Are People Getting Sicker?
At the recent IFA conference I ran a workshop on the future of life risk business and one area of feedback was around client’s health.
Monday, July 23rd 2012, 6:50AM
by Russell Hutchinson
The general feeling is that clients aren't as healthy as they once were. That's odd, because all the data says that they are living longer: male life expectancy in 1996 was 74.3 years according to Statistics NZ, and is now just under 80.
It's not just life, either, measurements of ‘healthy life' and a large number of other health statistics collected by the World Health Organisation point to continuing strides being taken in the right direction.
So it should, after all, we keep spending more money on health too, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of our income.
So what is happening?
Well there are some things going on. We've written before about increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with mental health disorders - especially women - and much higher rates of prescription for anti-depressants.
There is also one statistic moving in the wrong direction - a trend towards people being more overweight.
Also, we know that more people are getting cancer. Reductions in communicable disease (think tuberculosis), followed by increases in survival from degenerative disease (high blood pressure, heart disease, and so on), means that there are a greater number of cancers as a proportion of all disorders: and it is set to increase considerably over the next twenty or thirty years.
Although no magic cure has been found, progressively survival of cancers is improving as well, alongside early detection.
Here we have a clear link between what advisers are seeing and the fact of improving health statistics - a lot of that improvement is about earlier detection, earlier treatment, and management of health problems.
More people are screened, tested, and present themselves for check-ups than ever did in the past. It's a good idea too. But it shows up as more health issues on proposal forms.
But for advisers the simple fact is that ‘clean' cases are increasingly going to become a thing of the past. This means not merely a grudging acceptance - like bad weather - but a positive change to processes. It makes no sense whatsoever to be offering price indications (quotes) to people on the assumption that they will have no health problems.
A change in the sales process is needed to accept the shifting health reality for most clients aged 40 and over.
Talking about health and eligibility will have to move closer to the start of the process, and be dealt with in more depth. It would be nice if insurers would recognise this in some of their quoting tools as well.
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