Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Given the current situation with Coronavirus and recent government announcements, we wanted to let you know about our robust contingency plans which allow us to protect our service delivery and ensure staff safety as well as give you an update on our underwriting and claims approach.

Keeping our business running

The health and safety of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority and we’re following all safety advice and precautions as recommended by the government.

Working remotely

Following the government’s guidance to avoid all non-essential social contact and travel and where possible work from home, we’ve taken steps to align to this. We have advised all our staff who have the capability to do so to work from home. Many of our staff already work from home on a regular basis so our systems are enabled to facilitate this and are running smoothly. Our goal is to help minimise the spread of the virus by reducing contact as much as possible while ensuring we continue to operate sustainably and securely as a business.

We aim to minimise impact on our core business operations and we're working hard to continue to deliver the very best possible service to you and your clients. So far our service is holding up really well and we've maintained our service standards. We’ll continue to be contactable as normal through phone and email, and new business applications will continue to be processed. We have a fully signature-free online application process for new business and where possible we’ll use e-signatures for trusts and AMRAs.

Support for you

We’ve advised all our staff to limit non-essential travel in line with government guidance. But you’ll continue to receive the high quality of service you’re used to through your Royal London sales contact. They’ll be in touch with you over phone and email.

You can also contact your named case managers about any of your cases and will continue to have direct access to our underwriters.

And we've got some practical hints, tips and tools to help you keep your business on track during this difficult time.

Our third parties

We work with several third parties to provide our Helping Hand support service.

The nurse advisory service is provided by RedArc. We’re in regular contact with them and they’ve advised us that all their employees are now working from home with secure remote access to their systems. Due to the nature of this service, safeguarding of their employees and patients is a high priority and they’ve assured us that their processes have been adapted accordingly. Please note that RedArc can’t deal with any questions relating to Coronavirus as it’s a notifiable disease. Clients should contact the NHS 111 service if they have any concerns about this or are displaying symptoms.

Our legal service is provided by Epoq. Due to higher than normal levels of calls to the helpline, your clients might experience a delay in response of up to 24 hours.

Underwriting

We're working hard in these unprecedented times to offer cover to as many of your customers as possible.
We’ve set out below our current underwriting approach, which builds upon the underwriting changes we made on the 16 April 2020.

Unless otherwise stated these changes apply to:

- all new applications
- any applications that are still in our pipeline where we have not issued an acceptance letter
- any case where terms have expired or that need a further underwriting assessment

As with all changes implemented as a result of Coronavirus, we will continue to closely monitor this situation and make any further changes as required.

Coronavirus application questions

On the 17 March, we introduced a new question to our application forms, data capture forms and declaration of health forms. This is so we can better establish and manage the insurance risks of Coronavirus. We’ll be asking the question for all paper applications and declarations of health received from this date.

This new question will establish if a customer has:

  • a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature
  • been advised to self-isolate
  • tested positive for Coronavirus
  • had direct contact with someone who’s been confirmed or suspected to have Coronavirus

We would only expect someone to select ‘tested positive’ if they’ve had a positive coronavirus swab test taken from their nose or throat.

If a customer has a history of any of these in the last month, we’ll postpone offering cover.

We recognise that front line health care workers are in a unique position. In most cases we'll be able to progress their application, even if they answer that they've had direct contact with someone who's been confirmed or suspected to have Coronavirus

Customers should only answer that they’re self-isolating if:

  • medical staff have specifically advised them to do so
  • they're self-isolating due to symptoms they have or have tested positive for Coronavirus
  • they're following guidance due to being in direct contact with someone who has symptoms or someone who has tested positive for the Coronavirus antigen (e.g. household isolation)
  • they're following guidance having recently returned from an affected area

If they’re working from home or are following general advice to avoid social interactions, they should not consider themselves as self-isolating.

 

Where we postpone cover due to symptoms, self-isolation advice, higher risk contact, or a positive test, the postponement period will last until the customer has had a negative Coronavirus test or a minimum of one month has passed after the self-isolation period,  symptoms have fully resolved, and the customer no longer requires any treatment or follow-up.

