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The moment of truth for critical illness innovation

There have been many improvements to critical illness contracts this year. It got off to a great start with Royal London introducing flexibility and choice with children’s cover options.

In April, L&G introduced an enhanced version of its contract for both adults and children, which was followed in May with Guardian’s entry into the market. Its long talked about proposition went well beyond just updating definitions.

Last month, AIG made further improvements to its already solid contract by enhancing definitions and adding new full and additional payments. It has also taken a bold step by increasing the amount paid out on its additional payments to 50 per cent of the sum assured, up to £35,000.

Lucy Brown: Excellent claims statistics prove protection’s worth

Then last week saw the release of an updated Old Mutual Wealth contract, introducing significant enhancements to its main definitions and widening the scope of additional benefits. An additional care benefit has been introduced, which will pay an extra £50,000 (or 100 per cent of the sum assured, whichever is less) in the event of some more permanent or debilitating illnesses being diagnosed. It is also great to see it improving its children’s cover.

But will all this innovation really lead to a better outcome for clients?

The reality is that the moment of truth will come when a claim is submitted. Because alongside contract innovation, we still need to see improvements to underwriting and claims journeys.

Aviva has made significant progress in this area, paying cancer claims more quickly by working closely with Macmillan. It would be great to see more ideas like this come to fruition.

We still see documents needing to be posted rather than being accepted electronically and document assessment turnaround times in excess of a week. These unnecessary delays are not helping clients at a time when they are most in need. Customer service is where innovation really needs to be focused.

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Similarly, what support is offered to clients at the point of claim? People need practical help and advice while they wait for their claim to be assessed. Guardian introducing a one-month waiver of premium is a great example of thinking outside the box.

We of course welcome all initiatives from providers that lead to better and more comprehensive cover. However, widening the scope of development to encompass process, as well as product, may be the way to differentiate moving forward.

Lucy Brown is head of protection at London & Country

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