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World Parkinson’s day – How do critical illness plans cover parkinson’s disease?

World Parkinson’s day – How do critical illness plans cover parkinson’s disease?

In reading this article you will understand

  • The main symptoms caused by Parkinson’s Disease
  • The long term prognosis of Parkinson’s Disease
  • How Parkinson’s Disease is covered by critical illness plans and how small wording changes can make a big difference to cover
  • The difference between Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s plus syndromes and Parkinsonism

Sunday 11th April marks Word Parkinson’s day and the start of Parkinson’s awareness week. This years theme focuses on Mental Health in Parkinson’s and aims to raise awareness and much needed support for those living with the disease in order to improve quality of life and ensure that people live better for longer. In support of this initiative we have asked our doctors to explain what Parkinson’s Disease is, who it affects, the current prognosis and how critical illness plans cover this condition.

What is Parkinson’s Disease and what are the symptoms?

Over the years there have been many famous people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which has helped to raise awareness of the condition. Muhammad Ali, Billy Connolly, and Michael J Fox are just a few examples, and many will be familiar with the tremors such people visibly suffer from. What people may be less familiar with is what causes these and our doctors explain this along with the other symptoms below:

“Parkinson’s disease is a progressive illness, with symptoms developing slowly over many years. It is due to the loss of certain brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine. This is very important for the controlled smooth movement of muscles within the body. With a decrease in dopamine, muscle movement problems can develop, which are known as motor symptoms.

There are three main symptoms that are associated with this condition:

  1. Tremor. This often begins in the fingers, thumbs and hands and is most noticeable at rest. It can be less visible when engaged in purposeful activities, such as when using the hands to reach or pick up an object. This is present at diagnosis in approximately 70 to 80% of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Muscle stiffness and rigidity. There is a general rigidity and stiffness within the muscle groups. This occurs in approximately 75 to 90% of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Slowness of movement. There is a generalised slowness of movement, which is present at the onset of Parkinson’s disease in approximately 80% of patients.

If the condition worsens, other muscle-related symptoms may develop. These can include problems with facial expressions, difficulty with precise movements such as writing, difficulty with balance and posture and an increased tendency to falling. Parkinson’s disease also causes other symptoms that are not related to muscle movement problems. These include cognitive issues and dementia, sleep issues, tiredness, and bowel related issues.”

Who is affected by Parkinson’s Disease?

Although Michael J Fox, one of the most famous Parkinson’s Disease sufferers, first started to notice symptoms at the age of 29, young-onset Parkinson’s disease is not common as our doctors explain.

“Parkinson’s tends to occur in older age and is rare before the age of 40. The incidence of this disease increases rapidly over 60 years of age, with an average age of diagnosis of around 70 years.  In the UK it is estimated that one in every 500 people have Parkinson’s disease. It is thought that males may have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and that smoking may be protective against this disease, for reasons that are not yet fully understand.

It is not usually inherited, although there are a small number of people who develop it before 50 where there is a genetic link, and it affects multiple family members.”

What is the Prognosis?

Unfortunately there is currently no known cure for Parkinson’s Disease. As such managing the condition and symptoms is the main course of action as our doctors explain.

“Parkinson’s disease affects everybody differently, but many sufferers take years to progress to the point where it has a real impact on daily life. As Parkinson’s tends to develop in older ages, most people’s life expectancy will not decrease substantially. Symptoms can often be managed and treated with medications and other forms of therapy, although these can become ineffective as the condition progresses. In the late and advanced stages of this condition, there can be significant impacts on a sufferer’s quality of life, with the need for daily support and care.”

How Parkinson’s Disease is covered in critical illness plans

With the exception of AIG’s Key3 (who do not cover the condition), all critical illness plans cover Parkinson’s Disease as a full payment condition. Vitality’s Serious illness severity approach pays differing amounts dependent on the severity of the symptoms. Apart from one or two insurers the coverage of Parkinson’s disease is very good as our doctors explain.

“Currently, all insurers cover Parkinson’s disease if there is a definitive diagnosis from a specialist in the field. There is no specific test that can prove with absolute certainty the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. In the early stages it can be difficult for doctors to say whether it is Parkinson’s disease, and it can sometimes be misdiagnosed. This is because other conditions, and the side effects of certain medications, share similar symptoms.

Therefore, insurers often put stipulations on the type of symptoms that need to be present for a successful claim. This is usually related to developing one of the three main symptoms listed above or a combination of them. As Parkinson’s tends to occur in older ages, diagnosis may well arrive close to the end of the term of a critical illness policy, so the number and type of symptoms that are stipulated could make an impact on whether a claim is successful or not at the time. Therefore, the difference between the use of an “and” or an “or” in the sentence of a critical illness wording for this condition can have implications to a policyholder.

AIG have recently updated their policy, which includes an umbrella wording for neurodegenerative conditions. This wording would likely cover all definitive cases of Parkinson’s disease diagnosed by a specialist at an early stage. Only Vitality has a wording that matches this at present, although many other insurers currently come very close to this overall level of coverage for an early diagnosis.”

