On 2nd December Jill Insley wrote an article ( http://t.co/1Cx2wAzR ) in The Observer about Nic Hughes whose critical illness claim has been turned down by Friends Life. A campaign has started to get Friends Life to overturn their decision and backed by @stephenfry on twitter the campaign is set to gain momentum.
We have decided to support the campaign and we want to explain our reasons why.
As we have previously expressed, we have had concerns for some time that the way that life insurance companies currently work may be leaving some customers exposed to the danger of a claim being turned down. When it comes to critical illness and life insurance there can be nothing worse than thinking you have done the right thing and protected your family with personal insurance cover only to find out when its too late that the insurance company has thrown out the claim due to ‘non disclosure’.
We accept that there are some occasions where due to deliberate non disclosure an insurance company will be quite within their rights to decline a claim.
However we believe there currently exists a grey area where it is much less clear that a customer has deliberately non disclosed. Misunderstandings concerning disclosure can and do arise and in the case of Nic Hughes it looks as though this might have been part of the problem.
We believe that the current underwriting practices used by most life insurance companies are adding to this problem. This is because most life companies often deliberately make the decision not to write for further medical information from the client’s GP at the application stage, even though the client might have disclosed one or more medical conditions on the application form. For medical disclosures such as heart disease and cancer, life insurance companies will nearly always prefer to write out to the client’s GP for further medical information. But there are many potentially ‘less serious’ conditions where the insurance company may decide not to bother with this stage of the process and to offer acceptance terms straight away. In fact life insurance companies adopt this approach for the majority of applications.
The problem is that where there is no independent medical verification there can be an increased risk of misunderstanding and therefore of a claim being declined, which is potentially catastrophic for the policy holder.
Life insurance companies argue that if they were to write out for medical evidence in a greater number of cases that this would add to their costs and that it would delay customers obtaining cover. They say that customers want cover quickly and that if they can’t get it quickly they will be put off taking out insurance.
We disagree strongly and so do most of our clients. We think that the argument that the ‘client needs a fast turnaround’ is a smoke screen and that there may be other motivating factors.
Here @MoneysworthUK our clients tell us that the most important thing for them is to know that their cover is valid. Getting the job done right is much more important than getting a quick fix. In the main they positively welcome a GP report as part of the underwriting process, because it makes them feel safer that they haven’t accidentally left something out. That’s probably not surprising when you consider that the majority of our clients already have an existing health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, mental health etc.
In the case of Nic Hughes, had the life insurance company written out to the client’s GP for a report before making their underwriting decision then the current situation could have been avoided. If they had declined or postponed cover then Nic could have explored other avenues to see if other options were available. Instead of which the insurance company seems to have taken the easy route which has turned out to be easy for them but very difficult for Nic and for his family.
In Nic’s case we think Friends Life should settle the claim. If you would like to sign the petition here is the link https://t.co/7KlFyuOL
Furthermore we think that Nic’s case illustrates the need for a reassessment of underwriting procedures across all life insurance companies. One possible way of dealing with this issue would be to make insurance companies fully liable for claims arising after a limited initial period – that would change the way life insurance companies approached their underwriting processes as they would not be able to rely on non disclosure at the claim stage. But it would leave customers knowing where they stand.
In the meantime until life insurance companies change their ways we think that ‘grey’ cases should be settled in favour of the applicants.
Yes, you do have choices about how you apply for life insurance and if you have diabetes making the wrong ones could cost you.
So here are the tips
1) Fully Disclose All Medical Information – cutting corners or forgetting to mention medical information risks making your cover invalid, but if you fully disclose all information you will have peace of mind knowing that the cover is valid.
2) Applying Direct To A Life Insurance Company Has Downsides – There is nothing wrong in applying direct its just that in doing so there’s a very good chance that you will end up paying more than you need to because there’s will be a good chance that another life insurance company would have charged a cheaper premium. In fact if you already applied direct to a life company and have an existing policy you should still read the tips below and consider getting a second opinion. It wont cost you anything but could save you lots.
3) Research Is Important – Good research will pay dividends and can save you a small fortune. Unfortunately its not easy to do this yourself.
4) Use An Expert – Some companies specialise in offering a service for people with pre existing health conditions such as diabetes, providing a more expert service to help find you best deal www.moneysworth.co.uk are one such company who individually research every single case and provide this service on a non fee basis so they are able to provide you with an indication of likely premium before you apply. An expert will also be able to provide you with information about what other associated types of insurance cover might be available, such as critical illness or income protection.
5) Most Advisers Do Not Specialise In Diabetes – If they dont really specialise its unlikely that they will be able to perform the research to the same standard as a real specialist.
6) How to Spot A Non Specialist – There are a number of ways. 1) Check the website -if the company is genuinely offering a specialist service this should be clear visible on the webite. 2) When speaking on the phone are they asking you the right kinds of questions about your diabetes, do they sound like they are dealing in this day in day out? 3) Sometimes companies pretend to be expert, they tend to rush to the application stage before doing any research – If they quote a preium straight away its probably not a good sign. If in doubt a good questions to ask is what percentage of their clients have diabetes.
