OpinionAug 15 2017

The cost of being ill

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At Royal London we paid out over £156m in critical illness claims last year with an average payout of nearly £83,000*. 

Cancer was the most common reason for a claim and made up over 63 per cent of claims we received, followed by heart attack (10 per cent), stroke (6 per cent), multiple sclerosis (4 per cent) and children’s critical illness (3 per cent).

Research** we recently commissioned Opinium to run revealed that on top of coping with being diagnosed with a critical illness, people are faced with additional financial pressure from unexpected bills.

In fact, 3.5m people diagnosed with a critical illness in the past five years were unable to cope financially and a third of people had to take six months or more off work putting more pressure on their finances.

In addition to day-to-day living costs that need to be covered if unable to work, the average additional costs of being ill or caring for someone who is ill can equate to £1,623. For over two-thirds of people, the most common reason for extra expenses was transport to the hospital, doctor or chemist, costing on average £391 over the course of the illness.  

People who drove or were driven to hospital appointments paid on average £216 in parking. And a third faced higher utility bills as a result of their illness or the illness of the person they cared for. paying an extra £675 on average.

Although less commonly mentioned, the two things that caused the biggest financial burden were getting outside help in (23 per cent), costing £1,738 on average and making alterations to the home (16 per cent) costing £1,764.

One in seven of those who suffered an illness and faced financial burdens said they had to pay extra expenses relating to their illness for over a year. 

Mind the gap

Statutory Sick Pay is currently £89.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. Although people may be entitled to other benefits these might not be enough to cover their normal daily living expenses let alone the extra expenses they could face.

Our research shows that although people expect the illness to have a financial impact, they aren’t prepared. Two thirds of those who faced additional expenses, for their own or a loved one’s critical illness covered their outgoings using their existing day-to-day personal finances (65 per cent) and nearly a third dipped into their savings. The findings also show that a fifth of people have no savings to fall back on if the worst was to happen.

Critical illness doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed; our research shows it can impact their support network too.