Medical screenings restarted

From Thursday 11 June we recommenced the request of face to face nurse and doctor medical screenings as required for protection applicants.

The safety and wellbeing of our customers is our utmost priority. Our third party medical screening partners have designed processes to recommence these examinations with safety controls to ensure they can be carried out in a way that minimises the risk to customers. These include the mandatory use of personal protection equipment, single use equipment wherever possible, and all repeatedly used equipment (e.g. iPads) to be disinfected before every appointment.

Not all customers may wish to have a face-to-face exam, and others may be unable to if, for example, they or a member of their household have a medical condition that puts them at high risk from Coronavirus.

If the exam cannot proceed for any reason we will contact you to discuss alternatives. From 29 July we will also be able to offer a virtual medical exam as an alternative in certain circumstances.

The virtual medical solution will be carried out by Medicals Direct Group (MDG) and consists of;

  • a nurse conducting a tele-screening examination over the phone, and
  • a self-check instant blood test for Cholesterol and Glucose.

Virtual medical examinations will only be available if:

  • The customer is under the age of 60
  • The evidence is required for non-medical limits only. e.g.  A virtual medical cannot be used to replace a Paramed that we have requested for other reasons, such as BMI or hypertension.

The sum assured limits are:

Cover type Virtual medical use
Life cover –
Joint life second death (JLSD)
Limited to where Paramed is the only requirement (i.e. Tier 1 evidence only)
Life cover –
Single life & Joint life first death (JLFD)
Limited to where a Paramed or a GPR & Paramed only is required (i.e. up to Tier 2 evidence only) and a maximum sum assured £1.5 million
Critical Illness Cover, Life or Critical Illness  & Income Protection Limited to where Paramed or a GPR & Paramed only is required (i.e. up to Tier 2 evidence only)

In most circumstances the face to face medical will remain the default evidence request. We’ll use the virtual medical as an alternative only when a face to face Paramed cannot be completed.

If the customer or a member of the customer’s household is identified as having a medical condition that puts them at high risk from Coronavirus, the virtual exam can be offered in lieu of a Paramed from outset.

The resources of both providers are not yet at full capacity but is gradually being built up as more of their nurses and doctors return to work. Accordingly there may be some initial delays in appointments being scheduled, but the medical providers expect this to be temporary.

Non-medical limits (NMLs)

For Life Cover, we’ve increased our NMLs by 10% for people under age 60, rounded up to the nearest £25,000.

This will reduce the number of applications that need medical evidence and help your customers get some protection, without delay.

For cases that need evidence due to routine medical limits, from 11 June we reinstated nurse screenings as the default first tier of non-medical limits. If a screening isn't available we may still ask for a GPR as an alternative.

NT-proBNP – replacement for exercise ECG

An exercise ECG is currently one of the evidence requirements we use for non-medical limits. We request these on customers who are over age 50, for certain sums assured.

Although we have resumed face to face medicals, there are few clinics that are currently able to carry out an exercise ECG, though medical providers expect this to be temporary.

From 29 July, for Life Cover where the ECG is unable to be completed we may be able to use a blood test called NT-proBNP. This measures the concentration of the hormone NT-proBNP in the blood which is elevated when there are certain underlying heart conditions or circulatory disease.

The use of the blood test is limited to Life Cover only within the following cover limits:

Customer age attained Joint life first death Joint life second death
<50 n/a n/a
50-54 >£3.3m - £7.5m >£3.3m - £7.5m
55-59 >£2.75m - £5m >£3.3m - £5m
60-64 >£1.5m - £ 3m >£1.5m  - £3m
>=65 >£1.5m - £2.5m >£1.5m - £2.5m

See our up-to-date underwriting limits.

Pipeline 

Our customer services team are currently reviewing the pipeline of cases submitted previously that required an exam which couldn't be carried out at the time. For queries about individual cases, you should get in touch with your usual Royal London contact.

Temporary underwriting position for higher-risk customers

On the 16th April we updated our underwriting position for certain groups of customers who are considered more vulnerable to the effects of Coronavirus.

