In testing times, our underwriting approach provides a customer-focused solution

Bill Eddolls, Senior Medical Underwriter with Canada Life Individual Protection, explains why our no GPR approach is right for the current market 

How would you summarise the past two months as a medical underwriter?

The past few months have been difficult for underwriters. GP reports and third party medical evidence has been challenging to obtain. Evidence is required to assess significant medical conditions, or when customers are unable to answer our questions. A ‘Don’t Know’ answer is difficult to assess, so we may need clarity via a doctor.

Our well-documented “No GPR” approach has put us in a good position to service our customers as our underwriting model is largely unchanged. GPs are doing a wonderful job in these difficult times and no reports means one less distraction for them.

How do Canada Life underwrite without a GP report?

In the first instance, we can often get the information we need by asking advisers. Customers whose conditions are regularly monitored can often get it by phoning their GP surgery and saving themselves a visit. We only ask for a blood test or nurse screening when this information isn’t already available. We can turn to third party providers who will help with medicals via video screening. Our approach means we’re well placed to help clients get covered in the current market.

How can clients best prepare for their application?

We’re looking for evidence that confirms the nature of a client’s condition. Those with disclosures to make can prepare by having up-to-date information to hand. This helps us assess them quicker and often means we can offer better terms.

For example, with diabetic clients it helps if we know their HbA1C levels, blood pressure and cholesterol level. A quick call to their GP before they start their application will help them get instant acceptance and more favourable terms.

We accept over 99% of clients disclosing a family history of diabetes, but we’ll ask if they’ve been tested for this. If they have, and got a ‘normal’ result, we’ll typically offer a 25% saving.

How is Canada Life improving its online journey to further reduce the need for GP reports?

We’re continually finding ways to avoid a ‘Don’t Know’ scenario which would trigger a referral or require a GP report. That’s why our straight through acceptance (STA) rate has exceeded 75% since February 2019. Highlights include:

  • Epilepsy. We added two questions which mean we can offer terms to many more customers without needing to ask for a GP report. Our STA rate for clients with epilepsy increased from 58% in 2017 to 79% in 2019

  • Fibromyalgia. A common connection between fibromyalgia and mental health meant we used to decline 44% of customers disclosing it. We introduced a question that identifies when customers have recovered or only have mild symptoms. This increased our STA rate by 17% to 73% - plus we offer cover at standard rates

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). We've reached a 94% STA rate for hypothyroidism since we changed the focus of our questions. Instead of asking whether their latest blood tests are normal, we ask whether their doctor considers their condition is adequately controlled and without complications

There is more. For example, we’re able to cover to several occupations working at heights at standard rates. We also have a pragmatic approach to assessing travel & HIV requirements – by looking at individual clients’ circumstances, we’re able to waive 85-90% of HIV tests. If you’d like to know more, contact to receive a call back from one of our account managers.

What’s next?

For the minority of customers we can’t already accept online, I think the way forward will be obtaining an instant report from a doctor, i.e. e-reporting. This information could be fed back into an automated rules engine to offer a “buy-now” price there and then. It’s a solution that dovetails neatly with our customer-focused, technology-driven approach to underwriting.