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Love Your Lungs Week – how does COVID-19 affect our lungs

Love Your Lungs Week 2020

Author: Daniel Sharpe-Szunko

Today marks the beginning of National ‘Love Your Lungs Week’ from the British Lung Foundation. This year it’s more relevant than ever due to the increased risks for people with lung conditions due to COVID-19.

If you suffer from a lung condition and you need help, you could visit https://www.blf.org.uk/take-action/campaign/loveyourlungsweek for more information.

There’s lots of support available for people living with lung conditions, including online tools and communities. You can also join the conversation on social media to share your thoughts and views.

Online tools: https://www.blf.org.uk/technology-for-lung-health

Communities: https://healthunlocked.com/blf

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/britishlungfoundation/

Twitter: @lunguk

Still relatively little is known about this new disease which has caused over 230,000 deaths worldwide and affected more than 3.2 million people.

How does Coronavirus affect people with lung conditions?

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is the same as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Flu, or a common cold. This means that the lungs are the first organs to be affected.

Symptoms at early stages include a high temperature, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough. These symptoms can appear almost immediately after exposure to the virus, or as long as 14 days later.

A high temperature or fever is on the top of the list of symptoms, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. However, not everyone who contracts the disease displays a raised temperature. Research shows that around *70% of patients hospitalised did not have a fever.

Coughing is the most common of all symptoms, according to research by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Approximately **68 to 83 percent of their patients with COVID-19 had this symptom.

Other symptoms include 11-40% were suffering from shortness of breath, and in some cases, patients were confused, had headaches, nausea, and diarrhea.

As we have seen from the government bulletins, symptoms can range from extremely mild with no symptoms to potentially fatal. Early data from China suggested that ***81% of cases were mild and the rest were high risk.

Elderly people who had already been diagnosed with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk.

This variance also shows how the disease (COVD-19) can potentially damage the lungs.

In a report by ****The Lancet, it was identified that people may only have minor respiratory symptoms. Other people with the disease may also develop non-life-threatening Pneumonia. However, there’s a smaller group of people who developed severe lung damage.

It has also been suggested that patients who were severely ill, were showing a condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

ARDS isn’t just related to patients with COVID-19. There’s a number of other events that can trigger it, such as sepsis or trauma.

Damage is caused to the lungs where fluid leaks from tiny blood vessels inside the lung. This fluid then gathers in the air sacs (alveoli) which in turn makes it difficult for the lungs to transfer oxygen from the air to our blood.

Still, relatively little is known about the damage caused to the lungs by COVID-19, however, it’s suggested to be similar to SARS and MERS.

In a more recent study consisting of 138 people who were hospitalised with COVID-19, difficulty breathing happened after 5 days, ARDS then developed after approximately 8 days.

ARDS is treated using supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation, which is specifically to increase oxygen levels in the blood. According to experts, there’s no specific treatment for ARDS, this is purely to support the patient through the process. The body is then allowed to heal naturally and to build the immune system against the event.

Something which has been identified with COVID-19 patients is that large numbers of them had potentially fatal low levels of blood oxygen. This has caused some confusion amongst experts as the patients did not appear to be starved of oxygen. Some experts are now rethinking where ventilation is the best cause of action.

How has COVID-19 impacted life insurance underwriting for lung conditions?

Currently, there are a number of insurance providers in the UK ad globally who are restricting life cover terms for certain respiratory conditions. Our research suggests that a handful of insurers currently won’t consider offering cover for lung conditions or would postpone until more is known about the disease.

After several months we are still seeing restrictions in place by almost all insurers in the UK. Limits range from Body Mass Index (BMI) to chronic conditions such as Asthma, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Auto-immune Disease.

Currently, it is suggested by a number of insurers that the limits will only apply to a small percentage of the population.

What if I already have life insurance and I get Coronavirus?

