Category Archives: finances

Permanent Health Insurance update

This post only relates to the UK, so if you live overseas feel free to put the telly on 😉

Luckily, before I got M.E. back in 1994 and before I knew I had either EDS or MCAD, I took out a Permanent Health Insurance Policy (PHI) which pays a proportion of your salary should you be unable to work due to illness (minus any ill-health retirement pension from your job and any welfare benefits to which you’re entitled).  I wrote about it in this post last year.

My PHI has paid out successfully for many years and was due to end when I reached 60, because when I took the policy out that was the default retirement age (DRA) for women.  After that the state pension, and my small private pension, would kick in.  However, in 2011 the Government in their wisdom increased the DRA for women to 67 literally overnight which means I am going to have to live between the ages of 60 to 67 on Employment & Support Allowance, which currently stands at £108 per week.  This barely covers my Tesco grocery bill let alone anything else and I’m now terrified for my financial future.

I feel I am being discriminated against on the grounds of:

  • Sex: Men can, and have always been able to, have a PHI until they’re 65.  I am being treated differently to men.
  • Disability: If I were healthy and still in full time employment I would be able to either extend my existing policy until 65, or failing that take out a new policy until 65 (my current insurers offer them on their website).  However, as I am disabled and claiming on my policy this isn’t open to me.

So I’m basically being treated differently to disabled men, and differently to both healthy men and women which is blatantly unfair and against the law to boot.  At least, I thought it was against the law until I discovered there is a get-out clause in the Equality Act 2010 which says that existing insurance policies are exempt from equality laws.  I seriously couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that little gem – how can it be fair to discriminate against disabled women just because the discrimination started pre-2011?!!  I’m being discriminated against now in 2016 and silly me thought there were laws against that.

I have tried everything, and I do mean everything, to get my PHI increased until the new retirement age and have had no luck whatsoever.  I’ve contacted:

  • HM Treasury, which overseas the insurance industry, who told me if I felt I’d been mis-sold my policy to take it up with my insurers.  I pointed out the policy hadn’t been mis-sold, the government had changed the goalposts, which fell on deaf ears and they insisted a further 3 times that if I felt my policy had been mis-sold to take it up with my insurers.
  • My insurers told me to get stuffed.  It wasn’t their fault the government had changed the goalposts.
  • The Equality Advisory Service told me I was being discriminated against, but because of the get-out clause in the Equality Act I should contact a Solicitor for advice.
  • I contacted 10 of the top solicitors in the country (one of whom specializes in PHI cases and works with the ME Association) who deal with equality issues and none of them would take my case because I have no money with which to pay them the hundreds of thousands of pounds it would cost to bring a case against the Government.  I have no money because I am too ill to work FFS!
  • The Financial Conduct Authority, who also oversea the insurance industry, told me to take the matter up with the Financial Ombudsman’s Service.
  • I contacted the Financial Ombudsman’s Service who said my insurance company had done nothing wrong and I was being discriminated against by the Government.
  • In desperation this week I emailed the shadow Pensions Minister, Debbie Abrahams and so far haven’t even had an automated reply.  It does not bode well.

In addition, I’ve contacted:

  • The Guardian newspaper
  • Watchdog
  • BBC Breakfast news
  • Panorama
  • WASPI (women against state pension inequality campaign)

none of whom have even bothered to reply to my correspondence.

The unfairness of the situation makes me LIVID.  I didn’t want to rely on state benefits should I become too unwell to work and did the right thing by taking out an insurance so this wouldn’t happen.   The Government put the kibosh on it, breaking just about every equality law known to man, but are allowed to get away with it because no-one will stand up to them on my behalf and I don’t have the resources to stand up to them myself.  And I now face several years of abject poverty as a result of their actions.  It’s so unjust (I would double underline unjust if only I knew how).

I don’t know where else to turn.  The only person I haven’t contacted so far as been Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert from This Morning, but feel so disheartened and exhausted from two years of trying to get someone to help and getting nowhere that I currently don’t have the energy or the will.

