No one is better at understanding critical illness (CI) than the physicians, actuaries, and analysts charged with defining it for critical illness policies. And, arguably, no job in insurance today is tougher.
Advances in genomics and medical technologies have proceeded at a pace few could have imagined just a few years ago. With lump sum benefits linked closely to disease diagnoses, CI product lines constantly risk becoming out-of-date as treatments and technologies evolve.
Insurers are now reimagining this staple of the supplemental product portfolio. Five areas of rapid change are attracting the greatest interest: dementia, disability, pre-early CI, comprehensive care, and catch-all coverage.
The human brain is a complex web of connections – and frustrating knot scientists and clinicians have yet to fully untangle. This is especially true when treating neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. Despite progress in diagnosis, no cure for this complex and progressive disease has emerged – a reality with important implications for critical illness product design.
Dementia results from damage that disrupts nerve signals, resulting in multiple symptoms that progress at varying speeds specific to the individual. Notably, the severest and most debilitating cases not only incapacitate sufferers, but they also impose a tremendous burden on loved ones and society at large. Today, physicians can measure damage far more precisely and at earlier stages through genetic testing, imaging, and biomarkers – and yet no breakthroughs in treatment have appeared on the horizon. Early detection and evolving diagnostic criteria continue to challenge CI definitions. Better testing also presents insurers with a growing anti-selection risk.
Against this backdrop, insurers have begun reassessing product design both by improving the clarity and precision of definitions and by addressing the caregiving concerns of a growing population of older adults.
|In Korea, product design and benefit definitions are highly standardized, with diagnosis payments varying by severity and limited by maximum issue age and expiry age. Riders have emerged that expand cover to include in-home care, facility admission, and caregiver support. Insurers throughout east Asia are also offering new benefits that cover services for prevention and early detection, and are linked to coverage for milder (earlier) cognitive impairment. These include testing, wellness programs, and drug and non-drug-based treatments.|