CI must cover more than the mortgage

There have been several well publicised breakthroughs in treatments and the prevention of cancer recently. One of the most exciting and imminent is the vaccine to target human papillomavirus which increases the risk of suffering cervical cancer.

It is hoped this vaccine will be available next year. It is likely to be most beneficial for children as they are unlikely to have been exposed to the virus, which is sexually transmitted. The potential reduction in the number of cases of cervical cancer is excellent news and could eventually be good news for the critical illness insurance market as it has the potential to cut the cost of cover.

But medical advances don’t only mean change for the protection market, they also have implications for the health service. This could be seen in the case of the nurse with breast cancer who threatened to sue the NHS for not making life-prolonging drugs available to her. I discussed this case in July when it was first published as, at the time, she was planning to sell her house to fund the treatment. The NHS eventually backed down and agreed the treatment should be made available. Health secretary Patricia Hewitt now says she expects the drug in question to be made widely available on the NHS sometime next year.

This case is interesting as it has potential as a precedent for other patients refused the treatment they think they need. It also highlights the costs involved in providing these drugs to treat critical illnesses.

Consider how lifestyles have changed in the past century and the knock-on effect on health is dramatic. In 1900 the main causes of illness were bacterial and people either survived or died. Today, cancer, heart attacks and strokes are commonplace but people are more likely to survive them. This change led to the need for CI – people need help them when they survive.

But the other side of this increase in CI is the cost of treatment. Because such a high percentage of the population is likely to suffer a critical illness, the NHS needs to fund their treatments. With screening techniques and treatments being introduced regularly, the NHS has to find the money to fund these. This is why we must ensure people consider CI beyond covering their mortgage – they don’t want to have to sell their houses to fund treatment.

By giving your clients the financial security to fund private treatment if they need to, you give them the best chance to survive financially if serious illness strikes. Nick Kirwan is protection marketing director at Scottish Widows