Critical illness cover turns 30 years old

The insurance product, initially called Dread Disease, has since gone on to provide a safety net for millions of families across the world faced by financial hardship due to a critical illness.

Barnard said: “I never imagined thirty years ago that the need for this cover could have increased but seeing the world as it is now it’s clear that this is the case.”

Barnard, describing himself as “passionate” about the policy, added: “It can be the difference between keeping a business going, children in education and a roof over a family’s heads and it is something I urge everyone to seriously think about.”

With advances in modern medicine resulting in more of his patients surviving their treatment, Barnard witnessed first-hand the financial impact of their illness resulting in many cases the inability to earn an income, maintain their standard of living and pay for necessary treatment for their illness.

Looking for a way to help future patients, he developed an insurance policy that paid out on diagnosis of an illness rather than on the death of the individual.

The original policy, brought to market by Crusader Life Insurance, covered four conditions; heart attack, cancer, stroke, and coronary artery surgery and was soon adopted across the world.

Since 2000 Scottish Widows, which has received help from Barnard to develop its policies, has paid out a total of £574m in claims or over £900,000 on average every week.

These payouts have helped over 14,000 individuals and families cope with the financial impact of a critical illness.

Katya Maclean, head of Bancassurance Enablement and Protection, Scottish Widows, said: “Despite the pioneering work done by Dr Barnard over the years and the increasing number of people taking out critical illness cover there remains a large number of the UK population who are not covered in the event of the unexpected happening and it is these people that the industry must better engage with.

“We are fortunate to have been able to work with Dr Barnard over the years and gain from his knowledge and expertise. He has been integral to helping us develop our protection policies and has kindly shared his experience with many of our colleagues across the country.”

In 2012, as reported by the Association of British Insurers, the total paid out in critical illness claims in the UK was £801m.

Recent studies by charities show the increasing costs associated with diagnosis of a critical illness and in 2012 the Stroke Association noted that 65% of stroke survivors said their household income dropped after their stroke.

Set against a background of widespread welfare reforms cutting available benefits Maclean said critical illness cover is even more relevant today than it was then.