If you already have a life insurance policy in place then that should have already been accepted based on your health at the time. You should ensure that your cover is sufficient for your current needs, such as a mortgage, children, or funeral expenses.

Will life insurance pay-out for Coronavirus?

Life insurance with all mainstream or high street insurers will not exclude causes of death, such as COVID-19 related symptoms. The only exclusion which normally applies to new life insurance policies is suicide in the first year or two years, which is common.

What about if I’ve got a respiratory disease and I need life insurance?

In most cases, it is still possible to get life insurance for people with respiratory conditions, such as Asthma, Bronchitis, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

There are some instances where the respiratory disease is more severe, where life cover may be postponed for a period of 6 to 12 months. This simply means that your cover will be offered to you after the COVID-19 risk has dropped or a vaccine has been released.

If you need more help or guidance and what to do about your life insurance then you can call our team of experts on 0800 009 6559 or visit https://iaminsured.co.uk/.

Sources:

*JAMA Network https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2765184

**Clinical Course and Epidemiology https://covidprotocols.org/protocols/clinical-course-and-epidemiology/

***CCDC Weekly http://weekly.chinacdc.cn/en/article/id/e53946e2-c6c4-41e9-9a9b-fea8db1a8f51

****The Lancet https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30374-3/fulltext

How are your life insurance premiums calculated

How are Life Insurance premiums calculated?

Author: Daniel Sharpe-Szunko

It’s important to understand how your life insurance premiums are calculated so you know what you’re paying for. Life cover is mainly designed to protect your family, home, and business if anything happens to you.

Ultimately if you were no longer around to support your family or your income was impacted because of an illness or accident, these policies would relieve the financial burden. Life insurance, critical illness cover, and income protection all come under the same umbrella of personal protection products.

Life insurance is the main type of cover because it’s the most common and the most affordable. This is simply because you’re much less likely to have to claim on a life insurance policy than critical illness cover or income protection.

A life policy is a contract between you (a policyholder) and an insurer. The policy becomes valid when premiums are collected (monthly or annually) after ‘acceptance terms’ are issued.

The policy is set to cover an amount (sum assured) over a period of time (term) to pay out to on death, serious illness, or accident (depending on the cover type).

What is life insurance?

A life insurance policy is simply a policy that pays out to a beneficiary (e.g. wife, children, partner, or family) in the event of death. This pay-out is usually a tax-free lump sum that can form part of your estate or this can be avoided using a Trust.

Life insurance also comes in 4 main forms which are all designed for different purposes depending on what you want to cover:

  • Level term (family protection) which is simply to protect your loved ones in the event of death
  • Decreasing term (mortgage protection) which is specifically designed to cover a mortgage (repayment mortgages only)
  • The whole of life is a more recent addition to the life insurance market which is a non-investment based guaranteed life cover
  • Family income benefit is also a newer type of cover which is specifically for your family and provides an annual income rather than a lump sum

All of these different types of life cover also cost different amounts per thousand pounds because of how they payout. The whole of life is always the highest because it is guaranteed to payout (as long as you continue to pay your premiums). Family income benefit is the cheapest because the amount of cover reduces faster than the other types of cover.

How are basic life insurance premiums calculated?

A life insurance premium is made up of several main factors before health and lifestyle are taken into account. These are the things that would be taken in to account to give a base premium, which includes:

  • Age (Note: every time you pass a birthday your premiums will increase)
  • Smoker status (Note: No nicotine or nicotine replacement products for at least 12 months to be classed as a non-smoker)
  • Sum assured (amount of cover)
  • Term (length of policy in years or to age)
  • Type of cover (e.g. level term, decreasing term, family income benefit or whole of life)

Note: Gender– In February 2012 the EU Gender Directive made it illegal to use gender to differentiate between individuals for insurance

What else is used to calculate a life insurance premium?

There are also several other elements that are used to calculate the premium that a person (policyholder) will pay for cover. The following elements are behind the scenes calculations which will also be different for each insurance provider.

