Aviva UK Health removes limits on cancer cover

Drugs recommended by specialist will be funded in full

Aviva UK Health has revamped its cancer cover in response to demand for a more comprehensive offering.

Bupa has long promoted its commitment to comprehensive cancer cover as a strength of its offering and highlighted the limitations its competitors have put on cover. Now Aviva UK Health, the third largest player in the PMI market, has launched enhanced cancer cover which it claims is "one of the most extensive on the market". It applies from 1 January 2012 to both group and individual customers buying or renewing a policy.

Cancer treatments recommended by medical specialists are covered in full, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapies such as Herceptin and Avastin, as well as unlicensed drugs not readily available on the NHS.  Previously, Aviva funded targeted therapies for up to 12 months.

A spokesman said that it was no longer accurate to say, as a recent report by Mercer states, that Aviva UK Health has "no cover for palliative or terminal conditions".

"We will cover palliative treatment up until end of life," she said. "Provided the treatment is recommended by a specialist, we will fund treatment at all stages, from initial diagnosis and treatment through to the maintenance of treatment. If the oncologist says no cure is available, we would still cover those targeted therapies if they were recommended by the oncologist."

Many new targeted therapies are designed to prolong life and and to improve the patient's quality of life, rather than cure cancer.

In addition to this change, Aviva UK Health is offering new benefits designed to help members deal with the effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Intermediaries have highlighted recently that the private sector is at risk of falling behind the NHS in providing support to the growing number of cancer "survivors" as more people live for longer after diagnosis.

Aviva UK Health's "aftercare" benefits include cover for consultations with dieticians and help with the cost of wigs (up to £100) and external prostheses (up to £5,000). The insurer will now fund bisphosphonates – drugs that protect bones during cancer treatment – and bone scans in full, both previously not funded.

Areas previously subject to limits including specialist nursing care and rehabilitation support will now be covered in full, as will routine check-ups for up to ten years following cancer treatment, rather than the previous limit of five years. Where end of life care is required, Aviva will donate up to £10,000 to the hospice or charity and provide care at home if needed.

Customers taking out a company scheme covering 250 or more employees have the option to decrease the cover available on their policy if they choose. In contrast, Bupa gives corporate clients the option to either fund cancer in full, exclude it altogether or fund diagnosis and treatments not available on the NHS. It has said that limits on cancer cover result in a poor customer experience and that is has developed "better, fairer" ways of controlling healthcare costs.

Aviva's new offering follows a report from Mercer calling for greater clarity about cancer cover and highlighting the limitations presents in some providers' offerings.

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