News & Views

‘There’s nothing worse than an ex-smoker’ it’s said so I’ll start by fessing up to a previous habit. My purpose is not to moralise on the subject (we all make our own choices anyway), I simply want to look at how insurance companies currently view smoking and diabetes. Also just before I get going I should point out that we at Moneysworth help both smoking and non smoking diabetics to obtain life cover, day in day out.

It may seem a bit obvious but we and the life companies all know, as it says on our the packets, that smoking is bad for our health. As mentioned in previous blogs not only do life companies charge significantly higher premiums for smoking, the price differential has been increasing over the years too.

So what about diabetes and smoking? Well did you know that some life companies not only charge extra for both being diabetic and for smoking but also make a further third charge for smoking AND having diabetes? We also know of one major insurance company who automatically decline all type 1 diabetic smokers, regardless of how good the rest of their profile.

So why the nervousness? It’s all to do with cardio vascular risks. Diabetics are at increased risk of cardio vascular events and of course unfortunately diabetes is a progessive illness. Doctors are therefore keen to identify and manage key cardio vascular risk factors in their diabetic patients. Key factors include BMI and a family history of early diagnosis of heart conditions. Many diabetics take statins and in a significant amount of cases this is not due to the patient having a cholesterol problem, but to make sure that they don’t develop one in the future, as this would again provide an additional cardio vascular risk. Blood pressure is another key factor.

Perhaps to some readers the risk of cardio vascular complications for the diabetic does not seem too important or immediate. I would urge such readers to think again. Firstly and most obviously a lot of people do die of heart attacks – and for these the warning signs often come too late ornot at all. Secondly for those diabetics who do manage to survive a heart attack or who are diagnosed with angina for example, the chances of obtaining new life cover currently reduce to nil with all the major UK life companies. I will return to this issue in a later blog.

In the meantime what can smoking diabetics expect when applying for life cover? The truth is that many of them can expect to be declined by a lot of companies. You will save yourself a lot of time and heartache if you use the services of a broker who really specialises in health conditions.  

The significance of smoking for Type 2 sufferers who apply for life cover will depend upon the number and seriousness of other additional (especially cardio vascular) risk factors present as well as the level of smoking. At the very least the premiums will be significantly more expensive and at worst the applicant might struggle to get any life cover at all.

For Type 1 sufferers smoking is even worse and applications are even more likely to end in declinature. The reason why is as follows. Type 1 sufferers tend to have already been living with diabetes for a lot longer than the average Type 2 sufferer who is seeking life cover. This means that they generally start at higher rating bands to begin with. This also means that there is less room for the insurance companies to play with in terms of adding extra amounts of ratings for extra complications, before the cases turn into a ‘decline’. It is still possible for some type 1 diabetic smokers to obtain life cover but its more difficult than for type 2 diabetics.

The news for diabetics who are able to give up smoking for at least 12 months is generally more positive as they can still be treated as non smokers by the life companies. Stopping smoking is likely to result in a more favourable attidue from life companies and cheaper premiums.

So in summary our advice for smoking diabetics is
1) Do seriously consider giving up smoking if at all possible, most importantly it will improve your health in the long term and save you a lot of money.
2) When you give up smoking for 12 months do expect life assurance companies to seek to verify this by way of a cotinine test.
3) Don’t however delay purchasing life cover in the meantime. Waiting until you have stopped smoking for 12 months before applying for life cover may leave your family with little or no protection and the prospect of losing the family home. Its better to find cover now and protect your family even if you apply for a lesser am,ount of cover than you would ideally like. Most people will still stand a good chance of benefitting from reduced premiums when you have stopped smoking for 12 months anyway.
4) Use a specialist broker rather than trying to arrnage the life cover yourself – its quicker and you are likely to get a better result. But make sure the broker really is specialist in arranging life cover for diabetics first.
5) If you think it is unlikely that you will choose to stop smoking in the foreseeable future, then work on the basis that it will become more difficult and more expensive to obtain life cover in the future. Get covered now and keep hold of it!