7) Think About The Future As Well As The Present – If you develop further complications or additional health conditions in the future you may find it more difficult to obtain cover in the future. As a diabetic if you develop cardio vascular disease in the future, as things currently stand in the market, you will not be able to obtain new life insurance from any mainstream insurer.
8) Guaranteed Premium Rates Are Best – This means that the premiums cannot be increased in the future so you know where you stand so make sure that your premiums are not reviewable.
9) Remember That Once Your Policy Starts Your Insurance Is Guaranteed – Once your policy begins future health changes will not effect your cover or your premiums, which means you no longer have to worry about what the future may bring.
10) Prices for New Policies Will Go Up At The End Of The Year – This is true, especially so for females. If you have diabetes the process time from start to finish for life insurnace normally takes weeks rather than days. You can avoid the price hike by getting your cover in place before the changes take place – that probably means getting on with things now
If you would like a quote or would like to speak to an expert visit www.moneysworth.co.uk or call us on 0845 430 5200
……..and could you be paying less??
If you have a significant health condition such as diabetes or heart disease and your application for life insurance is accepted, almost always you can expect to pay higher premiums because of your health condition. Insurance companies charge more to cover the higher risk of the policy resulting in a claim.
But have you ever stopped to consider how the extra amount the insurance company wants you to pay compares with the rest of the market? If you did and you looked into this further you might be very surprised at what you might find.
Consider this example – Sarah and Sue are twin sisters aged 40, both non smokers and each requires £180,000 term life insurance over a 25 year term. The only difference between Sarah and Sue if that Sarah has no significant health conditions, whereas Sue has insulin controlled diabetes with average control.
Sarah is able to purchase the required cover from insurance company A at £15.34pm with insurance company B offering her the same cover at £15.73pm – or about 2.5% more than company A.
But for Sue its a different story. Due to her diabetes Company A’s premium increases to £28.08pm. But company B now want a whopping £48.81pm! – which is now over 73% more than company A, or an extra £6,200 over the whole term of the policy.
So why does the differential go from 2.5% to 73%?
The answer lies in the different underwriting decision that that the company A and company B make after looking at the medical information. Not all companies make the same premium pricing decisions. In fact each UK insurance company generally has well over a dozen different premium ratings bands from which to choose when deciding which one to put you into and the key thing is that they dont all choose the same banding!
The moral of the story is that if you have a significant health condition shopping around is even more important than normal and could save you a small fortune. Even if you have alreay purchased cover in recent year after being diagnosed with your condition it is worth doing some research to see if you can save yourself some money.
Finally if you find thought of doing the necessary daunting (which it certainly can be) why not get a specialist broker to have a look for you.
www.moneysworth.co.uk offer a no fee life insurance shopping service for people with health conditions. Its simple to use and Moneysworth do the research for you. You can also call with your enquiry on 0845 430 5200.
I have just read an article in todays Cover Magazine here http://tinyurl.com/7dlbkwe in which Zurich’s head of underwriting is quoted as stating that huge numbers of applications received contain ’embellishments’ of the truth about applicants’ health details.
Why would anyone wish to take out life insurance using information which if succesfully contended at claim stage by the life company might lead to the claim being disallowed? How pointless is that? In stead of (presumably) saving a bit on the premiums, non disclosure risks wasting every penny of the premiums.
Of course in such cases it won’t be the person who is insured who will ever know. It will just come as an extra horrible shock to those who are left. Messy!
As so many of our clients at Moneysworth have pre existing health conditions (including diabetes, heart conditions and other health conditions), it is common for life insurance companies to write to our client’s doctors for medical information before making a final decision. Though on the face of things this might be seen to cause a degree of anxiety during the waiting period, the reality is that at the end of the process clients can feel extra peace of mind, knowing that the insurance company holds a report from their doctor.
In fact in many cases clients say to us that they would prefer the life company to write to their GP so that they can feel safe knowing that medical information HAS been disclosed!
And of course by using Moneysworth our clients know that we have properly researched the market to find the best solution for them individually. Which is important when you consider that different insurance companies charge widely different prices for people with the same health conditions.
So if you have a health condition and want to apply for life insurance make sure that you fully disclose your health information and if possible use the services of a life assurance broker who really does specialise in helping people with pre existing health conditions. That way you will know that you are fully covered and at a good price.
Whether you have diabetes or whether you are concerned about the possibility of being diagnosed with diabetes in the future you should take a minute to review your life cover. If you need more than its probably a good idea to act sooner rather than later.
Currently Diabetic? – Once you have started your life cover, the terms (including the premium amounts) are generally guaranteed for the rest of the policy providing that continue to pay your premiums, irrespective of future changes in your health. Delaying taking out cover will generally end up costing you more money when you take out cover at a later date because you will be older. It may also cost you more because of the progress of your diabetes, especially if you develop more complications such as retinopathy, neuropathy or kidney issues. So again arranging your cover now protects you from the effects that future changes are likely to have if you delay. Worse still some future health developments could mean that it becomes impossible to be able to obtain life insurance. One highly relevant example of this would be the future development of any heart issues which is a significant additional risk factor for diabetics. Unfortunately no mainstream insurance companies will offer life cover to any diabetic, type 1 or type 2, who also then goes on to develop a condition such as angina or who has a heart attack. However the life insurance policy terms for those diabetics who arranged their life cover before they developed any heart conditions are still guaranteed, which also means that if death accours as a result of a heart attack you are still covered.
