Tag Archives: PHI

No fight left

It’s been 5 weeks since the human rights organization Liberty said they might be interested in taking my disability discrimination case and I finally managed to get through to their advice line on Thursday.  It wasn’t good news.  They’re not going to represent me after all and I’m absolutely gutted.

It’s 2017.  How can the Equality Act, which is supposed to protect my rights and treat everyone equally, allow me, as a disabled woman, to be treated differently to everyone else?  How can everyone else be paid a health insurance until they’re 65 but allow mine to stop at 60 leaving me with five years to live in abject poverty?  The unfairness of that makes my blood boil and the fact that no-one gives a shit makes me even more furious.

I’ve tried every single avenue in the past two years and gotten nowhere.  And I’m exhausted.  I seem to’ve spent my entire life fighting and I’m not sure I’ve got any fight left.

I fought to have my depression recognized as a teenager.
I fought for five years to have my back pain recognized as a physical, not a psychological, problem.
I fought for a year to stop my ex-husband taking my home off me.
I fought to have my M.E. recognized as a physical, not a mental, illness.
I fought to receive even basic medical care, and failed.
I fought to receive basic social care, and failed.
I fought to be ill health retired from my job.
I fought to receive welfare benefits for the first 8 years of my illness.
I fought to keep my Permanent Health Insurance for the first 6 years of my illness.
I fought the builder who agreed to sell me a house, took £4000 of my money then raised the price of the house by £50,000 which I couldn’t afford, and lost.
I fought to have my EDS diagnosed.
I fought to have my MCAD diagnosed.
I lost the fight to have either illness treated in any way.
I fought the company who installed my gas fire and gave me carbon monoxide poisoning.
I fought my Permanent Health Insurance company for two years when they tried to take my money off me.
I fought when the Government said I was fit for work and tried to take my sickness benefits off me.
I fought my Permanent Health Insurance company when they tried to take my money off me for a second time.
And I’ve fought every single day of the past 23 years just to survive.

I’m so tired.  So tired of having to do everything alone and not receiving any help.  Tired of no-one giving a crap.  Tired of being treated like I don’t matter.  Tired of being ripped off.  Tired of the injustice, the money worries and the hardship.  Tired of the fight.

I don’t know where to go from here.  I suppose I should just give up but I’m left with this boiling rage that I can be shit on from a great height and I’m just supposed to lie down in the muck and die.  I can’t accept it.  It’s not right.  It’s not FAIR goddammit!  And I hate unfairness.

So if anyone has any bright ideas let me know.  Or if anyone has a friend or relative working for a Legal 500 law firm who specializes in discrimination cases and who hasn’t already ignored me, let me know that too.  Or pray, if you think it will do any good.  I need some help, I need it now and I don’t care where it comes from!

 

 

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Pension Victory

….not for me before you all start cheering, but a victory which will hopefully add weight to my own battle against pension inequality.

As I wrote about here, the human rights organization Liberty may be interested in looking into the discrimination I am facing in respect of an income protection policy I’m claiming on.  Everything was fine until 2011 when the Government changed the retirement age for women of my age from 60 to 67.  I won’t now receive my state pension until I’m 67, yet my PHI policy (which forms the bulk of my income) still ends at 60 meaning I have a seven year gap with nothing but £100 a week state sickness benefit to live on.

If I were a man my current policy would have ended at 65 as back in 1992 men’s PHI policies ended later than women’s as this reflected the differences in retirement ages.  If I were a healthy woman and not claiming on my policy I could simply switch to a new policy which reflects the new retirment age for women and my PHI would carry on until I was 65.  So as a disabled woman I am the only section of society whose PHI still ends at 60, which is blatantly discriminatory.

You’d think I’d be covered by the Equality Act, which after all exists to ensure everyone is treated equally, but you’d be wrong.  There is an exclusion in the Act which says that insurance policies are exempt from discrimination law.  It’s scandalous and I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, to take on the (massive and hugely wealthy) insurance industry on my behalf for years with no success until Liberty recently said they might be interested.

They have been fighting a pension discrimination case for a gay couple for the past five years.  There was an exemption clause in the Equality Act which allowed same sex spouses to be treated differently to heterosexual spouses when it came to pension benefits, but this week the battle was won and gay people’s spouses are now entitled to the same pension rights as heterosexual couples.  The fact that the High Court found an exemption in the Equality Act to be discriminatory has important implications for my own circumstance and next week I’m getting in touch with Liberty again to see if they’ve now made a firm decision to tackle my PHI case.  I’ll let you all know how I get on!

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!

Insurance saga update

I wrote in a recent post about a nightmare I’ve been having with a Permanent Health Insurance policy I’m claiming on.  I’ve been trying to sort it since May, when my insurers stopped paying me 1/3 of my monthly income.  You have to go through the insurance company’s formal complaints procedure, which I did, and they told me last month that they were entitled to reduce my money and that was an end to the matter.

