Scottish Provident will not pay £240,000 for life insurance until the policyholder can prove they have less than 12 months to live
Forced to stay on: Michael Onette, who suffers from motor neurone
Last summer, Michael Onyet received news that everyone dreaded to hear.
He was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, an incurable disease that causes slowly wasting muscles.
A father of two may have weeks to live – or months or even years. One of the horrors of this condition is that doctors can never be sure.
But this uncertainty allowed Scottish Provident to forgo paying Mr Onyett £240,000 on two terminally ill life benefits.
And despite paying over £30,000 in premiums, he may never be entitled to that money unless he can get a doctor to say he has less than 12 months to live before May 2015.
If he dies after this date, his family gets nothing.
His wife Debbie, 60, a former export worker who has been married to her husband for 40 years, says: “I am watching my husband die and there is nothing I can do to help him.
His muscles would go sluggish, and he wouldn’t be able to swallow food—and then eventually, the disease would hit his heart. We don’t know how much time he has: it could be six months or it could be a year.
We thought he had a terminal illness we could claim on our insurance money. We were not told otherwise. All the time you pay and you don’t know it won’t cover you.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch him die while I had to fight with an insurance company.”
Mr and Mrs Onyett set up Self Insurance Terms and Mortgage Policies with Scottish Provident in August 2002 after consulting a friend who was a financial advisor.
They pay £83 a month on one and £177 on the other. Should either of them die or be diagnosed with a terminal illness, they were told the policies would pay out up to £240,000.
Last summer, Mr. Onyett went to see a doctor after he started giving his speech.
He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease – the same incurable disease that scientist Stephen Hawking suffers from.
He was told that people with his condition were likely to live only two years at best.
Since then, Mr. Onit’s condition has worsened: his speech is slurred, he has difficulty swallowing, and chokes frequently.
Despite this, he was forced to continue working as a carpenter in order to pay off the £320,000 mortgage on the couple’s £500,000 thatched farm in Essex.
Mr. and Mrs. Onit believed that the diagnosis would at least allow them to claim the policies they had faithfully paid for. This will allow him to quit work and spend his last days with his beloved wife.
But the Scottish Provident refused to claim to raise a clause in the policy. This indicates that the Chronic Disease Payment can only be provided to someone who has less than 12 months to live.
Onyetts says this was buried in the small print and not included in any papers they were given when they pulled the policy.
Scottish Provident insists that it was contained in two documents – one 25 pages long, the other 24 pages long – that their financial advisor was supposed to provide to the couple.
Money Mail asked the broker, Trevor Oakley of PBF Financial of Basildon, Essex, if he had seen the documents with Onyetts.
He says: I command it? No, not really – I’m not familiar with looking at 28 pages of a life insurance policy. People get certain things and take a look at them. If they want it, they take it.
I don’t know what the terms and conditions are for terminal illness. I have absolutely no idea.’
The independent complaints body, the Financial Ombudsman Service, says any significant clauses in insurance policies must be highlighted by the person selling the policy at the time the cover is drawn.
“In my opinion, the broker is obligated to point out this important and essential element to clients, and insurers lack transparency in the literature,” says Penny O’Nions, an independent financial advisor from The Onion Group.
More than two million people paid for new life insurance policies in 2010. Most of these are sold with premium terminal illness coverage.
A Scottish Provident spokesperson says: “The policy documents, issued when the policy is taken, state that we will pay a terminal illness claim if in the medical professional’s opinion there is a life expectancy of less than 12 months.”
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