Giving critical illness coverage a much-needed refresh

by Leo Almazora18 Nov 2020

In early October, Foresters Financial and Canada Protection plan announced an amalgamation that promised to amplify each other’s strengths, including Foresters’ healthy capitalization as well as industry-leading sales and marketing firepower from Canada Protection Plan. But even before that change was unveiled, the two were already partners in a relationship that pushed the envelope on innovation.

“Canada Protection Plan forged their identity as a front runner on product and sales innovation, and as the lead underwriter on all the products they’ve sold for over a decade, we at Foresters have learned a lot working with them,” said JS Ledoux, associate vice president, Product Management, North America at Foresters Financial. “This past spring, they launched their own cancer and cardiac critical illness products, defined by their simplicity and ease of purchase, and we felt it was the right time to refresh our own portfolio of CI offerings in Canada.”

The drive to revamp products at Foresters extends beyond critical illness. The company has come out with a long list of product refreshes and benefits this year, including a recently announced diabetes-management program for its members in the U.S. offered in partnership with Roche Diabetes Care. That’s meant a lot of work for Ledoux and his team – an actuary by background who’s been at Foresters for 15 years, Ledoux heads a team of over 25 insurance professionals – as part of a broader strategy to make the company as competitive as possible.

“We hadn’t refreshed our CI product in a long time. The definition and number of illnesses covered were a bit outdated, and we felt the pain through feedback from our MGA partners,” Ledoux said of its Canadian suite of CI products. “We really needed to make it easier to purchase CI protection for everyday Canadians, especially for older demographics, and to cover more conditions.”

With that in mind, the fraternal life insurer recently announced the Canadian launch of two new CI insurance offerings. The first and more comprehensive of the two, Live Well Plus, is offered with face amounts of $25,000 to $2,000,000. It covers a broad range of 25 critical illnesses, modernized to reflect the most current standards from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), as well as eight non-life-threatening illnesses.

The Live Well Plus product was designed to cover a large chunk of the underserved, middle-aged Canadian market. To help ensure more people are protected and cater to applicants’ demand for convenience, Foresters is offering non-medical underwriting up to age 65 for applicants seeking $100,000 or less in coverage. The product is also available for terms 10, 20 and, uniquely in the Canadian insurance space, up to age 80, with no policy fees applied.

“This also aligns with our purpose-driven mission at Foresters to enrich family and community well-being. Critical illness insurance provides funds to help financially while you're recovering and getting better,” Ledoux said. “With advances in medicine enabling people to live longer and healthier lives, a large segment of the population may experience a critical illness condition after the age of 75 and fully recover, so we wanted them to have the option to keep this protection in place longer.”

As Ledoux explained, Foresters decided to introduce its new LiveWell Plus CI product as a stand-alone insurance offering rather than a rider to a life policy to give its members flexibility, giving them the option to trim their coverage in case they encounter a future financial constraint. To maintain the product’s competitiveness, the insurer is also not charging policy fees on the CI product, which eases the burden for those considering CI coverage to complement their life insurance.

The second CI offering, LiveWell, is a simplified issue version of LiveWell Plus. Offered to Canadians from 18 to 55 years old, it covers cancer, coronary artery bypass surgery, heart attack, and stroke, as well as the non-life-threatening illnesses included under LiveWell Plus. While it has a more modest range of face amounts – from $25,000 to $100,000 – LiveWell has the same three term options of 10, 20, and to age 80 that its more comprehensive counterpart does.

“Combined with the Canada Protection Plan offerings in the spring, we believe we have a very robust combined CI portfolio for consumers in Canada,” Ledoux said. “Purchasers of our CI products also get access to benefits and services such as scholarships, orphan benefits, community building grants, online legal document preparation, and others that we offer to all our members.”

The new CI products also have a built-in Return of Premium at Death benefit, at no additional charge, whereby those who die before claiming any CI benefit are entitled to get their money back. On top of that, Foresters offers two optional riders – a Waiver of Premium add-on and Return of Premium on Surrender or Expiry – for both new CI offerings; just for the comprehensive LiveWell Plus product, the insurer also offers an optional Juvenile Critical Illness rider, which covers an added five conditions and expires at age 25, though it may be converted to individual coverage for named children between 18 and 25 years old.

“One or a combination of the 25 conditions covered by Live Well Plus affect over three hundred and forty thousand Canadians every single year,” Ledoux said, citing estimates based on 2019 data from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society. “People sometimes don't like to think about those things, but it's the reality of life. We're happy that we're able to launch those products and try to help our members and everyday Canadians.”