Scottish Widows' Helen Dick explains why underwriters need to pay close attention to diabetes
By focusing on the things that matter, we have recently made a number of positive changes to our underwriting philosophy and acceptance criteria for customers with diabetes.
This has resulted in an increased number of customers with diabetes being offered protection cover, and an overall lowering of any additional premiums.
It reflects the objectives of the ‘Access to Insurance' working group led by my colleague Johnny Timpson, in making protection cover available and affordable to as many people as possible.
So, what underwriting considerations and improvements have we made?
- Removal of financial restrictions - There are now no minimum cover restrictions on applications from diabetics. This will allow us to consider up to nine times as many people for cover than prior to the changes.
- Underwriting rules - We have reviewed and upgraded our rules to improve how we assess all customers with diabetes. One specific area of improvement is the removal of cover restrictions when assessing customers who have been diagnosed for a longer period of time. This particularly helps Type 1 diabetics who are likely to have been diagnosed earlier in life.
- Premium loadings - Our base rate diabetes loadings have been fully reviewed and have resulted in an overall lowering of any additional premiums that we may apply to a customer's policy.
- Lifestyle - We recognise that a healthy lifestyle with regular monitoring helps reduce the risk of further complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, blindness etc. We will support a customer's efforts by recognising good control and regular monitoring.
- Simple Journey - We have simplified our question set by removing complex wording and replacing them with shorter, easier to understand alternatives. We also removed rarely used questions which added little or no benefit.
Since these changes have been in place we've identified a significant increase in our point of sale acceptance rate.
We're delighted that we've been able to open up insurance to so many more people at a time when recent figures from Diabetes UK show that the number of people with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years.
There are now almost 3.8 million people living with a diagnosis of the condition with 5.5 million people expected to be affected by 2030*.
Diabetes and the importance to underwriting
Given it's prevalence amongst the population, and your clients, it's worth taking a moment to remind yourselves of the facts around the two main types of diabetes to help understand why underwriters need to pay close attention to this condition:
Type 1 This is an autoimmune condition caused by the body attacking the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Although it can develop at any age it usually presents in childhood/early adulthood. Around 10% of diabetics are Type 1.
Type 2 Here the body either doesn't produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body's cells don't react to insulin. Although there are no lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is often linked to lifestyle factors with obesity being the main cause. Around 90% of diabetics fall in to this category with an extra 1 million people living with the condition who don't know they have it.
We know that diabetes is a contributory factor to many serious illnesses and as such has always been a key factor in determining future health.
I asked Dr James McCallum, GP and associate medical director at St John's Hospital Livingston and former associate medical director for diabetes and endocrinology in Lothian, about the impact the condition has on wider health.
"Apart from the inconvenience of taking tablets or injections, we know that diabetes significantly increases rates of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, sexual dysfunction and abnormalities of pregnancy," he said. "Life expectancy is reduced. People with diabetes also spend longer in hospital when they are admitted for other reasons and are more likely to develop other complications. Diabetes remains a huge public health concern."
With cases of diabetes on the rise, access to insurance for those with the condition has never been more important. With the changes noted above along with reducing our base rate premium loadings, more of your clients will be able to afford and protect themselves. A speedier and simpler customer journey will also make it easier for you to guide them through the application.
For more information about diabetes, visit: www.diabetes.org.uk
Visit scottishwidowsprotect.co.uk/inourmarket to read more from Scottish Widows' protection experts.
Helen Dick is Senior Manager for Underwriting and Claims Strategy at Scottish Widows
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