Insurer/Product
Requirement in addition to a definite diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease
AIG CiC Start

There must also be permanent clinical impairment of motor function and at least one of the following:

  • tremor; or
  • muscle rigidity.
AIG Your Life Plan*

Worsening symptoms over time, expected to progress throughout the lifetime of the person, resulting in either:

  • permanent clinical impairment of motor function effecting body movement, or
  • permanent loss of the ability to remember, reason, understand, express and give effect to ideas.
Aviva
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
Canada Life
There must be Permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
Guardian
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function. This impairment should include either an associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
HSBC
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor and muscle rigidity.
Legal & General
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
LV=
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with either associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
Royal London
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with either associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
Scottish Widows
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor or muscle rigidity.
Vitality PPP SIC Plus**

Two definitions

1, There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor and muscle rigidity.

2, Evidence of current or previous symptoms (these symptoms do not need to be permanent).

Vitality PPP SIC Core
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor and muscle rigidity.
Zurich
There must be permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor or muscle rigidity.

*AIG’s Neurological conditions definition only requires diagnosis of “a neurodegenerative disorder with worsening symptoms over time, expected to progress…” As such the client does not need to be suffering from the symptoms now to be able to claim.

**Whilst the Vitality SIC Plus requires both associated and muscle rigidity under their “Parkinson’s Disease – resulting in permanent symptoms” definition they also have an additional “Parkinson’s Disease” definition which only requires definite diagnosis along with “current or previous symptoms” resulting in broader coverage. The big difference is the amount paid where the Vitality plans will pay a different amount depending on the severity of the symptoms as shown below:

%age of the sum assured paid
Symptoms required
100%
Permanent and irreversible inability to perform four out of six functional activity tests.
75%*
Permanent and irreversible inability to perform three out of six functional activity tests.
50%
Permanent and irreversible inability to perform two out of six functional activity tests
25%*
Permanent clinical impairment of motor function with associated tremor and muscle rigidity.
10% (not covered on core SIC)
Evidence of current or previous symptoms (these symptoms do not need to be permanent).

*100% of the sum assured would be paid if the plan is Mortgage SIC or Booster is included.

What is the difference between Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s plus syndromes and Parkinsonism?

With the exception of AIG’s YourLife Plan umbrella definition all plans exclude Parkinson’s Plus Syndromes and Parkinsonism. Where this is excluded the plans provide a separate definition for these conditions, whilst the AIG umbrella definition would cover these. Whilst these conditions share similar symptoms they are different conditions to Parkinson’s disease as our doctors explain:

“Parkinsonism is a term used that covers a group of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease that have a similar set of motor symptoms that are discussed above. Parkinson’s plus syndromes share all the common features of Parkinson’s disease, but with a variety of other symptoms in addition. These conditions are covered in a separate wording in a critical illness insurance policy. They tend to be much rarer than Parkinson’s disease, although much more severe and harder to treat.

Most insurers now include all forms of Parkinson’s plus syndromes, although there have been historical differences between the number of diseases that have previously been covered, hence providing less indemnity.”

AIG’s YourLife Plan is the stand out plan for coverage on Parkinson’s Disease. Not only does it not require current symptoms, it will also pay the full sum assured on diagnosis. Vitality’s SIC Plus approach also provides comprehensive coverage however, unless the plan is a Mortgage SIC plan or includes Booster it is likely to pay less. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease so as the symptoms progressively get worse they are likely to pay more, however as our doctors state people are more likely to suffer from the condition at older ages and the symptoms can progress slowly so some may reach the end of their plan before this happens. This is however, a great example of how their Dementia and Frail care cover (see here) can provide excellent additional protection in later life as if included the client can continue their cover past the original term of the plan.

To learn more about how you can get involved in World Parkinson’s day/Parkinson’s awareness week or to donate, you can follow either of the two links below:

World Parkinson’s Day

Parkinson’s awareness week

Things to reflect on for CPD:

  • What are the top 3 things you have learnt from this article?
  • Consider two ways in which you can improve your client conversations around cancer using some of the information you have learnt?
  • Which clients or demographics of clients, who have not bought critical illness cover, would this be a potential conversation with?
  • Learn about how other conditions are covered within critical illness plans here

About The Author

Adam Higgs

Adam leads Protection Guru's detailed protection research and benchmarking of both product and operation features provided by insurers and has a vast knowledge of the protection market. He has been instrumental in building the protection comparison service Quality Analyser and maintaining the data to enable adviser to quickly and easily compare protection products based on qualitative measures. He also works with adviser firms to help in panel reviews and with insurers to help them understand the shape of the market, their strengths and the areas that could be improved in their products. In his spare time and when not spending time with his wife and two children, Adam is a keen Arsenal fan and enjoys hacking his way around a golf course.

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