Not Currently Diabetic But Worried About Being Diagnosed With Diabetes In The Future?
You would also be well advised to review your life cover now rather than later. Now you may still be able to obatin life cover at lower premium rates and in the absence of any significant existing health factors there is a good chance that you may be able to so at ‘normal’ premium rates, which are the cheapest premium rates. Again if you take out the cover now these premium rates are generally guaranateed. If you delay sorting out your cover until you are diagnosed with diabetes, expect to pay higher premiums and in some cases much higher premium rates. Also if you delay until you are diagnosed you should expect to experience difficulty in being able to arrange some other valuable benefits, for example critical illness cover. This could mean for example if the purpose of the life insurance is pay off a mortgage that the option to include insurance to pay off the mortgage if you have a heart attack is simply no longer available to you even though the risk of it happening has increased.
I have been trying to get my ahead around some statistics that I came across yesterday.
Sainsbury’s commissioned the research looking at how many people in the UK had mortgages with no life cover in place to repay the outstanding balance. The results show some surprisingly big numbers, much bigger than most would perhaps guess.
Firstly the total figure of mortgages without life cover is given at £245,000,000,000 – thats a quarter of a trillion. But ‘billions’ and ‘trillions’ are everyday newspeak terms now, over used by both politicians and news reporters these words have become a sort of TV litter which we therefore tend to ignore as part of the familiar landscape.
Dig a bit deeper into the Sainsbury report figures though and we start to find more meaningful statistics.
The number of people with no life insurance to cover their mortgages? Just under 7 Million, or to put in a more meaningful way that equals just over 4 in every 10 mortgages. The report goes on to break down this figure between different age bands, as follows
Age Percentage of mortgage holders unprotected
Of course within these figures there will be mortgage holders who have valid reasons for not having life cover. The biggest such group will be single people with no dependants – fair enough. Another group might those with significant personal wealth.
But what about all the others? What about the significant majority who are not particularly wealthy but who do have dependent partners and/or families? What about the growing number of older people who find themselves with mortgages much later in life than they had originally anticipated? What are the reasons why these mortgage holders choose to have no life cover?
Here are some of the common reasons people give when asked.
”I’ve never really thought about it.” –
”Its a waste of money – its (my death) will probably never happen ”
”Its too expensive – I can’t afford it”
”No one will insure me with my health conditions”
But for the moment I should mention one other factor which I suspect lurks in the background for many and that is fear. Fear is a great inhibitor in all aspects of life. Fear changes our behaviour, it makes us more cautious, it makes us avoid action, fear makes us hide.
Generally people tend to fear the unknown. I am not a professional psychologist but based on my own observations fear is especially to do with a future outcome that is not known. Often the reason why people don’t face up to their fears is because they are scared as to what the outcome might be if they do. By avoiding action we feel like we are keeping the possible undesired future outcome at bay. Mostly its a subconcious kind of response.
So how does ‘fear’ apply to this issue of life cover for mortgages?
Perhaps underneath these figures many people are frightened about the questions they may be asked if they do apply for life cover. Perhaps they are frightened of having to reveal ’embarassing’ personal medical information about themselves.
Or perhaps they fear the final outcome – the fear that if they apply they they might get turned down and all that that might mean. For example it could confirm their own worst fears that they are going to die sooner rather than later, or in some way mark their financial credit record making it more difficult for them to borrow money in the future if they applied for a loan or mortgage. So some people might choose to avoid applying for life cover in order to avoid some sort of final judgement which they fear might finally mark their cards for good.
But of course fearing something does not mean that it is going to happen.
The problem is that many people are needlessly putting their families at risk by continuing to take no action. Put bluntly if you have no life cover for your mortgage on your family home then your home is at risk. If you have a family you owe it to your family to seek the appropriate life insurance in order to protect the family home for them.
Of course this for many will involve confronting a fear of the unknown.
But if only people with such fears knew where to look they might be quite surprised at the outcome. Here at www.moneysworth.co.uk we offer a specialist service for people with pre existing health conditions who are seeking life cover, for mortgages or for family protection (for other reasons too). Our service is confidential and non judgemental. We have over a number of years developed and refined a process which is designed to help customers find best outcomes. Each case is indivually researched. Further more our service is fee free to our customers and is with no obligation. Therefore it costs nothing to try.
The results are very encouraging. It should be said that we are not able to offer all customers a 100% guarantee that we will be able to find the life cover that they seek but we are able to help the majority, many of whom have been turned down elsewhere before coming to us. Very often the premiums acheived are considerably less than the customer originally feared.
Customers frequently express a high level of satisfaction with our service and often say that a great weight has been lifted for them. With the peace of mind knowing that their dependants are now protected they no longer need to live in fear.