It can be hard enough to talk to friends, family or health professionals about mental health issues, never mind a company you think will ask intrusive questions to gauge how 'insurable' you are.
But with 25% of the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year2 and 70 million antidepressant prescriptions issued in England in 20183 - reluctance to speak to advisers or providers about mental health has the potential to leave large numbers of the population without the protection they need.
As an industry, we have a role to play to ensure as many people as possible have access to protection. So what more can we do to encourage those with current or historic mental health problems to have the protection conversation?
Addressing misconceptions about mental health
There’s a common misconception that people who’ve experienced any kind of mental health problem are uninsurable. Or if they’re eligible for insurance they’ll encounter higher prices.
In fact, at Royal London, we offer cover to people with mental health conditions every day. Head of Protection Solutions Toby Bainbridge explains: “Mental health conditions are our most common disclosures at application stage, with one in 10 people saying they have or have had a mental health condition4. We treat every case individually to get the best outcomes for customers. In 83% of cases we are able to offer cover, of these around 85% get standard rates5.”
“And often no medical evidence is required - we’d much rather talk to you or your client to understand their medical history, than extend the process by asking for evidence.”
In cases where we do need medical evidence, we can often still offer cover on standard terms. And through a combination of technology and trained underwriters, we make sure even complex cases are handled quickly and sensitively.
The challenge we have is that if we do need to ask for evidence, we often see a drop off in plans being completed. So to help your clients better understand our processes and what we may require, we’ve created an underwriting guide. It covers the information we’ll ask for, the types of evidence we may need and the underwriting decisions they can expect.
Our pre-sale tool can also give you an indication at the outset as to whether we’ll require further evidence – helping you manage client expectations.
And you can always speak to one of our underwriters directly to check any pre-sale inquiries.
Removing barriers to protection
Because we know mental health can be a tough thing to talk about, we want to make the disclosure process as straightforward as possible.
Research indicates 42% of people would find it easier to answer questions about their mental health via an online survey6. That’s why our online service has a ‘send to client’ feature that allows your clients to complete their medical information on their own, at a time that suits them. The completed questions will then be returned to you to access and discuss with your client before moving on to the next stage. And our tracker allows you to see where they are in the process, so you can offer assistance if they need it.
For the small minority of clients that are declined through our standard process, we are currently piloting a mental health underwriting philosophy with a small number of adviser firms that specialise in getting cover for those with more severe mental health conditions.
At Royal London, we want to make it as easy as possible for all your clients to access protection – we all have mental health, just like we all have physical health - and we want our underwriting approach to reflect that.
* Protection Review survey data sourced from moneymarketing.co.uk, August 2019
2 Mind.org.uk, statistics and facts about mental health, November 2019
3 NHS digital data sourced from bbc.co.uk, March 2019
4 Royal London underwriting data, January 2018 – November 2019
5 Royal London underwriting data, November 2019
6Protection Review survey data sourced from ftadviser.com, August 2019