When I think of the 7 years of poverty ahead of me I literally have panic attacks and have absolutely no idea how I’m going to manage.  It looks like I have 10 years to find myself a rich husband or, failing that, winning lottery numbers!

The insurance saga

I took out a Permanent Health Insurance policy (PHi) in my early twenties, which would provide me with a proportion of my salary if I were ever too unwell to work.  If I hadn’t had this policy I would absolutely have lost my home when I got sick, because I don’t have a spouse’s income to rely on and state welfare payments like housing benefit are only given to people in rented accommodation not to those who own their homes (even if it’s the bank who actually owns it and you have a ginormous mortgage).

I started claiming on the policy in 1994 and it paid out without any problems until 2010, when all out of the blue the Insurance company wrote and said they’d been overpaying me and were reducing my weekly income by 1/3.  I can barely manage on the full amount so you can imagine my desperation.  To cut a very long story short, I referred the issue to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).  For those outside the UK, the FOS is a regulatory body set up by the Government to help protect Consumers from unscrupulous and illegal business practices.  It consists of a team of Adjudicators who initially look at your case and try to resolve it.  If it can’t be resolved they refer it to the Chief Ombudsman.  The case took two horrendously stressful years to sort out but thankfully the FO Adjudicator ruled in my favour, her recommendation was agreed by my Insurers and my money was re-instated in full.

I was under the impression that this Financial Ombudsman’s Service decision was legally binding so thought the matter had been put to bed once and for all.  Think again Jak.

Since 2012 my insurers have been paying me what I’m owed, but in May this year all out of the blue I received a letter to say they had been overpaying me and were reducing my income by 1/3.  You have got to be freakin kidding me.

I wrote and told them that this matter had been settled by the FOS back in 2012 and, as this decision was legally binding they had to re-instate my money pronto.  They declined, so I had to start their formal complaints procedure.  Four months down the line and they are still “looking into it” despite the fact there is nothing to look into.

I contacted the FOS in June to ask their advice on the latest saga and they have been useless, ignoring my email and telephone messages.  Last week, in absolute desperation and already overdrawn at the bank, I found the email address of the Chief Ombudsman online and emailed her, outlining my case and begging for help.  Although I didn’t receive a reply, it must have reached her because on Tuesday I received a phone call from one of the Adjudicators apologising for the delay in answering my correspondence and offering to go over my case.

I was mortified to learn that the Adjudication back in 2012 is not legally binding.  Only an actual Chief Ombudsman’s Decision is legally binding and, as both the insurers and I had agreed with the Adjudicator’s recommendations, my case hadn’t had to go to the Chief Ombudsman.  In addition, the Adjudicator’s recommendation isn’t forward thinking – in other words it only works up to the date of the agreement between the parties.  My insurers could have changed their minds the week after and I would have had to start the process all over again.  It’s fucking outrageous and basically means an Adjudicator’s decision isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Because the previous FOS decision isn’t legally binding I can’t enforce it through the Courts, so I’ve had to make a totally new complaint and start the process all over again.  It took me 3½ hours Wednesday morning to gather all my paperwork together and email it to the Adjudicator (thankfully I still had most of the relevant documents scanned and saved on my laptop from last time), but there is no guarantee that this decision will go in my favour and I have no clue how long the process will take.

The stress of the 2010-2012 case was what caused my Mast Cell Disease to explode – I’d never had anaphylaxis before in my life until then.  God knows what’s going to happen this time as my health is much more precarious these days, not to mention the fact I’m now going through peri-menopause and have the added stress of caring for my parents.

I simply can’t believe I’m having to go through this a second time.  As if life with 3 exhausting, painful and crippling diseases isn’t hard enough these fuckers are trying to plunge me into poverty, yet are still happy to take my premiums every  month thank you very much.  Wish me luck, my financial future depends on the next few months.