Underwriting process

When an application is submitted to an insurer, it will enter one of several potential routes depending on the disclosures. Generally the more complex the disclosures (e.g. medical conditions, hazardous occupations, and dangerous activities) the more work that will be required at the back end.

The various types of underwriting processes are:

Underwriting Rules Engine (URE’s) which is where modern technology is used to apply a premium based on disclosures on an online application. Usually, an insurer will allow a system (URE) to make a decision up to a set threshold (level of risk)

Manual underwriting is simply where an application will be referred to an underwriter (a person who assesses risk) to calculate a premium. An underwriter will also have certain limits that they will be allowed to go to before the next stage

Nurse screening or telephone medical will be used to gather additional medical evidence via a professional (e.g. nurse). These tests will usually include BMI (height & weight), blood sugar levels, cotinine test (smoker test), and blood pressure

Full GP report (medical report) which will be obtained directly from your GP or Doctor to provide a full breakdown of your medical history. Medical reports are usually for more complicated medical conditions or where symptoms are more severe

Once the underwriting process has been completed by whichever process, a premium will be offered based on the information provided. Each insurer has a different set of parameters for each person’s circumstances based on their ‘underwriting philosophy’.

Mortality and Morbidity data

All life insurance offices will have a team of actuaries who are mathematical people that calculate risk. These people will constantly be looking at trends in data which helps them to make decisions for certain groups or risk categories.

Some of the most common types of morbidity are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia and influenza, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and suicide.

Also, co-morbidity is where two conditions occur simultaneously in the same person. The conditions don’t need to be directly linked to a cause, however, they may often occur together. Some examples of co-morbidity are depression, diabetes, and obesity which often occur together but are not likely to have the same cause.

There is no exact science as to how an insurer will calculate a premium for an individual, however, the insurer will use this information to calculate the risk of death. It is a fair assumption for example that a person in their 50’s is more likely to fall ill or have an existing medical condition than a younger person.’

Costs and margins

Any business will need to make sure that it is profitable and insurance is no different. There is a cost associated with running an insurance company and for processing an application. Each insurer will have its own costs and these will be different depending on the size of the provider and how they operate.

There are several main costs that will be taken into account when processing an application for life insurance. Some of the main costs will include:

Underwriting – a team of underwriters is a cost to a business so that must be taken into account

Medical evidence – medical reports from a GP or doctor will cost anywhere between £60 and several hundred pounds

NTU rates (not taken up) – every time an application is processed that is either declined or not accepted, there will be a cost associated with that

Lapse rates (canceled cases) – if a policy is canceled within a certain period of time then it may then incur a cost to the insurer

Generally bigger insurance providers are more efficient than smaller or newer insurance providers so can therefore drive lower premiums. Profit margins for life offices are difficult to project as they are forecasts based on future premium collections and potential claims.

For more information about this subject, you can contact one of our team of experts at iam|INSURED on 01244 732896.

How to get the right life insurance for someone with Asthma

Asthma facts and statistics in the UK

(Author: Daniel Sharpe-Szunko)

Here’ a quick guide for you to see how many people are affected by Asthma in the UK and some background information about the condition.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a very common lung disorder that can cause intermittent breathing problems. The people affected by asthma can be young or older, but it generally first occurs in childhood. It can also develop in later life for adults but this tends to be rarer.

It is known as a chronic lung disorder as there’s currently no known medical cure for asthma. There are a number of treatments for asthma, most commonly people will use inhalers to relieve symptoms.

The cause of asthma is where there is swelling (inflammation) of the breathing tubes which carry air to the lungs. The tubes then become sensitive and can narrow temporarily which can make them irritated.

Some of the things that can trigger asthma attacks are:

  • Allergies (e.g. Dust mites, animals, or pollen)
  • Smoke, pollution, and colder air
  • Exercise and exertion
  • Cold, flu, and other infections

People with asthma will be told to avoid certain situations to help reduce or control symptoms.

