You never know what is round the corner as I can personally confirm. If you don’t have protection insurance in place it could result in financial ruin
On the 27 August this year I was enjoying a rare day out at the zoo with my wife, niece and in-laws. To be honest I hadn’t been feeling to well over the previous few days. I’d been coughing a lot and had an ever increasing tight chest which was put down to a possible chest infection which was doing the rounds at the time.
I coped throughout our trip to the zoo, however, overnight the coughing got worse and I really did find it difficult to breath. Having made an emergency appointment to see my doctor, still believing that it was a chest infection I waited for the appointment. By the time I arrived at the doctors my heart felt like someone had stuck a knife in it and was twisting it about. I couldn’t breath and my heart was pounding to such an extent I thought by this point I was having a heart attack, at the tender age of 40.
The doctor immediately diagnosed a serious problem and called for an ambulance which thankfully arrived very quickly. Now in a panic I really believed the worst. Lying there in agony I was put into an ambulance and had my first ride with the ‘blues and twos’ on to hospital. I never knew how bumpy these modern day ambulances actually were, but once I arrived at hospital the NHS staff were fantastic and acted very quickly and professionally and were quick to diagnose the condition.
To cut a very long story short I spent the next week in hospital on oxygen and drips being prodded and poked. It turned out thankfully that I hadn’t had a heart attack, but instead they had diagnosed multiple blood clots on both lungs, something I hadn’t suffered from since being bedbound in hospital for three months back in 2009. To make matters much worse a large clot had moved to my heart, forcing one side of my heart to stop working properly, forcing the other side to work twice as hard in its attempt to pump blood around my body. I was very lucky to still be here by all accounts as this can be fatal.
Since being discharged I have been to regular appointments and had many tests. I still struggle to make it up a flight of stairs without stopping, and even lifting something heavy leaves me breathless. Thankfully, I have been told that even though my heart has been damaged due to the clot the outlook is good. A full recovery over time is expected and even though it will be a long road to recover fully I am staying positive.
Thankfully, I had protection insurance in place for such an eventuality, if there can be such a thing. I was paid out which will cover my wage tax free for the expected two months off work. This enabled my wife and I not to worry about the bills that still needed paying and to concentrate on me getting better. Within ten days the money was in my bank account and the whole process was stress and hassle free.
Even though my previous income protection claim was well publicized in the national press, trade press and media for not paying out – which resulted in a two and a half year fight for a payout – it was nice to experience how insurance claims should work.
If I had a manual job my expected return to work would be significantly longer than 6-8 weeks in my case, and could even be as long as six months. To be out of work for this length of time with no income except state benefits would without doubt have serious consequences for the household finances. This may be obvious, but sadly we tend to protect ourselves once we have gone, rather than whilst we are here.
On the road to recovery – Chris and Nicola Hargreaves
The worryingly undersold income protection and critical illness insurance which are designed to payout if you are unable to work through accident or illness or suffer an illness listed within a critical illness policy are a missed opportunity by consumers. I have now experienced both sides of the coin. I had a nightmare back in 2009 after Scottish Provident refused my claim, even though I was bedbound in hospital for three months and off work for a year. My wife, Nicola and I were left at breaking point, arguing and in serious debt due to the refused payout. The biggest impact on me personally was the worry and heartache about the lack of income and how we were getting further into debt which without doubt delayed my recovery.
To now experience a protection claim which was so straightforward, quick and efficient has helped me understand what the vast majority of policyholders experience. Yes, I appreciate that there are around ten per cent of claims refused annually on income protection and critical illness policies, compared with around one per cent for life claims, but statistics are improving.
Campaigns such as Seven Families are helping to raise awareness of the benefits of income protection. The campaign which has funded seven families who could have had income protection insurance, but didn’t, follows their progress over a year. It is clear from all these families that receiving the equivalent monthly income as a payout from an income protection policy is having a dramatic positive effect.
Consumers should start to be more proactive about looking after their finances whilst they are here, especially when you consider that most families only have a couple of weeks savings to live on in the event of an accident or illness. But don’t be fooled into thinking every protection insurance policy is the same, because there aren’t. I could go into the details of previous failures of the industry in making products too complicated and difficult to understand, but I am in a good mood at the moment following the news on my heart. Also, I have been advised not to get stressed out or angry for a while whilst I recover.
Do your homework and shop around. Look for a specialist adviser, and where possible avoid the banks, estate agents or businesses which sell these types of policies as an add-on. If you need income protection (IP) ensure you follow the golden rule by requesting ‘own occupation’ based definition, avoiding ‘task based’ definitions which are usually sold to manual workers. Also, ensure that the ‘own occupation’ policy doesn’t revert to the inferior ‘work task’ based definition after a set time, normally twelve months with insurers such as Scottish Provident.
Follow the same advice about doing your homework when purchasing critical illness insurance (CI). Whilst researching IP or CI or for that matter other protection policies take the opportunity to look at the insurance companies claim statistics, however, be aware that these headline figures are not a guide to which insurer offers the best or worst policies.
Don’t forget about the terms and conditions. I know that insurance policies including car or home insurance bamboozle us with a pages of terms and conditions and nobody bothers to read them, but it is worth it in the long run. Also, be prepared prior to taking out these policies by asking the right questions’. Review your policies on a regular basis as circumstances can change. It is always advisable to review your policies on a regular basis to ensure you still have the best protection and that improvements within the industry haven’t resulted in a better policy now being available to consumers.
Even though I was turned down previously on a claim I have always remained positive about the benefits of protection insurance. I agree that there will always be the good, the bad or ugly within the insurance industry, but the benefits far out way the negatives.
Finally, its been a while since I had the opportunity to update AngryPolicyholders.com over the past few weeks or so, but at least as I continue my recovery my faith is now fully restored in insurers.