13th April 2021

The ‘Free Lunch’ and Life Cover…

(Aka the very useful and tangible additional free benefits that come with your life policy that customers rarely notice or indeed use..)
That much used old cliché ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’ always comes to mind when you get anything free that you didn’t have to pay for. In many ways it is true when you take out mortgage protection or life insurance as you are paying your premiums monthly or annually for your cover so whatever else comes free you have arguably paid for. However, that is only partly true as some of the extra benefits are ones that you would pay a lot for should you be getting them on their own. 
The tragedy of it (although maybe not the ideal word to use when talking about anything related to life insurance!) is that there are some superb benefits that the relevant life companies have put with their products and yet so few people with these policies know about them or worse again, use them, particularly when they could be really relevant.
As we all love rankings, apart from global vaccine rates currently, here are my top of the pops.
1.      Best Doctors from Aviva 
This is a really attractive benefit that comes free with every Aviva life policy and it can make a huge difference, if God forbid, a family or individual wants to avail of it. In essence every Aviva life insurance policy holder and their family can avail of ‘Best Doctors Second Medical Opinion®’. This means you have access to over 50,000 of the world’s top physicians. Yes, you read right, the world’s top doctors. For example, say your father got prostate cancer and was being treated in hospital and you wanted to be sure he was getting the best treatment possible – you can simply contact Best Doctors and get a second opinion and that second opinion could be coming from a top prostate cancer specialist on Harley Street or in the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. and it comes at zero cost to you. Here is how it works..
How would Best Doctors help me?
Best Doctors can:
Double-check the diagnosis you have been given or the treatment being proposed for you.
Investigate if there are any alternative treatment options.
Review your options if your symptoms haven’t been improving.
Who can access the service?
This service is available to:
Your spouse or partner
Your children up to age 18 (or 23 if in full-time education)
PLUS your parents and your spouse/partner’s parents.

How does it work?
Call the Member Care Centre on 1800 882 342 at any time of the day or night, seven days a week.
A dedicated Case Manager will be assigned to you who will guide you through the whole process including supporting you to gather the relevant medical documentation and discussing the meaning of your report.
You can use Best Doctors as many times as you want as long as you have your policy with Aviva and it is totally free. It is a superb benefit so well worth keeping in mind if you are looking at life insurance and Aviva are on your radar.
2.      Waiver of Premium.
This is a benefit that is only offered by Zurich but it’s a very useful one and comes at no extra cost on Mortgage Protection policies. In effect , Zurich will pay your premiums if you are unable to work due to accident or illness for a period longer than 26 weeks In joint life cases it only applies to the first life insured, if selected. In dual life cases it can be selected by each life separately and in the case of a claim, only the relevant life insured’s claim will be waived.
 3. Royal London’s Helping Hand 
This service is provided by Royal London to anyone who takes out cover with them as well as their partner/spouse and children. It gives one-to-one personal support from your own dedicated nurse from RedArc who can help you and your family cope with the devastating effects that illness or bereavement can have.With more than 20 years’ experience, RedArc has earned a reputation for service excellence, supporting individuals and their families through serious illness, chronic health conditions, bereavement and disabilities.
Whilst your medical team focus on your treatment, RedArc helps by providing ‘softer’ skills – a friendly listening ear, practical information, and much needed emotional support both for you and your family. Helping Hand is available to use from the day your policy starts and is totally free. In short, if you ever suffer a serious illness, injury or bereavement, it provides you with the additional support you might need beyond a financial payout.
4.      One month’s free life cover prior to collection of the first premium from Royal London.
Its back to hard cash benefits for this one and whilst not a big chunk of change – it all helps. Royal London are the only life company in Ireland to give you one month’s free life insurance cover  before you pay your first premium. It is a nice touch and whether you are paying €10 or €100+ a month it is a nice saving or an additional month’s cover depending on what way you look at it.
5.      Separation Option – Royal London 
Unfortunately separation and divorce are regular occurrences in life and no doubt this trend will accelerate somewhat with all the lockdowns we have had to suffer as these invariably put huge pressure, particularly on already fragile relationships.  Royal London are the only life company that have a separation option. This means you can split a joint or dual life policy and each life assured can take out a new single life policy, without having to provide details of their health, if they separate. The cover amount on each new policy has to be less than, or equal to, the existing cover amount on their original policy. 
It is a neat option as sorting out life cover when partners break up is a headache and this simplifies it big time.

 6. Aviva Family Care Mental Health Support
This is a free benefit and is quite similar to Royal London’s Helping Hand. Aviva Family Care is a counselling & psychotherapy service provided by Teladoc Health. Every Aviva  protection policy allows one to avail of this mental health support service.
With events over the past year causing a lot of heartache and mental stress to people, the value of services like this cannot be underestimated and again they are totally free and available to the life assured, their partner/spouse and children up to age 18 (or 23 if in full time education). Teladoc Health’s team of psychologists are available to help and give Aviva  policy holders access to a wide variety of specialised forms of therapy including counselling and cognitive behavioral therapy. This benefit wil appeal particularly to those who are :
• Struggling with a bereavement
• Overwhelmed, stressed or anxious
• Feeling down, depressed or lonely
• Need help managing the emotional impact of life events
• Developing coping and behavioural skills
Like Aviva’s  Best Doctors and Royal London’s Helping Hand these  are all very welcome benefits that people who take out policies with these respective life companies should be very aware of.
7.      Funeral expenses – accelerated payment Royal London & Zurich 
Its bad enough having to take out life cover and then thinking about your funeral but to quote an apt French expression ‘C’est la vie’! This is a benefit that has been introduced by Royal London and Zurich in the last few years as it gets around the headache created by probate which means the estate of the deceased cannot access any funds until probate is complete at a time when they may need funds particularly for the deceased’s funeral. Recognising this headwind, both these life companies introduced an accelerated payment for funeral expenses which means where a life claim has been made, which is subject to probate, they will pay up to €10,000 for funeral expenses directly to the funeral director and then when probate is completed and the full claim is paid – they will pay it less the amount claimed for funeral expenses.  Its dead simple really!
8.      Free life cover for policyholders children - Zurich 
This is one benefit that ideally no one would ever claim but sadly and tragically it is availed of a few times every year. It is where all the life companies automatically provide a small amount of free life cover for children when you take out a life policy for yourself with them. Both Irish Life and Zurich Life provide the largest amounts of €7,000 and these are valid from date of birth up to age 18 (or 25 if in full time education).
9.      Instant Life Cover 
This is a recent innovation from Royal London and a very good one. Whilst the other life companies all have a version of accidental death benefit which provides a lump sum if you die accidentally before policy inception – Royal London will give instant cover for the sum applied for up to a maximum of €500,000 for up to 28 days. It is available to new customers aged 60 or below across all their life products. Some T&Cs apply for this one. 
10.  Optional flexibility – New Ireland 
As Sean O’Casey’s character Captain Boyle said in the famous play ( that many of us had drilled into us for the Leaving Cert), Juno and the Paycock …’"Th' whole worl's in a terrible state o' chassis". It is indeed a constantly changing world so this is a neat option to automatically have on your policy as it allows a policyholder to make significant changes to the level or term of their benefits without cancelling their existing plan and taking out a new policy. At any stage throughout your term you may request to amend the term of cover or the amount of protection benefits. You can also elect to add or remove a life insured or protection benefits to or from  your policy. Any amendments will be subject to underwriting and acceptance by New Ireland and where a request for such an amendment is accepted by them- this will result in your premium being recalculated to take account of the changes made and it will all be confirmed by an endorsement to the policy.