History of Asthma

The first record of respiratory distress, categorised as “noisy breathing” was in China in 2600 BC. The Babylonians (Code of Hammurabi) then wrote records of breathlessness symptoms “if a man’s lungs pant with his work.” (1792-1750 BC).

Hippocrates (known as ‘the father of medicine’) was the first person on record to use the term ‘Asthma’. The word asthma comes from the Greek term for ‘wind’ or ‘to blow’ which is for respiratory distress and panting.

In more modern times, medicines to treat asthma in the 1940s and 1950s were adrenaline injections and even suppositories. In 1969 the Allergy and Asthma Medical Group & Research was founded. Since then, there have been various medical advances that include inhaled corticosteroids that target underlying inflammation.

What are the different types of Asthma?

There are several main types of asthma that can be identified usually by an allergist. The type of asthma you have will also have an effect on which type of treatment you receive.

  • Adult-onset asthma is as the name suggests, where someone in later life will develop the condition. This is thought to be caused by lifestyle or environment or can be where symptoms have remained dormant for many years
  • Allergic asthma is generally caused by allergens like pollen, animal fur or dust particles. It’s not necessarily that people with asthma have allergies and not everyone with asthma has allergies
  • Asthma COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS) is where someone has both respiratory conditions. A person with ACOS will be treated for both conditions individually
  • Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB)affects a surprisingly large number of athletes. This type of asthma is induced by rigorous exercise and can often be managed with medication
  • Non-allergenic asthma is often caused by external factors which can include medications, other illness, or environmental influences
  • Occupational asthma which is simply where a job has caused the development of asthma, common in construction for example

What are the symptoms of Asthma?

Asthma is a blockage of the airways and causes difficulty breathing which is the same for adults and children. There are common symptoms which are:

  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing fits
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing when breathing

These symptoms are normal in most people but will be suspected to be asthma if they’re persistent, frequent or occur in response to certain triggers.

What is an Asthma attack?

There may be periods where asthma symptoms are more severe or acute which are commonly known as ‘attacks’. These attacks can develop quickly or can build up gradually over a period of several days.

Severe asthma attacks can include signs such as:

  • Blue fingers and lips
  • Breathing quickly and erratically
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling faint or fainting
  • Tiredness, disorientation, and even complete exhaustion
  • Severe coughing fits and tight chest

What to do if you have an Asthma attack?

Someone who’s having an asthma attack or experiencing symptoms should follow several simple steps:

  • Sit up and breathe slowly while remaining as calm as possible (don’t lie down)
  • Inhalers (blue) are to reduce or prevent symptoms from getting worse so take 1 puff every 30 to 60 seconds
  • Call an ambulance(dial 999) if symptoms remain and do not ease after 10 puffs on your inhaler

Asthma statistics (UK)

The following asthma statistics were provided by Asthma UK which is the UK’s leading charities:

  • Approximately 5.4 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with asthma (1.1 million children and 4.3 million adults)
  • Someone will suffer a potentially fatal asthma attack every 10 seconds in the UK
  • 3 people die from asthma attacks every day in the UK
  • Roughly 200,000 people suffer from severe asthma which causes more debilitating symptoms. Generally people with severe asthma will require hospital treatment because normal treatments will not be enough
  • £1 billion is spent each year by the NHS treating and caring for people with asthma
  • 77,124 hospital admissions due to asthma in 2016/2017
  • 1,484 people died due to an asthma attack in 2017

Why do I need specific travel insurance for asthma?

It’s fair to say that asthma is very common and can be extremely mild with very little or no difference to lifestyle. You should still make sure that you disclose asthma when applying for travel insurance so it’s taken into consideration.

Most travel insurance policies will include a certain limited level of medical cover for expenses. A travel insurance policy for someone with asthma will also make sure that you’re covered for any asthma-related treatment whilst on holiday. Asthma is classed as a pre-existing medical condition for travel insurance and you will be asked about it when you apply.

