Vicky Churcher, Intermediary Director
COVID-19 has caused so much change and loss, and now we’re seeing early signs of the wider impact this pandemic’s created. There’s a collective belief across the industry that a spike in critical illness (CI) claims is inevitable. And if that’s the case, there’s a key role for advisers to play in opening up conversations about the importance of protection.
The pandemic saw not only an overwhelmed NHS, but also more people not visiting the doctor.
We didn’t want to burden the NHS, so people stayed at home and away from hospitals and GP surgeries. So it’s not surprising that there were 30% fewer GP visits1 in 2020 compared to the year before. For the majority of people, their visits will have just been for short-term, manageable conditions, but for others it may well have been something more serious.
The feeling they weren’t quite themselves was put to one side. A recent study by Cardiff University and Cancer Research UK showed almost half of people with potential cancer symptoms didn’t contact their GP during the first wave of the pandemic.2
Preparing for the critical illness claims surge
The warning signs of a wider health issue are emerging. With fewer people visiting their doctor or seeking medical help, there could be many more out there living with a serious condition.
Macmillan estimates that across the UK there are currently around 50,000 more ‘missing diagnoses’ compared to this time last year. 50,000 fewer people who could’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It’s a staggering figure, and yet the charity predict that this could double to 100,000 additional cancer cases by October 2021.3
The problem is that when there’s a decline, an increase is inevitable. As the NHS opens up and screening resumes, it’s likely more critical illnesses will be detected, particularly for cancer. The concern is that by the time someone’s been diagnosed, their condition will be further advanced than it could’ve been had it been caught earlier – as it was in a pre-COVID world. The results? Longer treatment times or sadly, in some cases, a death claim rather than a CI claim.
The impact of COVID is wider-reaching that anyone could have anticipated a year ago. But the protection industry can help build a brighter future.
The value of financial advice
Living through a pandemic has had its fair share of challenges, and COVID has shown illness can happen to anyone, at any time and without warning. It’s made having a conversation with your clients about the need for financial protection easier, providing a stark reminder of its value.
And that value isn’t just at the point of claim. There’s a lot being said about people’s anxiety levels as lockdown restrictions are lifted and daily life returns to normal. Our Smart Health service, including access to a 24/7 online GP, is a lifeline to someone who’s still concerned about visiting a GP in-person but wants medical help.
Here’s that word value again – keeping in regular contact with your clients is key to demonstrating your worth and expertise as a financial adviser. We’ve had a couple of cases at AIG where the customer didn’t know they had a potential critical illness claim – it was their financial adviser who spotted it and suggested they call. Your simple check-in with an existing client might make an enormous difference to their lives.
As Alan Knowles, MD at Cura recently said; “Advisers have a huge role to play here. If we truly are expecting a rise/catch-up in the number of critical illness claims, then it’s up to advisers, with the support of providers, to help customers keep their policies in place as times get tougher financially for many people.”4
So as critical illness claims slowly start to creep up as the number of diagnoses increase, how can you make sure people are prepared should they need to claim? The next steps are simple; continue conversations about financial protection, remind your existing clients about their cover and the value added services available to them and keep working to demonstrate the value of insurance to new clients. Awareness is the protection industry’s biggest asset.