Tackling Life Insurance and Diabetes, Looking Beyond the Pandemic

It’s not a secret that life insurers have a vested interest in ensuring that policyholders lead long and healthy lives, but helping them achieve it is also the right thing to do.

(Image credit: Olya Adamovich.)

While the promise of a Covid-19 vaccine is bringing waves of hope, this period has only reinforced our industry’s purpose. As we see more individuals and families seeking the protection and peace of mind life insurance can offer, we cannot forget that there are still many who are underserved and who don’t believe they can qualify for life insurance because of an underlying health condition like diabetes. When the threat of the pandemic is gone, there may be more Americans who have secured life insurance coverage, but there will still be those who are at-risk and unprotected. We have work to do.

Data from the pandemic is clear: people with chronic conditions are more at risk for Covid-related complications and death. Covid aside, diabetes is linked to a host of debilitating and life-threatening ailments—including kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke — meaning this growing population will continue to need support, even after widespread vaccination.

This represents one of the greatest threats to Americans’ health and financial security. The economic burden of diabetes in America already totals hundreds of billions of dollars in annual medical costs. For individuals, this means an obligation that is 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

There are no quick fixes to the diabetes epidemic. But there are steps we as an industry can and should take to support people with diabetes, not just through coverage, but through meaningful solutions that can help them live longer, healthier lives.

Months before we knew what Covid had in store for us, we launched John Hancock Aspire—the first and only life insurance designed for people living with diabetes. We believe this innovative approach can succeed on two fronts: first, closing the life insurance gap among a population historically underserved by our industry; and, second, arming customers with personalized, engaging solutions that can have a lasting impact on their long-term health. We’re combatting the misperception among consumers and producers that people living with diabetes cannot qualify for life insurance. We are proud of our history of approving most applicants living with diabetes[1] and now we’re proactively looking for customers with diabetes to show them they can get quality life insurance.

Aspire builds on the idea we pioneered with John Hancock Vitality—a technology-enabled wellness program rooted in the belief that a life insurance company can help people take small, everyday steps to improve their overall health. When customers elect to participate in Aspire, they not only have the opportunity to save up to 25 percent on their premiums—something no other life insurance company is offering and getting directly at that misconception that life insurance for people living with diabetes is inherently cost prohibitive—but, through Vitality, they also have access to tools, resources, education and incentives that are tailored to the diabetes journey. In addition, we’re offering eligible customers with type 2 diabetes membership to a virtual clinic that offers day-to-day support, consults with diabetes experts and personal health coaching. All these benefits are at no added cost to our customers. In fact, there is great value to be earned in the form of the premium savings and other rewards.

Though Aspire is still in its infancy, we have reason to be optimistic. Since we began offering Vitality in 2015, we’ve seen how members are engaged, staying active and improving their health:

  • 76 percent are monitoring their physical activity
  • 50 percent have reported BMI reductions
  • 40 percent have reduced their Vitality Age—a program metric determined by an algorithm that takes into account details such as weight, the amount and intensity of exercise, cholesterol, eating habits, levels of happiness and alcohol consumption.

In building this dynamic, we’ve redefined the customer-insurer relationship and created shared value that few other products or industries can claim. In catering to our policyholders’ wellness needs, we are partners in their future financial and health success.

By taking an active role in our customers’ everyday lives, finding the right partners who share our commitment to impacting societal health trends and leveraging the latest technology, we have created a life insurance model that we believe creates positive change. Our Vitality community is growing, and with Aspire, we’re bridging the gap to people who need support and stability now, more than ever.

A vaccine will not eliminate people with diabetes’ vulnerabilities. They will still need quality life insurance and will still benefit from the added support solutions like Aspire can offer—and they are not alone. There are other chronic conditions that deserve our attention. It’s not a secret that life insurers have a vested interest in ensuring that policyholders lead long and healthy lives, but helping them achieve it is also the right thing to do. We look forward to creating new opportunities to reach more people, to make more of an impact, and ultimately change what it means to own a life insurance policy. And we invite others to join us on this journey. Our industry and our world will be better for it.



[1] Claims related to the vast majority of John Hancock applicants with diabetes are approved for coverage. In 2018, 88% of applicants with type 2 diabetes were approved for coverage by John Hancock; 75% of people with type 2 diabetes and other commonly related conditions were approved for coverage. 66% of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and other related conditions were approved for coverage.

John Hancock CEO Brooks Tingle Talks JH eApp and Digital Strategy

Comments (4)

  1. This is the most innovative program in the life insurance industry today. The Above comment is incorrect and uninformed. It is amazing that it has taken the insurance industry this long to partner with programs like Vitality and Aspire. At the end of the day, your family, your friends and your life insurance care about how long you live. I would recommend that everyone talk a look at this innovative program.

  2. I am so proud to be a partner with you and everyone at JH who had a part in this vision. What started out as an idea to help your policy holders live healthier lives and earn benefits during the life of their policy, has grown to be even more innovative. As a personal JH policy owner with Vitality, I strive very day to make sure I am on task with all my exams and metrics. Within less than 6 months, I reach the highest level and earn all my benefits and discounts and know I am a healthier person. I have sold more policies to individuals who I know are struggling with diabetes using the John Hancock Aspire program because I know the program will help them take control of this condition. Right now, as I sit and think of a very important person to me who is laying in the hospital on a ventilator because of covid19, I immediately think of his health and how much diabetes affected him and why he is in this situation. I wish I had been able to sell him a policy before this had even happened to him and his family. There are so many more people out there that need this. In fact, it is so important that your partner, Apple, has now come out with a new generation watch which will test blood sugar! Why? Because this condition kills and it needs to be monitored and supported. You and your developers are the future. You partnered with companies that share your vision and your endeavors. Don’t ever stop! Every day a new diabetic case is brought to me and I direct them to John Hancock because of all these benefits, education, care and help. Keep it up. You will make a difference.

  3. Great article. It is nice to see John Hancock continuing to innovate and work towards better serving people living with diabetes. As a producer, I am excited to be able to offer the Aspire program and help close the life insurance gap for this underserved population.

  4. Problem with this article, is that the 25% possible discount on rates is smoke and mirrors. Rates are NOT actually lower than 25%, nor does Brooks list all the hoops people have to jump through to achieve supposed rates. Also, John Hancock does NOT approve 88% of people with type 2 diabetes, and this is a fictitious statistic.

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