This will impact some customers who are rated and others who have existing health issues, such as significant or chronic respiratory conditions. We've reduced the maximum level of rating that we'll be able to accept to 200%, and will taper this threshold by age.

We'll be happy to reconsider cover for higher-risk customers after six months and when the current situation has been resolved.

In addition, there will be customers, particularly those in older age brackets with pre-existing conditions which mean they’re at greater risk of suffering severe complications from Coronavirus, where we currently may not be able to offer pre-COVID-19 levels of cover.

Financial underwriting approach

The economic impact of Coronavirus is already being felt and this is likely to be a challenge for some time to come. This may have a bearing on the value of an individual’s assets or their business, which are often used for financial underwriting purposes. It will be important therefore that any financial information we request is contemporary and, while we will always keep the evidence we request to a minimum, in some instances we may require additional information compared to what we would have asked for previously.

Changes to Diabetes Life Cover eligibility

On 14 May, we made changes to our Diabetes Life Cover underwriting approach, that brought them in-line with changes we previously made to our Menu Plan.

The information below shows the customers we’ll not be able to offer cover to based on their diabetes alone.

Type 1 diabetic

The following customers are likely to be postponed currently:
  • Age under 40 and diagnosed more than 15 years ago
  • HbA1c over 8%, unless the client is over 40 and under 70

It’s more likely we’ll be able to offer terms to customers where they’ve had a recent diagnosis, HbA1c <=8%, or are aged between 45 and 60.

Type 2 diabetic

The following customers are likely to be postponed currently:
  • Age under 35 and HbA1c over 9%
  • Age under 45 and HbA1c over 10%

For most customers who are over 50 there’s generally no restriction unless they have poorly managed diabetes or other health conditions.

Due to the complexity of the product, we would still encourage you to check your customer’s eligibility online before applying.

Any applications started but not submitted before this change will be able to continue on the journey they started until such time as their quote expires.

Claims

We’ll consider any claims for Coronavirus against the terms and conditions of the customer’s plan and our usual claims philosophy.

As our minimum deferred period for Income Protection is four weeks, we don’t expect any claims for this cover from customers who’ve not been diagnosed with the virus itself.

For the majority of people who contract COVID-19, the symptoms will be short-lived and unlikely to trigger a payment for Income Protection. However, where the illness does extend beyond four weeks, we’ll consider a claim in line with the terms and conditions of the plan. There must be clear evidence that the customer hasn’t been able to work due to illness or injury and not the unavailability of work, which Income Protection isn’t designed to cover.

If a customer has been medically advised to self-isolate due to a pre-existing medical condition and it prevents them from working for longer than their deferred period, we’ll consider a claim in line with the terms and conditions of the plan. There must, like any other Income Protection claim, be a corresponding reduction in income.

Our plans don’t contain exclusions in relation to pandemics or the contraction of a virus in a foreign country.

We do restrict Critical Illness and Income Protection claims to certain parts of the world. This means if the person covered is living or working outside the UK we may need them to return to one of a list of specified countries for us to consider a claim. See our Plan Details for more information.

Our usual process for Income Protection claims is to get confirmation from the customer’s GP that they’re unable to work. If this confirmation isn’t available, for example if a customer has to self-isolate, our claims team will agree alternatives to ensure that we can pay claims quickly. Any customer who wants to discuss a claim can contact our claims team directly on 0345 6094 500.

Helping customers in financial difficulty

We recognise the impact COVID-19 is having on our customers, and some might be struggling financially just now. We want to do everything we can to help, so they can retain their cover during this time of uncertainty and in the future. If any of your clients’ personal circumstances have changed or they’re facing financial difficulties and unable to pay their monthly premiums in the short term, please ask them to contact our customer service team on 0345 6094 500 and they’ll be able to discuss what options we may be able to offer.

Keeping you up-to-date

We’ll continue to follow updates and guidance from government and health officials. This is clearly an unprecedented situation with things changing daily. We’ll aim to keep you informed of any significant changes affecting our ongoing business operations if we need to adapt to changed circumstances.

This website is intended for financial advisers only and shouldn't be relied upon by any other person. If you are not an adviser please visit royallondon.com.

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.