Aviva has enhanced its critical illness (CI) cover, with a focus on changes which will make the biggest difference to its customers.

The enhancements will be introduced on all new policies from today (9 December 2013) and will again concentrate on some of the top five reasons for claims, including stroke and multiple sclerosis, respectively the third and fourth most common conditions claimed for. The top five conditions – cancer, heart attack, stroke, multiple sclerosis and benign brain tumour – account for 93% of Aviva’s critical illness claims.

Further critical illness additional benefits will also be added for specific cancers and brain conditions. This brings the total number of conditions covered to 57, including 11 additional benefits. In total 18 of Aviva’s CI definitions are now ABI+ as a result of the changes.

This is the latest in a series of changes to Aviva’s protection policies this year, in a bid to further increase the number of claims paid. It follows improvements to Aviva’s critical illness heart attack definition in July, and a move to underwrite all income protection policies as own occupation in October.*

Stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS) definitions enhanced

Under the new definitions, customers diagnosed with MS will no longer be required to present continuous symptoms for three months. Instead they will just need a definite diagnosis with current symptoms. Similarly if a customer suffers a stroke, they will no longer need to have permanent symptoms in order for their claim to be paid.

Every year around 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke**, while studies suggest that about 2,500-3,000 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with MS annually.***

Four new critical illness additional benefits added

Under new policies, customers will also receive a payment of up to £20,000 if they are diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

Carcinoma in situ of the cervix requiring treatment with hysterectomy
Carcinoma in situ of the testicle requiring surgical removal of one or both testicles
Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) of the brain with specified treatment
Cerebral aneurysm with specified treatment

These benefits have been chosen because in each case, without treatment, the conditions can lead to one of the top five critical illnesses.

Women are regularly screened from their twenties for carcinoma in situ of the cervix in order to detect this condition early. It is the second most common cause of female cancer. Carcinoma in situ of the testicle if left untreated will develop into invasive cancer, while arteriovenous malformation (AVM) of the brain and cerebral aneurysm are conditions found in the brain which, without treatment, increase the risk of suffering a stroke.

As with all additional benefits, such payments do not affect the cover provided by the critical illness policy. The customer’s policy stays in force so they can claim at a later stage, and their sum assured remains unchanged.

Terminal illness 18-month restriction removed

Aviva has also extended the scope of its terminal illness benefit which is paid to life insurance customers if they are diagnosed with a terminal illness and expected to live less than 12 months. Previously customers were unable to claim under this benefit if they were diagnosed within the last 18 months of their plan, but this exclusion has now been removed on new policies.

Robert Morrison, chief underwriter for Aviva says: "We’re continually looking for ways to improve our cover in a way that will make a real difference to our customers. It’s our business to pay claims, so our latest enhancements have been developed to make sure that more customers will receive a payment at a time when they need it most.

"Ninety-three per cent of our CI claims are made up of just five conditions – cancer, heart attack, stroke, MS and benign brain tumour – so by concentrating our enhancements around these core illnesses, we can hope to make a difference to the largest number of people possible."