So I referred the case to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service.  The last time I had to complain to the FOS about my insurers was back in 2010, it took 2 years to resolve and this new complaint looked like it was going the same way after the Adjudicator assigned to my case refused to even return my phone calls or emails.

However, I wasn’t about to be put through 2 years of hell a second time so in desperation I emailed the Chief Ombudsman herself and within 48 hours a different and brilliant Adjudicator took over the handling of my case.  He couldn’t have been more helpful or more on my side.

He immediately got in touch with my insurers and asked them for their facts on my case.  In the meantime I had to put all my paperwork together and email that to him, which took 3½ hours.  Even though he reassured me that things in the FOS had changed since 2010 and that the process would be much faster, I still expected it not to be resolved until 2017 particularly as they had to give my insurers 3 months to respond to their request for information and my insurers are very good at leaving it the entire 3 months.

However, this afternoon I received a phone call from the Adjudicator with some fabulous news.  My insurers have agreed they’ve made a mistake in reducing my money and it will be re-instated in full asap.  Not only that but I’m to be paid £100 compensation for all the stress, which is brilliant being as though I’ve racked up £52 in planned overdraft charges at the bank as I haven’t had enough money to live on (I dread to think what the charges for an unplanned overdraft would be!).

The nice Adjudicator also said that if, at any time in the future, my insurers play silly buggers for a 3rd time to simply email him directly and he’ll get on the case.  Which is re-assuring because I know my insurance company would dearly love to stop paying me what I’m owed.

I’m so relieved!  It’s gone chilly here in the north of England as Autumn bites but I was worried sick about putting my central heating on as I couldn’t afford any large bills until this was sorted out.

2-0 to the little disabled country bumpkin, who has nothing but tenacity and a very big mouth on her side 🙂

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.

 

Weekly Roundup

This week has zipped by like a gnat on speed but I’m not entirely sure what it is I’ve been filling my time with.  Had my 6 monthly dental checkup (people with EDS need more regular check-ups than healthy people) and need yet another filling.  Oh joy.  All my molars were filled by the time I was 20, and now I’m nearly 50 they’re so old they’re having to be replaced.

My big news of the week is that on Thursday we received the results of my Dad’s CT scan, which showed absolutely nothing.  You’d think this would be great news, but the Psychiatrist still thinks my Dad has Alzheimer’s and it’s just too early to be showing yet.  She’s arranging for him to see a Clinical Psychologist for some further indepth memory and functioning tests, which we’re hoping once and for all will give us a firm diagnosis.  The diagnosis is important, because if he does have Alzheimer’s he can be started on drugs to slow down the progression of the disease.

Alzheimer’s is a notifiable disease to the DVLA, so the Psychiatrist has referred my Dad for a driving assessed by a specialist team that deal with people who have medical conditions.  My Dad has occasionally driven right through red traffic lights like they don’t exist, so I’m relieved something is finally being done about his competence on the roads.  Having his licence taken away will cause huge issues though as my Mum no longer drives and it’s not like Cumbria has great public transport.  There is a town bus, which my Mum can’t access as she can’t walk far enough to get to the nearest stop and Dad is no longer strong enough to push her in a wheelchair, and if they want to go outside town they’d be scuppered because the distances involved in living here make taxis cost prohibitive and there are no buses whatsoever.  It will just put more strain on me to chauffeur them around.

Even though I was expecting the news it still came as a shock and I felt quite overwhelmed by the situation on Friday, knowing that the responsibility of caring for him will fall on me.  My lovely best mate rung me though and just having a chat and a laugh with her helped perk me up again – without her support I would feel absolutely and utterly alone.

It’s been 2 months now since my insurance company decided to take a third of my income off me, as outlined in this post, and I’m getting nowhere in trying to sort it out.  My insurance company first tried to pay me less money in 2011.  I took the case to the Financial Ombudsman and won.  My insurance company were told to re-instate my money in full, which is a legally binding Decision.  I have no idea why they’re now breaking the law by taking my money off me again.  I immediately wrote to the Financial Ombudsman to inform them of the situation but have heard absolutely nothing.  I rang on Friday but you never get to speak to the Adjudicators and always just have to leave a message.  I said I was in financial difficulty and needed them to ring me back that day but of course they didn’t.  Ombudsman’s Decisions are enforceable by the Courts, so my next option is to get my Solicitor on the case.  He’s been on holiday but is back on Monday, so I’ll ring him and ask his opinion.  Luckily (or unluckily whichever way you want to look at it) I’ve had to use my Solicitor for various things over the last 30 years so he does actually know me and I feel comfortable talking to him.  It could take months and months to sort out though and the entire time I’m living on fresh air.  With everything else going on my life I don’t sodding well need the stress, I really don’t.

