Zurich paid out more than £222m to retail customers who made claims on their life, critical illness, and income protection policies in the first half of the year.
The H1 2021 figures represent a 75% increase in the number of claims paid over the same period last year.
For critical illness policy customers, 91% of claims were paid, valued at more than £50.7m. Payments were up nearly 20% on those issued during H1 2020.
The insurer added that early indications suggested claims delayed last year were now filtering through amid a return to pre-pandemic levels as people accessed medical help for serious conditions.
The main causes of claims were cancer accounting for 41%, heart attack (8%), stroke (4%) and MS (3%). Breast cancer alone accounted for 14% of claims with an average age of claimants of 32.
However it warned it was also seeing a drop in early-stage breast cancer and other similar claims, as it noted claims from customers with additional payment policies dropped by more than two thirds (69%) on the same period last year, when most claims were from women with either breast cancer or brain aneurisms.
Zurich said the decrease may reflect the fact that fewer women were seeking or able to receive medical screenings because of the additional burden currently faced by the NHS.
According to Cancer Research UK, around 38,000 fewer women started treatment for the disease in 2020-21.
Life insurance and Covid
More than £167.8m was paid to life insurance customers representing a 99% pay out rate, and over £18.1m of these claims were Covid related.
Over £568,000 was paid out to customers with ‘multi fracture cover’, with payments up by 24% on the corresponding period last year.
Zurich says the increase reflects lockdown restrictions easing and people enjoying more leisure activities. The cause of these claims ranged from anything from slip and trips through to cycling accidents.
Most of these have no long-term effects, but customers have used the money to cover their bills if they’ve been unable to work for a few weeks, or for example, for taxis if they’ve been unable to drive or use public transport.
Zurich added that during H1 most life insurance policy holders made use of clinical support including free therapy and counselling.
Income protection claims were also down by 12% on H1 2020 with over £2.9m paid out to customers unable to work through illness or injury.
Almost all (99%) of new claims were paid. A quarter were for cancer and musculoskeletal problems (25%) and more than one in five (21%) were for mental illness.
Reasons claims were declined
Across all products, just 3% of claims were declined for either misrepresentation where the customer had not told the insurer about previous medical history or lifestyle factors, or the severity definition of the illness was not met.
Louise Colley, director of retail protection at Zurich, said: “While claims are never good news for our customers, we are reassured to see claims coming through, particularly from critical illness customers. These products offer our customers the peace of mind and support that they need at such a difficult time in their lives.
“More worrying, is the drop we’ve seen in claims for things like early-stage breast cancer – and for this we would urge people to press ahead with getting any worries checked out so that early treatment and support can be accessed.
“Similarly, we’d also encourage them to utilise extra support services through their cover, like ours, where they can access free counselling and other wellbeing support.”