‘My ordeal has been made easier by income protection policy’: Insurance that can help if you have Long Covid
Covid-19 death rates are plunging, but there are still more than one million people in the UK who are suffering from Long Covid – where symptoms continue for at least a month after diagnosis.
The illness can impact on any part of the body, affect concentration, taste and breathing, and lead to mental health problems. Sometimes it’s over in a few months but in some cases it has continued for more than a year and, worryingly, it is not known how long it could last.
One person who has suffered from Long Covid is 49-year-old mortgage broker Lorraine Balcombe. In January, she spent 11 days in hospital on oxygen and is still experiencing fluctuating blood pressure and oxygen levels.
Covered: Lorraine Balcombe lives in Bridgwater in Somerset with Lottie, her 11-year-old Beagle and Westie
Lorraine, who lives in Bridgwater in Somerset with Lottie, her 11-year-old Beagle and Westie mix, says: ‘Long Covid is scary to deal with and disruptive work-wise because it affects my memory and thought processes.
‘So, although I talk to clients daily over the phone, I’ve had to limit appointment numbers. Even talking to people can make breathing a bit laboured.’
Fortunately, her ordeal has been made easier by a raft of benefits offered by an income protection policy she took out with Aviva nearly three years ago.
Income protection pays those unable to work due to illness or disability a regular monthly income after an initial waiting period – four weeks in the case of Lorraine’s policy but more typically three or six months. Those, like Lorraine, who are only well enough to work part time can receive a reduced payout although she has not made a claim.
Crucially, with the exception of a handful of niche players, income protection providers have not imposed Covid-19-related exclusions – although you cannot buy a policy if you have symptoms.
Policies also offer rehabilitation support and other added-value features that can help with Long Covid, including virtual GP services and helplines for those with mental health issues or requiring counselling.
Some providers even offer hospital benefit – a fixed amount for each night that a policyholder spends in hospital. There can also be a family carer cover benefit which pays a monthly sum if a policyholder has to care for a sick family member.
Ben Burgess, an adviser at protection specialist LifeSearch, says: ‘We have seen an increase in the number of customers using these additional features even if they don’t claim on the main benefit.’
Lorraine pays just over £54 a month for her policy, which covers her to age 70. It has proved great value even though she hasn’t yet claimed for being off work.
To date, she has received £1,100 in hospital benefit and has drawn comfort from talking to Aviva’s rehabilitation team about how she is feeling, any helpful exercises she can do and other recovery aids. She also knows that if her condition prevents her from working, the policy would pay her £1,000 a month.
Lorraine says: ‘If I couldn’t work, my savings would only enable me to pay my mortgage and bills for a month or two. I’m also pleased the policy offers counselling support because, if I feel low, I can arrange for someone to talk through the stresses my illness has put me through.’
Similar added-value services are available on income protection schemes provided by employers. Many people are members of these without realising, so it is worth checking with the human resources department.
Protection expert Naomi Saragoussi, a partner at intermediary Employee Benefits Collective, has suffered from Long Covid for more than a year. She says: ‘We are still trying to understand this awful condition, but rehabilitation teams offered by protection insurers have time to give advice whereas a GP might not.’
With Long Covid likely to remain a problem for the foreseeable future, income protection has never been more valuable. A policy providing a worthwhile level of cover can cost someone in their 30s between £25 and £35 a month.