Lords debate cancer with private insurance

December 28th, 2010
Lords debate cancer with private insurance

Members of the House of Lords recently debated the policies of private medical insurers in dealing with cancer patients, condemning them as “vague and confusing”.

Lord Crisp, an independent crossbench peer, made a long speech on the issue, quoting the instance of a friend who was diagnosed with cancer, only to be told limits existed as the quantity of treatment he could receive under his private medical insurance.

Lord Crisp told the House; “The fundamental problem is a lack of transparency. Insurance policies are all too often vague and confusing. They do not tell people precisely what they have bought or give them the certainty they need at the time they need it most. Patients find themselves in a negotiation where the insurers hold all the cards. The vagueness of the policies allows the insurers to make decisions entirely on their own terms.”

He added afterwards that he had been given letters from patients in similar positions to that of his friend. “Clearly insurers have got policies about cut-off times that they have not disclosed,” he said. “That seems to me disgraceful.”

However, private medical insurers have reacted with anger and disappointment to Lord Crisp’s comments, pointing out that the Financial Ombudsman Service does not tend to see a great number of complaints about cancer cover.

“It is wrong to condemn the whole private sector on the basis of anecdotal evidence or of isolated individual cases when there is clear evidence that for the vast majority of cases PMI works well,” said Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Starling added: “It is in no-one’s interests for policies to be unclear or let down customers when they come to make a claim”

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