Health Insurance Options for Patients with Diabetes
Health Guide March 20, 2007
When it comes to getting health insurance, I’ve been lucky. But I know that it’s a huge problem for many of us who have diabetes.
So being able to write something positive about health insurance has been something that I have wanted to do for a long time. That time is now.
When I became a freelancer in February 1993, I lost my company health insurance coverage. Since at that time I was writing about small businesses, I knew that some small business organizations offered group health insurance policies. I applied for one a year later when I got my diabetes diagnosis. Although the company that I applied to might have covered me, the surcharge for my diabetes made the policy awfully expensive.
But I am a veteran. I served about three years in the U.S. Army at the tail end of the Korean conflict, but my overseas service was in Germany. Since I don’t have any service-connected disability, I didn’t think that the local VA clinic would take me in. But they did and the coverage was great both at the clinic and a nearby VA hospital that I sometimes had to go to. It cost a lot less than an insurance policy. The only downside was that a visit to either the clinic or the hospital would take almost all of the day.
The VA has changed its coverage several times since then. As a result I don’t know if they still serve all veterans. But if you are a veteran – or even if you spouse is one – it’s sure worth checking out.
Speaking of a spouse, when I married in 1995, I got my wife’s health insurance coverage automatically. Not everybody can do that, not least of which is the problem of finding the right person.
Finally, I qualified for Medicare. They take everyone who is old enough.
But what can you do, if you don’t own a small business, aren't a veteran, are single, or aren't a senior citizen?
Some companies are beginning to insure people with diabetes. One that I know of is United American Insurance.
First, I heard from the agent for Colorado and neighboring states, Spencer Shaver. We had some preliminary discussions months ago. But I wasn’t too impressed, because Spencer told me that they did “rate” people with diabetes. That’s insurance-speak for a surcharge.
It wasn’t until I heard from one of his satisfied customers, Kyle Daylong, that I decided to follow up.
“I am somewhat surprised when you mentioned that you were unimpressed,” Kyle replied. “For most of us diabetics, insurance coverage is not available at any price. I went for five years talking to every provider in Colorado – and not one of them would even touch me due to diabetes.”
The only alternative for Kyle, who is too young for Medicare, is the Colorado indigent care program, “Colorado Cares.” But Kyle’s experience with applying for it was somewhat less than satisfactory.
“Ever tried applying with the state’s group?” he asked me. “It’s a real eye opener. And about the most humiliating thing I’ve ever had to try to endure. I left after two hours of cooling my heels, followed by an hour of humiliating third-degree questioning, probing, and then accusations of my not ‘needing or deserving’ their help.”
United American offers health insurance is 49 states. But Spencer points out that he can only speak about those states for which he is authorized to do business, Colorado and neighboring ones.
How much would one of his policies cost? “I make sure to meet face to face and discuss their current health profile and determine their needs before I quote a price,” he replies. “Why? Because there are too many factors that create the actual premium. For example, what level of coverage will fit your lifestyle, or, in other words, how much insurance do you need? Are you diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 and for how long? Are there any other medical conditions or prescriptions? Based on the answers to these questions, your premium can range anywhere from $100 to $600 per month.”
He goes on to explain that why their coverage costs more to cover pre-existing conditions. “The most important thing to remember about insurance is that it was created to cover risk,” he says. “There is no risk of developing a condition that already exists. So while our insurance may cost more, it will protect a person with diabetes from the million and one other things that could cause illness or injury while at the same time providing some benefits for diabetes care.”
I don’t know any other health insurance companies besides United American that offer coverage to people with diabetes. If you do, please send a comment here.
Since I am writing about only one company, I know this can sound like I am advertising for it. I’m not and have nothing to disclose. I just want people who aren’t as lucky as I have been in getting health insurance coverage to know that there may be at least one alternative.