Non-standard customers have more choice than ever before.
According to Jeff Woods, business development director for Sesame Bankhall Group, the market has changed considerably over the past 20 years.
He says this has proved to be helpful, as “there are more niche players in the market, manually underwriting business case by case.
“This means a non-standard customer has more choice than ever before.”
Charlie Campbell, protection and health policy adviser for the Association of British Insurers, explains: “The number of protection providers and products offering cover to people with so-called unusual or special risks is increasing.
“Availability has widened due to insurers looking at trends in mortality and morbidity across the population to gain a better understanding of the risks.”
Deepak Jobanputra, deputy chief executive of Vitality Life, agrees availability and choice are far more advantageous now, especially with the advances in medical technology and healthcare.
He says: “The market for consumers with health concerns is well served in the UK. Advancements in medical science which enable conditions to be well managed should be reflected in the cover available.
“Protection insurance is constantly evolving as a result.”
As Emma Thomson, life office relations director at LifeSearch, says: “Most protection policies are offered to clients with adverse risks, albeit to different degrees.
“So there is a fair amount of choice for most consumers, as having a few health issues is not automatically a barrier to getting cover.”
Limit and cost
However, this availability and evolution is still limited in comparison to “standard risks”, Mr Woods says, and even among those insurers who do underwrite people with more peculiar occupations or those with adverse medical history, the costs can sometimes be eye-watering.
Mr Woods explains: “The main disadvantage is policies can be more expensive, which affects the affordability for the customer.
“This is unfortunately the nature of premiums and pricing for non-standard customers.”
Indeed, Ms Thomson agrees: “Some conditions, such as diabetes, can lead to high premiums and it is harder to get cover for critical illness and income protection.”
So what can be done to remove the cost disadvantage?
Some providers already go some way to helping people with certain conditions to get insurance, creating better underwriting processes to assess the level of risk attached to chronic but manageable conditions, such as certain types of diabetes.
Ms Thomson adds: “There are some planned initiatives to launch products specifically tailored to clients with certain health conditions that are being managed well, and I look forward to seeing these go live.”
There is also work being done to help people with ‘risky’ occupations to get life insurance at standard or cheaper rates, as currently certain occupations put people at a disadvantage.