Unum to underwrite heart attacks for group income protection

Employees who have had heart attacks may be covered under group income protection plans in what Unum has described as a groundbreaking change to its medical underwriting approach.

The insurer says it will also offer cover for people who have had a range of other potentially serious illnesses, such as cancer, paraplegia, back pain and diabetes.

Unum predicts its cover will be particularly valuable to some employees who have previously either not been able to obtain affordable cover on reasonable terms or could not get cover all.

It says it has been able to make the change because of its biopsychosocial model in medical underwriting.

The biopsychosocial model-based application form takes around 20 to 30 minutes to complete and concentrates on attitudes and behaviours that inform Unum of the likelihood of illness or injury causing long-term sickness in an individual.

It was first trialled by Unum in 2006 and means that the company is no longer underwriting a diagnosis in isolation and can be more optimistic regarding some potentially incapacitating medical conditions, depending on the psychological condition of the individual.

Unum is also now allowing significant benefit changes for high earners without underwriting. The new process, named ‘Once and done’, means that for the majority of cases, once Unum has underwritten and accepted the risk it will allow the benefit to change each year on the same terms without further underwriting.

Andrew Potterton, chief medical underwriter, Unum, says: “All of the changes we have made are founded on sensible analysis of our claims experience and the use of the new application form.

“Our approach is based on the belief that if you really love what you are doing and love who you are then it is very unlikely you will go off sick. We are trying to tap into the psychological and social side of staff. People do work through their chemotherapy – it’s the person that you are that can make all the difference.”