"We give them the option to remove this cover in return for a lower premium," she explains. "Only about 5% of our clients do this, such are the risks."
Never underestimate the value of chronic conditions cover, says Tim Slee, sales director at Bupa International.
“If somebody is diagnosed with a chronic disease, their biggest worry is that they won’t be able to afford the best possible treatment," he says. "Diabetes, for example, could cost at least £2,000 a year.”
All Bupa International policies include cover for most chronic conditions, Slee says.
“Our customers value fully comprehensive health insurance, and we don't want them to be left high and dry should the worst happen," Slee says.
Bupa International does give customers the option to buy cover for pre-existing chronic and other conditions, following medical underwriting.
"We were the first large insurer to offer cover for pre-existing conditions," Slee claims. "Customers can apply for cover for over 60 common illnesses they may already have, including cancer, hypertension and asthma, as well as acne, high cholesterol, hayfever and kidney stones."
Allianz Worldwide Care is another insurer that will cover most pre-existing conditions, including chronic conditions, says medical director Dr Ulrike Sucher.
“We have recently invested in AktuarMed, the first knowledge-driven underwriting system for health insurance, which has a huge morbidity database covering more than 50 million lives," Dr Sucher explains. "This helps us accurately underwrite a wide range of medical conditions, and apply the appropriate surcharge where necessary.”
This allows Allianz Worldwice Care to cover most pre-existing and chronic conditions, possibly with a surcharge.
“It’s worth noting that 70% of applications are accepted for cover at standard rates, with no additional loading," Dr Sucher says. "Certain chronic conditions, for example allergies, have little impact on the insurance risk and would not require a surcharge or exclusion. Where there is an insurance risk, AktuarMed can help us calculate the necessary surcharge.”
Dr Sucher says the decision is not just down to the computer.
"We look at all applications on a case-by-case basis and use our knowledge and experience to produce the most client-friendly decision," she says. "The client can either opt for cover with a surcharge, or exclude those conditions from cover. Most people prefer to have cover.”
Brokers and policyholders appreciate having the choice.
“Having your chronic or pre-existing condition covered, even with a surcharge, is very reassuring," Dr Sucher explains. "It means you don’t have to worry about self-funding any treatment.”
For larger group schemes, where cover is offered on a medical history disregarded basis, chronic and pre-existing conditions are generally covered, within benefit limits and plan conditions, Dr Sucher says.
As with any chronic problem, how the different insurers treat long-term conditions needs ongoing, recurring monitoring. This is a problem that will never be fully cured, but insurers feel they have it under control.