To take my mind off everything, I’ve been experimenting with my photographs in my spare bedroom, which last year I dismantled being as though I never have visitors to stay overnight (in fact I never have visitors full stop) and turned into a little studio.  Next season at Camera Club one of the competitions in on the theme of fruit and this is my interpretation.  I’ve made it smaller to put online, which seems to’ve made the black background a bit weird, but it’s just totally black in ‘real’ life.   Disclaimer: no snails were hurt in the taking of this photo and were put back in my garden to decimate my Hostas after the event 😉

Weekly roundup

I seem to have had all sorts going on recently, so apologies if I ramble on more than usual in this week’s roundup!  And for those of a squeamish disposition this post talks about my periods, so if you don’t want to know look away now 😉

As I’ve mentioned before, my 10 month hiatus from the peri-menopause seems to be over and my period cycles have become less regular again.  In 2013 they were up and down like a Bride’s nightie, alternating between a short cycle and a longer cycle, but I now appear to just be having the short cycles.  It’s not always drastically short – I’m averaging 26 days – but things are definitely on the move again.  I just want the whole fertility thing over with.  I’ve never wanted kids and 31 years of four weekly sweating, nausea, insomnia, migraines, vomiting, cramping, backache, diahorrea and fatigue is enough for anyone.  However, in order to get to my final destination I just wish the journey wasn’t quite so bloody rough.

Apart from my cycle length I’ve had no other symptoms I can put my finger on (although it’s hard to tell as many peri-menopause symptoms are things I already suffer with), but I think that might be a-changing.  I’ve noticed a definite alteration in my mood particularly in the week before my period: I’m either an emotional wreck or I’m Attila the Hun 😉  I’ve never suffered from PMS, so to be at the emotional mercy of my hormones is weird.  It’s like puberty all over again and I was unimpressed dot com the first time round.

The only other change I’ve noticed is that I’m now getting period pain/cramps up to 4 days before I actually bleed.  My periods have always been horrendously painful and to now have this extended by several days sucks, especially as I can take no form of pain relief.  Having Googled this I’ve found it’s not uncommon and some women report cramping all month but no bleeding – kill me now!  This month’s period is the most bizarre I’ve ever had.  I started with quite bad period pain on Tuesday, which usually means Aunt Flo will arrive within 24 hours.  But she didn’t appear.  The cramps kept coming but still nothing happened.  On Saturday morning I discovered a little trickle and thought “finally, let’s get this thing over with!” but the trickle stayed a trickle then petered out.  Last night (Sunday) I was kept awake nearly all night with excruciating pain, but no bleeding.  Maybe this will turn out to be my first kind’ve “missed” period.  Or maybe the flood gates will open.  I have no idea what to expect.

I’ve gotten nowhere with my complaint about Permanent Health Insurance policies despite contacting the Financial Services Authority, my Insurance company, the Equalities Commission, my MP and HM Treasury.  I also tried contacting the BBC Panorama programme who never got back to me, so I’ve now written to the political correspondent of The Guardian newspaper to see if she will cover the story.  I can’t believe no-one gives a shit that the Government are basically scrapping state sickness benefits but allowing insurance companies to opt out of providing private sickness insurance til retirement!  If you get sick between the ages of 65 and 67 you are going to have NOTHING to live on until you can claim your state pension.

I am fighting no less than 5 battles at the mo:

  • HM Treasury on PHI.
  • Tesco pet insurance after they upped my premium by a whopping 113% because I made a claim.  My complaint is currently with the Financial Ombudsman.
  • Dolphin stairlifts, after they forcefully tried to sell my sick parents stupidly expensive insurance then failed to repair their stairlift.  I’ve made a formal complaint to them which they have so far ignored.
  • Domestic & General Insurance, after they failed to meet the terms of my parents’ appliance insurance.  They are currently looking at my formal complaint and “will get back to me” though to be fair they are so far being very nice.
  • My neighbours, over their incessantly barking dog.  I’ve been complaining to the local Environmental Health Officer now for 3 years but they simply don’t want to prosecute cos they’re skint and it’s expensive.

Then I wonder why I feel stressed some days and my arse is covered in hives 😉

I might have a new lunch recipe for you soon, as well as a blog post on histamine if I ever get time to write it – watch this space!

I’m very much looking forward to the coming week and just hope my weird period doesn’t bugger everything up.  My Camera club takes a 4 month break in the summer and I’ve really missed it!  It’s my only form of social life and I enjoy the challenge of the competitions.  It re-starts this Wednesday, yayy 🙂

The Club also hosts a 9 week workshop for beginners interested in improving their photography skills and I am very proud to announce that I have been asked to take the opening training session on Tuesday.  I have to give a slide presentation and a lecture having never done either before in my life!  I feel like I should be nervous but am just excited 🙂  My only worry is that I’ll be too ill on the day to do it, but have a backup plan in the form of another club member who has a copy of my slides and will take the session if I’m unable (though it will grieve me as I’ve worked for weeks on my slides and don’t want someone else stealing my thunder!).

It is also my 48th birthday this week.  My friend is coming through to see me tomorrow, then on my actual birthday my folks are taking me for Afternoon Tea up the Lakes.  Here’s where we’re going:

And here’s what we’ll be eating, although obviously I won’t be having any wine or strawberries!:

I’m so lucky to live in such a gorgeous area – if only it wasn’t freezing cold and raining 300 days of the year it would be perfect 😉