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Oh Sugar, Sugar! Diabetes And Insurance





'Tis the season for tasty treats, but overindulging could do more than pad your waistline for those at risk for diabetes - and that's a lot of people.

Consider these statistics:

  • About 26 million American adults have diabetes already, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • About 79 million adults have pre-diabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are abnormally high and are at risk for developing the disease, says the CDC.
  • More than half the population may get diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020, according to a UnitedHealth Group analysis.

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability among people with Type 2 diabetes. At least 65 percent of people with diabetes die from some form of heart disease or stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

"The holiday season and winter celebrations bring with them special challenges related to managing busy schedules, holiday stress and temptations of rich food and drink," says Deneen Vojta, a senior vice president at UnitedHealth and chief clinical officer of its Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance.

Individuals living in colder climates also might find it more challenging to get regular exercise, which could lead to weight gain and a slowdown in metabolism. Both can lead to health problems for those living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, says Vojta.

Health insurance and diabetes

Health-care reform will prevent insurers from denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, including diabetes. But that doesn't become law until 2014. Insurers currently are able to reject applicants with these conditions or charge much higher premiums for coverage, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) points out in its position paper on health reform. ( See: "Health reform sticks: Now what?")

Until then, the ADA says you can take advantage of Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) administered by federal and state governments in every state to help people secure adequate medical protection. Your state may also provide other high-risk insurance plans for people with pre-existing conditions. You can learn more about PCIP and other coverage at the ADA's "health insurance in your state" site.

Life insurance and diabetes

As for life insurance, you may not qualify for an affordable policy if you can't show that your diabetes is being treated and under control. Vojta recommends working with your doctor to manage the illness before applying for a life policy. (See: "Will a health condition kill your life insurance options?")

Type 2 diabetes can be treated by adjustments to diet and exercise, oral medications or insulin therapy, and insurers tend to focus on how well you respond to your treatments over time. To gauge that, insurers typically look at your blood-sugar levels and your hemoglobin A1C count.

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