Embrace simplicity!

25 October 2016
When I first took out critical illness cover, I was overwhelmed. It wasn’t just the form filling, it was finding out about the sheer number of illnesses I was covered for.

Breakfast in bedDid it give me peace of mind that I was covered for neuromyelitis optica or systematic lupus erythematosus? Well, no it didn’t. I can’t even pronounce those conditions let alone know what they are.

And I’m not the only one to be confused. Unless they’ve had medical training, many advisers and consumers won’t understand these conditions and some are so rare it’s unlikely they will ever be claimed on. But for years providers have been adding more and more illnesses to their proposition to make sure they stay ahead of the condition numbers game.

Top reasons for claim

Despite the fact that the top three reasons for claims come from just four or five definitions, providers are still keen to cover the longest list of illnesses. Even conditions like cancer become more confusing when you discover that cancer has one of the most complex standard definition wordings. In 2015, our top four reasons for claim were cancer, heart attack, stroke and multiple sclerosis*. So surely it’s better to focus on those illnesses and make sure the definitions are clear and simple.

Fortunately, things are improving with providers recognising the need to create simpler definitions. Earlier this month, we announced enhancements to our critical illness cover. The main change is to cancer cover; over 60 early stage cancers are now covered under nine definitions. By removing a long list of specified cancers, these changes provide clarity for advisers and customers and will result in more claims being paid.

In addition, our new Parkinson definition now includes Parkinson plus syndromes that incorporates multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy. Our motor neurone disease definition has been updated to include Kennedy’s disease, making the definition ABI+.

We could have listed numerous in situ cancers and shown Kennedy’s disease and the five Parkinson plus syndromes as stand-alone conditions but we didn’t want to play the numbers game.

Keep it simple

Customers don’t engage with protection because they don’t see the need for cover or they find the product too complicated. Focusing on the definitions and cover our customers claim for most, means we’ll have a core proposition built around customer need, not what we think our customers need. And for advisers, taking away the complexity of the definitions means they can more easily recommend what’s right for their client, further emphasising the value of their advice.

Critical illness cover has provided financial stability for millions of people for 30 years** so it really is a remarkable product but there are improvements to be made and having clear and simple definitions, especially for the most common reasons for claim, are definitely the way forward.

For more information on our critical illness cover have a look at our website.


*Royal London UK intermediary protection business claims paid (1 January to 31 December 2015).

**Society of Actuaries Health Section News, December 2000



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The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The firm is on the Financial Services Register, registration number 117672. It provides life assurance and pensions. Registered in England and Wales number 99064. Registered office: 55 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0RL.