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Critical Illness Insurance. Critically Important - Time To Take Cover  

by Michael Challiner
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Back in 1999, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund stated that one in every three people in Britain will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. With rapid medical advances the chances of survival from a major illness are improving but the consequences of suffering such an illness continue to be substantial and life-changing.

Critical illness insurance policies are designed to help you cope with the changes which will be necessary should you be diagnosed with a "qualifying medical condition". Most policies will pay out following a diagnosis of heart disease, cancer, stroke, renal failure, paralysis, major organ transplant and coronary artery bypass surgery as well as a range of other conditions. There is normally a one-off tax free payment which is intended to assist you with costs, typically the need to adapt your home or car or maybe re-train for a different occupation. It's not only the bread-winner that can benefit from this type of cover and you should take account of child care and housekeeping costs which would be involved should Mum be out of action.

Unfortunately, at a time when most people are suffering from the shock of learning that they have been diagnosed with a critical illness, they and their families may learn some additional disturbing news. The insurance industries latest figures show that, on average, around a quarter of all claims are rejected!

As soon as a claim is made, the insurance company will request a huge amount of information from your doctor. It's quite likely that much of this information is not relevant to the illness for which the claim relates. The insurer is using this information to ascertain whether or not the insured has been completely truthful on the original insurance application form.

The reason for this is what the insurers call non-disclosure and if any medical information has been omitted, they can use this as grounds for refusing the claim.

It appears that the non-disclosure may not be related to the critical illness. Claims have been turned down for various reasons, including the case of a woman with breast cancer whose case was rejected because she hadn't listed treatment for depression on the original proposal form.

The rejection rates are shown as follows:

Company % of rejected claims Scottish Equitable Project 28% Norwich Union 26% Friends Provident 25% Legal and General 22% Bupa 21.5% Skandia 21% Prudential 20% Standard Life 20% Scottish Widows 18% Scottish Provident 11% Scottish Equitable Guardian 10% Average 23.5%

Despite the insurers claim that these rejections are perfectly legal, the Law Commission appears to think differently. There has been a consultation document published recently and the Commission makes the statement "It is possible for an applicant to act reasonably and honestly and yet still fail to meet the duty of disclosure." The conclusions of these consultations will be reported on as soon as they are available.

It is therefore extremely important that when applying for this very valuable form of insurance, you disclose all previous illnesses. It's probable that if you have to claim, then your medical records will be thoroughly examined and if the insurers consider you omitted medical information, they may "throw out" the request.

Compare companies for the best rates. Read the small print. Spend some considerable time in listing medical conditions. Relax - it may never happen.

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