The Rising Cost of Income Protection Policies

Russell Cain Updated: 17 July 2023

If you’re an existing income protection policyholder, you may have noticed that your premiums have increased. You’re not alone – in the past few months, there has been a noticeable increase in the cost of income protection premiums. Here, we’ll look at some reasons behind the rising cost of income protection and what you can do about it.

Why are income protection prices rising?

There are generally two reasons for the rising cost of income protection: claims and viability of the income protection product. Recently, the number of people making successful claims has increased significantly, which has, in turn, pushed up premiums. As a result of this, the feasibility of the income protection product has become increasingly concerning. Protecting a larger number of people for a longer period is expensive, and thus premiums need to increase to meet the costs of the product.

Increased Claim Rates and Sustainability as a Roadblock for insurers

In recent years, income protection products have come under increased scrutiny from regulators and customers alike. One of the major issues facing these products is their sustainability. Many income protection providers were experiencing high claim rates due to generous contract terms, including the relative ease of making a claim and the eligibility criteria of older policies (Pre October 2021).

The income protection product was under pressure for several years and was often subsidised by life, TPD and Trauma insurance premiums. This resulted in a product which was not accurately priced. In response to these concerns, insurers have had to close the old income protection products for new business and increase their premiums to keep the products sustainable.

The Results of A Strained Income Protection Product

In response to these difficulties, insurers have taken several steps to ensure that they can continue providing income protection products to customers. Firstly, they have closed older style income protection products to new business. Secondly, they have reimagined the product and introduced new, more sustainable features.

Making changes to income protection products was a final measure taken by insurers to ensure the continued availability of the product. However, it has resulted in policies with stricter claims eligibility criteria, more stringent occupation definitions and more restrictive Pre Disablement Proof of income requirements. Although these policies may help improve the product’s longevity, they are far from the generous income protection policies customers could purchase before October 2021.

Should I Change to a New Policy?

If you’re thinking about changing to a new policy because your premiums have continued to increase in recent years, there are several important factors to consider first. Although a new policy might be cheaper than your existing policy, there are several potential drawbacks. Regardless of the insurer you opt for; odds are that you won’t have many of the features of your older style policy. Generally, it’s essential to compare the pros and cons before deciding.

Pros and cons of switching to a new income protection policy

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Cheaper premiums on your income protection insurance.A lower maximum monthly benefit reduced from up to 75% down to up to 70% of your income.
You can choose benefits suited to your current personal requirements.Far Stricter Disablement Definitions (All Duties)
You’ll be able to select new waiting and benefit periods.Stricter full and partial claim eligibility (Many change from Own Occupation to Any Occupation after 2 years).
XMore restrictive Pre Disablement Proof of income for Indemnity policies.
XIf you’re self-employed, select insurers will use the average monthly earnings for the 24 consecutive months prior to the total disablement.

Compare Pre and Post October 2021 changes

Lower maximum monthly benefit from up to 75% to up to 70% of you income

Previously:

Previously Income Protection that paid monthly benefit up to 75% of your regular income when you suffer a sickness or accident and are unable to work for longer than your waiting period. 

Post October:

Since October 2021 monthly benefits for the first six months must not exceed 90% of your earnings at the time of claim AND must not exceed 70% of your earnings thereafter.

Far Stricter Disablement Definitions and Full Claim Eligibility

Going from One important Duty to All duties, and Typically Own occupation for the duration of the contract  to a Own Occupation for 2 years, then Any Occupation.

Previously:

Solely as a result of sickness or accident you are:

Unable to perform at least one or more duties of your own occupation important in producing income, and are under the regular care of, and following the advice of a medical practitioner, and not working (paid or unpaid).

Post October:

Typically, solely as a result of sickness or accident you are:

* The duration of “Own” Occupation definition duration does vary by insurer, and product, therefore refer to Comparison Engine, and or PDS.

Stricter Partial Claim Eligibility

Previously:

Typically follow a full claim solely as a result of sickness or accident you are:
Unable to work in your own occupation at full capacity but are working in a reduced capacity in any occupation earning a monthly income which is less than your pre-disablement income, and are under the regular care and following the advice of a medical practitioner.

Post October:

Typically following a full claim solely as a result of sickness or accident you are:

* The duration of “Own” Occupation definition duration does vary by insurer, and product therefore refer to Comparison Engine, and or PDS

More restrictive Pre Disablement Proof of income for Indemnity policies

Previously:

Select insurers make it easier for you to prove your Pre-disability income by giving you the choice of the best 12 consecutive months in the last 3 or 2 years, depending on the insurer. This typically provides you with more opportunity to prove your income than the one year before the disablement.

Post October:

Typically, insurers will use the average monthly earnings for the 12 consecutive months prior to total disablement. For individuals that have variable income, for example: self-employed, or where there has been a significant variation in income, select insurers will use the average monthly earnings for the 24 consecutive months prior to the total disablement.

Alternatives to switching

Although switching to a different income protection policy may help you save on the rising cost of premiums, the odds are high that you’ll be giving up the many exclusive benefits common in older-style policies. Instead, you could retain your existing policy and take the necessary steps to help reduce your premiums.

To keep your premiums in line with your budget, you could consider lengthening waiting periods, removing policy options or reducing benefit periods and monthly benefits.

Frequently asked questions & answers

  • How are you affected by the income protection changes?

    The recent changes to income protection insurance policies will mainly affect new customers; existing policyholders will generally see no change. The most notable change is that new customers will receive policies with different conditions and benefits. Existing income protection policyholders can continue to expect the same level of coverage and benefits, however may see premium increases.
  • Will the changes affect claims?

    Yes, new income protection policy holders can now only claim up to 70% of their pre-disablement income and have more stringent claim eligibility criteria. If you have an older style policy, then you could typically claim up to 75% of your income. There have also been changes to how your income is assessed.
  • Is income protection still worth it?

    Yes, your personal exertion income may be your greatest asset, providing the financial means for you to live a comfortable life. It also allows you to save for retirement and support yourself and your family. Not having an income because of a disability could drastically lower the standard of your life. By getting income cover, you can assist yourself to keep paying for your loved ones even if you’re not making money yourself anymore due to sickness or accident.

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