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Income protection cover – a journey of support

Insurance takes on a more human face when the discussion goes beyond the financial benefits of having cover and delves into health matters as well. But how can advisers change the conversation?

This article outlines a real life case study on the support a client can expect when making a claim under an income protection policy.

The client’s name is Wendy – her real name. Wendy’s claims experience can assist advisers with explaining to clients what steps might be taken on their journey to recovery, and what options are available. It also illustrates how BT’s health outcome measure is applied during the claims process.

Wendy’s story

At 47 years of age, Wendy began experiencing crippling pain in her hands and feet, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

RA is a progressive autoimmune condition with no cure. As Wendy’s condition deteriorated, she could no longer stand or drive, and suffered severe fatigue and concentration problems. The disease ended up affecting her work as a leading national pharmaceutical representative – a job she loved.

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Fortunately, Wendy had an income protection policy with BT which was arranged through her financial adviser.

Measuring health throughout the journey

After a long chat with her claims consultant, Wendy was referred to our health support team and worked with one of our psychologists – setting realistic goals, adapting to her physical limitations and learning coping mechanisms.

Wendy’s ongoing conversations with her personal claims consultant helped BT determine her health outcome measures for pre-disability health, at the time of claim and also later down the track, right through to when health support ends.

The health outcome measure assesses a client on a number of health aspects including participation, mobility and the capacity to undertake everyday activities. The tool allows BT to gain a greater understanding of how a client recovers, so that they receive appropriate support throughout their journey to recovery.

We assessed Wendy with a pre-disability measure of 56 out of a maximum of 60. Her measure when her disability was at its worst was just 23. Her health outcome measure today is 50, reflecting the improvements in her wellbeing.

Ongoing support through various stages

Earlier on, although Wendy’s medications had disabling side effects, her specialist told her she could return to work. Understandably, this caused tremendous stress. Our psychologist encouraged Wendy to join support groups and to research alternative therapies to improve her quality of life.

Wendy’s claims consultant maintained regular contact with her and her financial adviser, and our psychologist spoke to her monthly to ensure she was being supported.

After three challenging years, Wendy’s condition finally stabilised and she undertook volunteer work as a stepping stone back into the workforce. Sadly, a flare-up of her condition saw Wendy return to hospital and she was fearful she might never contribute to society again.

We recommended a mindfulness course, which helped her to regain her positive outlook. Having used swimming to alleviate her pain, Wendy was keen to become a swimming coach and we were happy to fund the certificates she needed. She sought out part-time work which she could do from home. We funded further study and Wendy topped her class, earning a Diploma in Weight Loss Consulting.

Then Wendy suffered another setback. Her medication caused blood clots in both lungs and nearly took her life. With our support, and since she was unable to continue as a swimming coach, Wendy identified that she was especially passionate in helping others turn their life around. She started her own company, SMART LifeChange, and is developing a weight loss workshop. Wendy is excited about what 2016 may bring. She has written a book about her life, which is set to be launched later this year.

“My life would have been different”

It is unlikely Wendy will ever return to full-time work. However, she is motivated and happy with her fulfilling part-time work and projects. She receives a partial benefit to maintain her standard of living and has our ongoing support whenever her illness flares up.

Life has a habit of throwing curve balls, which can have a devastating impact. And none of us are immune. As Wendy says, “I urge anyone to take out income protection insurance. My illness came out of the blue and without insurance, I know that my life would have been different.”

Stories like Wendy’s are powerful reminders of the value of life insurance and what a difference it can make to people’s health and wellbeing.


Paula Bourke is the national claims manager, life insurance, for BT 

Income protection cover – a journey of support
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