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COVID, diabetes and the impact on life insurance

Life Insurance and Annuities
by Jeff Lee
COVID, diabetes and the impact on life insurance
COVID, diabetes and the impact on life insurance

There are a lot of negative consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but for many people around the world, the risks related to diabetes may be among the most undersold. The virus is not only a major health risk for people who already have the chronic health problem, it also seems to be creating a slew of new cases as COVID-19 attacks people's immune systems.

Indeed, the combination of COVID and diabetes is seen as a "bidirectional" health risk, according to an international letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine. People who have already been diagnosed with type-1 or type-2 diabetes may suffer significantly more health complications if they are infected with coronavirus, and there has been an observable increase in new diabetes diagnoses among COVID patients. That is, much like the flu and other viruses that attack the immune system, COVID seems to trigger the health complications that lead to diabetes.

However, as with many issues surrounding the full impact of COVID-19, health experts simply can't quantify how common the latter issue, in particular, has become. To that end, the CoviDIAB Project recently established an international registry to get a better idea of just how pervasive new-onset diabetes cases stemming among COVID-positive patients have become. The hope is the data culled from the registry will inform a comprehensive study that could inform a better understanding of diabetes overall.

A diabetes diagnosis can complicate issues related to life insurance.A diabetes diagnosis can complicate issues related to life insurance.

The intersection with the life insurance sector
Again, it's currently impossible to quantify just how much COVID is doing to create new-onset diabetes among Americans, but many have already received such a diagnosis on an individual level and may not realize just how much that could affect various aspects of their lives. That includes their potential eligibility for life insurance.

While it's quite likely that many diabetes patients will be able to get that kind of coverage with little or no problem, there are some issues that these people need to keep in mind as they apply for it, Bankrate recently noted. This includes the fact that they will have to keep their blood sugar levels within healthy ranges for potentially as long as a year before they apply (if there is a medical exam associated with their coverage), or the need to disclose other potential health risks that could have a negative interaction with their diabetes. Other issues life insurers typically consider for such applicants are more or less in line with what they might look at for other severe health conditions: when or how the diagnosis came about, family medical history, medications, age and so on.

Obviously, this will not impact existing life insurance policies, but even for those who already have policies in their names and largely feel as though they know the ins and outs of coverage, insurers may need to provide more education for those newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Other considerations
At the same time, those newly diagnosed with diabetes may also find that their coverage is likely to be more expensive than it would have been prior to that diagnosis. Just like any other potentially severe long-term health problem, diabetics — even those who do a good job of managing their condition — are viewed as being at greater risk for potentially premature death, and life insurers treat them accordingly, Policy Genius cautioned.

Some underwriters are viewed as being more diabetes-friendly than others and, as with anything else in seeking life insurance, people would be wise to shop around for coverage. But again, there are now a notable number of people for whom such complications will be new, meaning better outreach and clarification on these kinds of points may be vital to helping people understand their options. Likewise, it will be critical that people understand how their specific diagnosis affects eligibility and terms of coverage; people with type-1 diabetes (which is the less common and often more problematic form of the disability) could face more difficulties in obtaining coverage than those diagnosed with type 2.

The intersection of diabetes, COVID and life insurance
It's also worth noting how a positive coronavirus case could impact life insurance application processes. Because many of the long-term effects of COVID vary from one person to the next — that is, some who test positive are totally unaffected and others face devastating health consequences — it may often be the case that a decision on eligibility or pricing will be delayed, according to Forbes contributor and personal finance expert Rachel Wait.

This, too, is an area where life insurers will need to be as clear as possible with applicants about what they can expect from the process and how various types of health conditions, whether they're strictly temporary or long-term chronic concerns, could affect them. That way, there is less confusion about what these problems mean for people as they try to get the right level of coverage for their unique needs.



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