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Cancer charity says firms misleading public on PMI

Private medical insurance providers are misleading consumers about the extent of cancer care they offer and could face a wave of misselling claims, says a leading cancer charity.

Charity Cancer BACUP wants clearer information from providers on PMI policies to make consumers aware that the policy they are buying may not cover them throughout the course of their illness if they develop cancer.

Of the companies surveyed, BACUP found that only Bupa will cover cancer patients through the course of their illness.

A mystery shopping exercise carried out by the char-ity on 14 insurers found that PMI direct-sales staff gave misleading information to consumers buying policies over the phone.

Staff reassured callers that their policies would pay out for any type of cancer treatment when in practice they do not. In some cases, sales staff from the same company gave out contradictory information.

The charity wants to see a new definition for active treatment as “treatment intended to slow the progress of cancer with the hope of prolonging good quality life”.

It says although many insurers use the phrase to explain the extent of their cancer coverage, it is not defined by them or easily understood by consumers.

The charity is urging the FSA, which will regulate the selling and administration of PMI from January 2005, to act quickly on its findings.

BACUP believes the regulator will be forced to deal with misselling allegations from cancer patients and their families in the future.

ABI head of life and pensions Chris Kenny says: “It is obviously right that companies should communicate clearly to their customers what is and is not covered by their insurance. We welcome the suggestion that there should be fuller descriptions for customers of what their policy covers. This might be set out via an ABI code of practice.”

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