Toward a better future for diabetics
100 years after the discovery of insulin, SCOR is bringing new solutions to the forefront of diabetes management
It is easy to imagine that diabetes is a modern malady spurred on by the fatty, sugary, processed, and outright unhealthy food options we’re tempted by every day. And while it’s true that there has been an alarming uptick in diabetes diagnoses in recent decades, the first known description of diabetes dates back to 1550 BC in the Ancient Egyptian Ebers Papyrus. Ancient doctors learned how to recognize the signs of the disease, but what caused diabetes and exactly what was happening remained a mystery. Even at the turn of the twentieth century, treatment options were nonexistent, and a diabetes diagnosis was terminal.
Luckily, there are modern medical treatments for this age-old malady. Frederick Banting discovered how to extract insulin to treat patients in 1921 and now, 100 years later, we continue to improve our understanding of the disease with innovative diabetes management solutions, including solutions from seemingly unlikely sources such as the insurance industry.
Diabetes in the modern world
There are several different types of diabetes, but the most common are type 1 and type 2 – and both are becoming more prevalent.
Cases of type 1 diabetes are increasing by approximately four percent each year.1 Even more worrisome is that type 2 diabetes, which currently accounts for 90-95% of the 422 million diabetes cases worldwide2, is expected to see an increase in cases of approximately 50% by 2045, to reach nearly 700 million3.
While both result in a reduced capacity or a complete inability to produce insulin, type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, call for different approaches to management, and lead to different health and life insurance needs. Despite these differences, type 1 and type 2 diabetics face similar risks if the condition is left untreated or poorly managed: high blood sugar can cause damage to blood vessels and arteries, leading to potentially life-threatening complications like cardiovascular disease, stroke, loss of vision, renal failure and more.
Yet, even as the number of diagnoses continues to climb, medical experts are optimistic about new treatment options. What was a terminal illness 100 years ago is now a manageable condition.
Advancements in understanding diabetes have opened the door to new medications that lower blood sugar, reduce body weight, and decrease cardiovascular risk, meaning fewer injections and fewer pills to remember. Technological advances now allow diabetics to sync their continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with an app to monitor their blood sugar from their smartphone, and smart insulin pumps mean they can do away with manually dosing and administering insulin at every meal.
Still, lifestyle choices remain key to managing diabetes, and these decisions can’t be automated. Stepping up as health and wellness leaders, SCOR and its partners are providing solutions.
This year, the organizers of World Diabetes Day are calling for better access to care by posing the question: “If not now, when?”
At SCOR, we’re asking “If not us, then who?”
Historically, diabetics have struggled to find insurance coverage at affordable rates due to the additional risks they face. Type 1 diabetics, who are usually diagnosed early in life, are more likely to have complications related to the disease as they age simply because they have been living with the disease longer. Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes is often caused by and/or causes other serious comorbidities such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, which also puts sufferers at higher risk than nondiabetics.
For many people, access to insurance coverage is critical to receiving long-term medical treatment, but because there are different causes, treatments, and risks depending on the type of diabetes, insurance solutions can’t be one-size-fits-all.
As a leading global reinsurer, we recognize that SCOR has a unique opportunity to influence access to medical coverage and treatment options for those facing chronic medical conditions like diabetes. We are committed to helping people live longer, healthier lives, and believe that it is our responsibility to push back the frontiers of insurability.
To this end, we leverage expertise across fields ranging from medicine to technology and data, allowing us to offer new insights and better address the needs of patients managing a diverse array of medical conditions. We have moved beyond our traditional role of providing financial protection and are now engaged in partnerships and projects to provide innovative solutions.
SCOR’s relationship with pharmaceutical expert Bayer and collaboration with OneDrop, the leading platform for diabetes management, is leading to new solutions for diabetics. We are now poised to offer a next-generation diabetes management solution to policyholders.
The OneDrop app helps individuals track their blood sugar, physical activity and diet with game-changing predictive analytics. Thanks to a sophisticated machine learning algorithm, the app is able to detect the unique patterns that drive an individual’s diabetes and can help them anticipate future blood sugar levels in order to make proactive and informed decisions to manage the condition.
By offering this additional benefit to policyholders, SCOR proposes a solution that would empower the policyholder to not only better manage their diabetes, but also to better understand how their body will react to certain foods, stressors, and other external factors.
Specialized products and policies
Type 1 diabetics have historically been declined for disability coverage or, if they were approved, the high premiums made insurance unaffordable. SCOR is stepping up to address this coverage gap. In Germany, we recently backed a new product that makes coverage accessible and offers an affordable premium to non-smoking diabetics whose condition is well controlled. This became the first product on the market to focus on patients with good compliance, adapt risk assessment to allow lower premiums, and offer a bonus with proof of annual medical check-ups.
This product is one localized example of SCOR’s ongoing efforts to push back the frontiers of insurability and offer coverage to more people, but it’s not the first. In 2017, a collaboration between SCOR, MetLife, and the Health2Sync app created an insurance plan that helps diabetics improve their health and then rewards them with reduced premiums.
At SCOR our search for new ways to improve coverage for diabetics and others with chronic conditions has inspired us to consider the risks in a new light.
A new approach to risk
Diabetes is one of the leading risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. Even when their diabetes is well controlled, traditional underwriting models weigh this risk more heavily, meaning that diabetics are more likely to be denied insurance coverage.
In January 2021, SCOR released VITAE Cardio, a machine learning algorithm that is able to more accurately calculate the risk each individual applicant faces. By doing away with overarching assumptions and allowing for a personalized approach to underwriting decisions, our insurance partners are able to better understand the actual risks represented by each applicant and offer coverage to more people, more quickly, and at fairer prices.
Working toward wellness
There have been huge advances in diabetes treatments in the century since Frederick Banting first found a way to isolate insulin, however, lifestyle choices remain key to managing the condition. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet allow for better control of blood sugar levels and can even help some type 2 diabetics achieve remission.
When it comes to overall wellness, SCOR’s own Biological Age Model (BAM) has proven to be an effective tool.
The BAM app allows users to see how physical activities reduce their biological age and helps them stay motivated as they work toward a healthier lifestyle. We see a clear indication that the number of steps taken daily is linked to maintaining a healthy weight, a key step in managing diabetes. Using BAM can encourage people to take an active role in their health and in managing the disease.
These projects and partnerships bear witness to the impact the insurance industry can have in the health and wellness ecosystem, and SCOR is proud to demonstrate the role we can play in improving the day-to-day management of chronic conditions such as diabetes.