title:Life Insurance ? Why Does Less Than Half The UK Population Have Cover? author:Michael Challiner source_url:http://www.articlecity.com/articles/business_and_finance/article_5602.shtml date_saved:2007-07-25 12:30:07 category:business_and_finance article:

Less than 50% of the UK population has any form of life insurance cover, says Swiss Re, one of the largest insurance companies in the world. In their latest annual report they estimate that ?4.2 trillion worth of insurance cover is needed whereas only ?1.8 trillion has been taken up. That leaves an insurance gap of ?2.3 trillion.
But in all probability, the gap is not that large. Firstly, there’s the people who are ruled out from having life insurance due to their age – just over 1 in 5 are under 18 years of age, the minimum for life insurance cover, and 1 in 6 are over 65 and they’re effectively uninsurable. Then there’s a raft of single folks aged between 18 and 65 without dependents, and for whom life insurance is just not necessary. Having said that, without doubt, there are still many families who desperately need life insurance but who don’t have cover.
Why do they hold back?
There are still plenty of people who have no idea what life insurance does and because it’s never top of their minds and they don’t care, nothing ever gets done. After all life insurance isn’t exactly a thrill to buy, there’s no pleasurable window-shopping or sense of enjoyment about it. The likelihood is that unless a financial advisor sits down in front of these people and talks about life insurance, they’ll remain totally uninsured and uninterested.
The media coverage given to the insurance industry also tends not to help. The press is regularly full of stories about one company or another that has turned down a claim. These stories make headlines as behind them, there’s always a sad story of personal tragedy and distress. It all gives the industry a tarnished image and creates a feeling that they can’t be trusted.
Then there are those who realise life insurance is needed but just can’t be bothered or say they can’t afford it. More realistically, for many ?can’t afford? actually means, ?I choose not to afford?. They might be happy to spend ?2,000 a year on a 20 a day smoking routine but are unwilling to cut back to afford the monthly premium that protects their family’s future.
Of course, there is no disputing the fact that some people will have applied for life cover and found the final premium truly unaffordable. Whilst for the majority, life insurance at normal rates is okay, over the last seven years we’ve seen a huge rise in the number of people who have seen the price substantially increased once the insurer has seen their application form. It’s a result of the life insurance companies making it increasingly hard for people to meet the insurers definition of ?healthy?. Seven years ago half as many people were seeing their premiums increased as a result of the insurance companies rating them as an above average health risk.
Even three to four years ago it was pretty obvious who’d have trouble getting insured at normal rates ? someone with a history of heart or circulatory problems, former cancer suffers and diabetics for example. How the situation has changed. Insurers’ application forms are now much more detailed and health problems that were previously considered acceptable are now only accepted with increased premiums. Take your weight ? insurers are clamping down when they judge a person’s weight to be a risk to their longer-term health. And it’s not just the obviously over weight that attracts the insurer’s notice. Insurers are now using a measurement called the Body Mass Index to identify weight problems. This is a persons weight divided by the square of their height. Insurers now want a BMI of no more than 29, whereas previously up to 40 was fine. This means that a woman weighing 83 kilos and 1.66 meter tall would now face higher premiums.
People can also be put off by the application process. Whilst about 30% of applicants will receive a decision almost straight away, for others the process can become one delay after another. As if a 16 page application form were not enough, some people are being faced with more forms to complete plus medical examinations. The whole process can take up to 8 weeks, even more, before the applicant knows precisely how much their premium will be. If that works out more that they can simply afford, they’re often too fed up of the whole application process to start again with a new insurance company. That leaves yet another family without insurance.
Despite these problems, the life insurance companies claim that thanks to more sophisticated underwriting procedures, premiums are lower today that they were a few years ago. Furthermore, around 10% of life insurance is bought on the Internet where discounting has become the norm. This too has helped push average premiums down.
Nevertheless, in the author’s view it will take many years to get people covered by life insurance above the 50% mark.

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