I’ve just returned from a mini-break in Tenerife. Twenty girls on a hen weekend, so you can imagine there was a fair bit of eating, drinking and dancing.
Although we did squeeze in a water park, boat trip and paddle boarding. It’s all about the balance! There were a few people I hadn’t met before and it transpired one of the girls had type 1 diabetes. I didn’t realise this until the last day when she told me - she had totally blended into the group and took part in all the activities.
As far as I knew, I’d never met someone with diabetes before, but thinking about it, she probably wasn’t the first at all. After all, more than 3.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with the disease.1
World Diabetes Day marks the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign for an illness that’s estimated to affect 415 million people globally - 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population. And it’s a growing condition: by 2040, it’s expected to affect 1 in 10 people.1
Let’s take a look at the picture closer to home.
It’s estimated another 1.1 million people in the UK have diabetes that have yet to be diagnosed. Around 700 people a day are diagnosed - that’s one person every two minutes. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of those diagnosed today, has been growing at a particularly high rate. The ageing UK population is a key risk factor in this. 2
But back to Tenerife and my new friend. When I expressed my surprise at how healthy and active she was, she told me she manages her condition well, so doesn’t feel different to anyone else. I realised I’d made the old mistake that many of us make when thinking about chronic conditions – there are casual assumptions about what those affected can and can’t do. But many, particularly those diagnosed with type 1 in childhood, are so used to living with it that they are just the same as the rest of us.
So why are they so under-served when it comes to accessing financial products like life insurance?
Securing life cover for people who have been diagnosed with a chronic condition can involve detailed medical questionnaires, followed by exclusions, additional premiums or being declined cover. It’s no wonder people have been put off.
We’ve recently seen more innovation in this area with life cover tailor-made for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
There is a market and providers like us who are focused on inclusiveness and accessibility are responding with new solutions. By using robo-underwriting and algorithmic pricing, we can shorten the application process and modernise the way we underwrite so that customers with diabetes can get cover quickly. We also incentivise customers to look after themselves by offering to reduce their premiums by up to 40% if their condition improves. And customers can access our Helping Hand service from the day their plan starts. This will give them advice, support, diet tips and even access to specialist diabetes nurses.
Offering cover for individuals with chronic health conditions is an area where we see room for improvement in the market. It also provides advisers with an opportunity to grow their protection business by attracting customers with chronic conditions who prefer targeted products and may so far have been excluded from getting cover.
1 diabetes.org.uk, Facts and Stats, October 2016
2 diabetes.co.uk, November 2017
Amanda Docherty is a Senior Marketing Consultant at Royal London.