetes, Anfield says.

“There are new diagnostic tests,” Anfield says. “And there’s a lot of media attention.”

But Anfield says he agrees with the conventional wisdom that the incidence of “Type 2″ or “adult onset” diabetes really is skyrocketing among boomers with disability insurance as a result of increasing obesity rates.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body loses some or all of the ability to use the hormone insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

“Type 1″ diabetes is the result of factors that cause a patient’s body to stop making insulin.

“Type 2″ diabetes is the result of factors that cause the body’s cells to stop listening to the messages that insulin is trying to send.

Scientists believe that problems with the body’s immune system cause Type 1 diabetes and that obesity and other diet problems are the most common causes of Type 2 diabetes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the total number of all U.S. residents with all kinds of diabetes increased to 13 million in 2002, from 7.6 million in 1992. But the types of people who own particular insurance are often different from the general population. Buyers of lifetime annuitities, for example, tend to be notoriously long-lived.

The UnumProvident figures confirm that disability insureds are having as much difficult managing their blood sugar as members of the general population are having.

Although UnumProvident started by looking at the effects of diabetes on STD claims, researchers there believe a similar effect might show up once they perform a similar analysis on LTD claims, Anfield says.

What can advisors do about boomers’ increasing diabetes-related disability rates?

Some advisors complain about suggestions that they ought to give financial services clients personal health advice.

Few clients really want to get personal health advise from their insurance agents or other advisors, advisors say.

But Anfield would like to see advisors come up with an acceptable way to raise the topic. “You can certainly tell an individual about the risk factors,” Anfield says.

Exercising just half an hour per day, 5 days a week and reducing weight by as little as 5% can have a big effect on diabetes risk, Anfield says.

Experts say advisors who sell disability insurance should prepare for meetings with clients with diabetes long before they schedule those meetings, by developing strong relationships with general agents and others with a deep understanding of the disability insurance market.

Clients who have done a good job of controlling their diabetes with diet, exercise and oral medication and have no other complications may be able to get disability coverage with a 5-year benefit period from a number of carriers, according to Karen Gardner, a general agent in Syosett, N.Y., who specializes in disability insurance.

At least 1 carrier also writes coverage for some insulin-dependent diabetes who are doing an excellent job of controlling their diabetes and have no diabetes-related complications, Gardner says.

But Gardner emphasizes that advisors who are trying to find coverage for people with diabetes have to understand the carriers’ need to limit and spread risk.

“No one wants an influx of applicants with any one disease or any other adverse health risk,” Gardner says.



Kicker: The Impact

Diabetes Takes A Big Toll

- Diabetes and diabetes complications account for about 11% of total U.S. healthcare expenditures.

- The average medical cost associated with Type 2 diabetes alone is $3,563 per diabetic claimant.

- The average medical cost of treating Type 2 diabetes complications is $18,695 per diabetic claimant.

- Employers of diabetic claimants suffer an average of $11,237 in extra personnel costs per diabetic claimant.


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