L&G defends use of SARs for medical evidence

clock • 2 min read

L&G has given the use of Subject Access Requests (SARs) a ringing endorsement and said they produce much better results than other methods of obtaining medical information.

The insurer sought to calm fears that it would lead to customers suffering detrimental underwriting due to extra medical evidence being released and said there had been little resistance from doctors.

It also explained that under its new process there was no additional work for intermediaries or clients than when providing GP reports (GPRs) or targeted medical requests.

Legal & General has been the only provider using SARs when requesting medical evidence to be named so far.

The practice has proved controversial and raised concerns from some in the industry that it will damage relations with doctors.

However others have supported the move, stating that service levels for GPRs had become too bad to maintain.

Speaking exclusively to COVER, Russ Whitworth, underwriting and claims director for protection at Legal & General, explained the insurer had been seeing positive results since its full introduction in November.

"We think if you have better information at the new business stage you're going to end up paying more claims and repudiating fewer because you're effectively indemnifying the customer from non-disclosure," he said.

"Under the Data Protection Act, SARs should be returned within 40 days, so we know exactly how quickly they come back and we believe they are coming back quicker than GPRs and targeted reports.

"And the other bit I don't see being acknowledged anywhere is the absolute return rate - SARs have got a better return rate.

"So really you've got the speed, the return rate and ultimately that you will pay more claims, I think they are the main reasons for doing SARs," he added.

Concerns raised by others in the industry have included the mis-use of the full medical record provided through the request and the potential for extra work or examination of medical evidence by clients and advisers.

However Whitworth denied this would happen and said insurers already had experience with handling extra medical data.

"If any information is given to which we are not entitled which would count against the customer we completely ignore it," he continued.

"And if there's any gratuitous information that could count in favour of the customer we take it into account."

And Whitworth also noted there had been very little complaint from GPs on the matter.

"The GPR is a request for GP to answer specific questions.

"This SAR is more of an administration request where the administration staff of the surgery can send us the records.

"So I don't buy the argument that this is a burden on GPs, I don't buy it at all," he added.

See COVER's full interview with Russ Whitworth for more, including the cost burden and likely future of SARs.

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