Does asthma affect travel insurance premiums?

Most policies where asthma is disclosed will take in to account the additional potential medical requirements whilst traveling. The level of impact on the cost of cover will depend on how severe, recent, and frequent your symptoms are.

There are a number of other factors that will have an impact on costs, such as destination, length of stay, and type of cover. You can shop around to find the right cover and often a more specialist company would be better suited because they are more equipped to help.

Asthma awareness events

World Asthma Day is usually at the beginning of May every year and used as a global event to join people together to help raise awareness. The event is supported mainly by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and the National Heart and Blood Institute (NHLB) in America

Asthma Awareness Week is a national event in the UK that is to help raise awareness for children and young adults. The event is held in September by Children & Young People’s Health Partnership which is a major UK charity

Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month is held in May in America by the charity Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

Asthma charities and support (UK)

Asthma UK
Website: https://www.asthma.org.uk/
Helpline: 0300 222 5800
Address: 18 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AA

Asthma Relief Charity
Website: https://www.asthmarelief.org.uk/
Helpline: 01793 524004
Address: Suite 1A, The Shaftsbury Centre, Percy Street, Swindon, SN2 2AZ

British Lung Foundation
Website: https://www.blf.org.uk/
Helpline: 03000 030 555
Address: 18 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AA

NHS Choices (Asthma)
Emergency: Dial 111
Website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/

References:

Asthma UK: https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/facts-and-statistics/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIoOvAspGn6QIVzLTtCh3Exw-eEAAYASAAEgKUivD_BwE

RELATED ARTICLES

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Life Insurance for Smokers

Life Insurance for smokers

Do you smoke and struggle to find affordable life insurance to protect your family? You’ll be classed as a smoker by insurance companies but that’s not usually a major problem if you speak to the right people.

Getting the best life insurance as a smoker is as simple as non-smokers, so you shouldn’t have any problems when you apply for life insurance. You’ll simply need to declare that you are a smoker and you’ll pay rates based on that lifestyle which will be slightly higher than non-smokers.

You can also get critical illness cover and income protection as a smoker from pretty much any insurer in the UK. Some providers will charge more than others for smokers which is why you need to shop around to get the best rates.

We’re the UK’s #1 insurance experts for smokers and medical conditions.

Our customers rate us ‘EXCELLENT’ on FEEFO

Life insurance for smokers guidelines

Here are some of the main questions that we get asked by people that smoke, and some of the things we’ve learned over the past 20 years.

How can I get cheap life insurance for smokers?

You’re a smoker which means that you’ll still be able to get life cover, you’ll pay smoking rates. These rates will be different to non-smokers but that’s not always a big difference.

Some insurance companies offer better rates for smokers than others,

Am I classed as a smoker for life insurance?

People who smoke casually are often unsure whether they are classed as a smoker or not. If you’ve used any of the products below in the past 12 months, you’ll be a smoker as far as life insurance is concerned:

  • Tobacco products (e.g. cigarettes, cigars, roll-ups, pipes, etc.)
  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine replacement products (e.g. chewing gum)
  • Tobacco use for cannabis smoking

Please be aware that underwritten guidelines for life insurance for smokers, including the above forms of smoking will vary depending on the life insurance provider you select.

If you can kick the habit and stop smoking for a period of 12 months or more, your policy will be evaluated and may be considered for long-term non-smoker rates. However, please ensure you are fully truthful when notifying your provider, as wrongful disclosures can cause your life insurance for smokers/non-smokers to become invalid.

Purchase your life insurance for smokers through iam|INSURED

If you are a smoker and are searching for affordable life insurance policies, suitable for your requirements, consider our array of life insurance for smokers policies today!

Contact our team for a free quote or to discuss your options moving forward.

We will do our utmost to find you a life insurance policy that will help you protect your priorities!