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‘The changes are really positive’: Adam Higgs on Life Launch 2023

Published: 28/02/2023

In light of our recent 2023 Life Launch, we sat down with Adam Higgs of Protection Guru to discuss our latest protection product updates and how they’ll help to improve client outcomes.

Adam Higgs is product manager at Protection Guru. Having spent the last 11 years researching and benchmarking protection products, he has an extensive knowledge of the protection market. 

Through the Protection Guru website and recently launched ProtectionGuruPro comparison tool, Adam and the team share qualitative analysis of product features and benefits, to improve adviser knowledge and help to deliver better client outcomes.  

"I think that the changes are really strong. Vitality is now effectively providing three different levels of cover.” 

– Adam Higgs, Product Manager, Protection Guru

Simplification and enhancement of Serious Illness Cover

Vitality Serious Illness Cover has been at the forefront of innovation in the protection market due to its unique approach, and the latest enhancements and simplification will help advisers to deliver more streamlined advice. 

With the three options – SIC 1x, 2x and 3x – the aim is to give advisers choice and flexibility for different client needs and budgets. SIC 2x and 3x have been designed to offer market-leading cover. “If we’re talking about likelihood of a pay outs, SIC 3x is the most comprehensive plan in the market pretty much across all age ranges and genders,” Higgs explains.

The unique severity-based approach of Serious Illness Cover in particular is designed to better reflect the growing trends in medical science, as well as the evolving needs of clients

This is a view backed up by Higgs, who believes that “from a longer-term perspective”, Serious Illness Cover offers “a more sustainable approach compared to critical illness” and that the breadth of cover “takes away the lottery elements of critical illness and means that clients can be paid out in line with how ill they are”.  

Where in the past many critical illnesses would have either been fatal or resulted in permanent long-term health complications, people are now more likely to survive and experience better treatment outcomes.

At the same time, the financial strain that clients experience following a diagnosis can have a significant impact, at any stage of their condition. This is only getting worse given the ongoing economic challenges.

“There’s lots of costs associated with being ill, whether that’s travelling to appointments, to having to take time off work in order to get medical treatment,” Higgs explains. “Even when diagnosed with something that might not be life threatening, there are often still financial implications”.

As survival rates for certain conditions also improve, we see an increase in reoccurrence or other co-morbidities arising. One in five cancers are recurrences1 and 50% of people survive cancer for longer than 10 years2, for example. 
All of this highlights the growing need for protection plans to offer more than just a single pay-out and instead provide clients with cover for longer and the ability to claim multiple times. 

“People don’t just get ill and then get better and never get ill again,” Adam continues. “As with a lot of conditions that are covered under critical illness and Serious Illness Cover plans, for cancer, for example, it’s quite common that someone might get a stage one cancer that might progress onto something more severe.” 

In line with this, the ability to claim multiple times on a Serious Illness Cover plan is also envisioned to go further to support clients. Especially with SIC 2x and 3x, which are completely unique in the market, allowing clients to claim up to 100% of the sum-assured more than once. This is particularly valuable given the difficulties clients are likely to experience should they try to obtain new cover after a critical illness plan has ceased following a claim. 

Tackling later life costs

The challenge of later life funding and social care costs is another issue that has been addressed by the recent Vitality protection refresh. According to Higgs, “this is a big societal problem at the moment”. 

With Vitality’s unique Dementia and FrailCare Cover now automatically included on all qualifying Serious Illness Cover plans, Higgs believes this is a prime example of how the industry can step up to tackle this issue. 

“This is a really positive opportunity for advisers. We all know we’re living longer. And now Dementia and FrailCare Cover extends the life of Serious Illness Cover.”

Prevention, rehabilitation and product flexibility 

When it comes to income protection, there is a growing recognition that prevention and rehabilitation are of increasing importance alongside the core benefit that pays a replacement income in the event of claim.

Higgs agrees: “Prevention is really important for income protection plans. The healthier we are the less likely we are to fall ill.”

Given the rising numbers of people forced out of work due to long-term illness3, as well as the ongoing economic and health challenges impacting the country, there’s arguably never been a better time to focus on health and wellbeing as part of the protection conversation. 

The new income protection Income Boost, that pays extra over and above the client’s core benefit for a period of 6 months in the event of a claim, based on their pre-claim Vitality status, is “positive” in Higgs’ opinion and “can be a real help” when it comes to encouraging preventative behaviour change. 

Helping people back into work after a claim is also vital. This is why the newly enhanced Recovery Benefit is now powered by Vitality’s private medical insurance clinical pathways for mental health, musculoskeletal and cancer claims.

“One of the benefits that Vitality have is a health insurance arm and being able to draw upon that to help clients get back into the workplace is a really positive move,” says Higgs.

Adding to this, product flexibility is something Higgs is also key to delivering better client outcomes, especially given the upheaval in recent years in the way many of us live and work. Higgs sees improvements to Vitality’s Guaranteed Insurability Options, which in certain circumstances now allow clients to change the term of a plan or defer period, as well as the monthly benefit, as welcome too. 

Last but not least, while not new, the unique Vitality Earnings Guarantee – that allows clients to complete upfront financial underwriting – is another stand-out feature for Higgs. “It offers comfort that people are going to get paid out for exactly what they’re paying for,” he concludes.

Find out how we have further enhanced and streamlined our protection proposition as part of our ongoing journey as a next generation insurer.

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1National Cancer Institute, accessed 2021
2Cancer Research UK, Nov 2021
3Half a million more people are out of the labour force because of long-term sickness, between June and August 2022, ONS, 2022