Like millions of Canadians, Tim Potter is living with a serious medical condition that has made it difficult, if not impossible, to secure meaningful life insurance.
The Halifax father of seven was diagnosed 26 years ago with Type 1 diabetes.
While his wife quickly obtained insurance coverage a decade ago, the stay-at-home dad was denied coverage. It has left him worried about his wife and young family’s welfare when he’s no longer around.
“I feel like I would be leaving her and the kids quite empty-handed if anything were to happen to me,” he said.
Potter feels stressed because all he’s been able to secure is a couple of policies that will pay just enough to cover his funeral expenses.
Securing affordable life insurance is a growing problem as more Canadians are diagnosed with serious ailments.
Half of Canadians will develop cancer at some point in their lives, the Canadian Cancer Society says. The Heart and Stroke foundation points to an increase in the number of people with heart conditions and strokes. And about eight per cent of Canadians have been diagnosed with diabetes, a condition that’s growing in frequency amid an aging population.
“It’s an epidemic,” said Joan King, director of government relations for Diabetes Canada. The number of Canadians with diabetes has doubled since 2000, she noted.
As well as diabetes, people with severe mental illness, HIV, heart conditions and other serious ailments can be left in the lurch. Other red flags for insurers can include travel to certain parts of the world or risky recreational activities.
There’s also a trend of people needing insurance for a longer period because they have families later in life or haven’t paid off their mortgage yet.
“The issue of pre-existing conditions is a bit of a growing issue because people are needing term insurance longer in their life because of the financial pressures today,” said Kevan Penonzek, manager of Insurance Direct Canada in Vancouver.
“They’re working later, they’re carrying debt longer, mortgage longer so they feel like they need term insurance to cover off that risk. And so it becomes harder when you’re 60 to 70, because people then have health issues.”
It’s a definite problem, says Michael Aziz, co-president of Canada Protection Plan, which seeks to fill the void left by traditional insurers by offering coverage that doesn’t require a medical examination.
Aziz said more carriers are adopting its simplified approach that offers certain coverage within days of answering a detailed questionnaire.
“We’ve seen our premium numbers or policies grow by 40 to 50 per cent for the last five years so that’s a good sign and we’ve seen other carriers starting to look at the non-medical space as well,” he said.
But the simplified coverage comes at a price. Premiums can be 50 to 300 per cent higher than traditional term policies and coverage limits are lower.
Insurance companies have become much more liberal about covering people with health issues, said Lorne Marr, director of new business for LSM Insurance, which owns No Medical Exam Life Insurance.
“Years ago if you had diabetes … you were declined for insurance, but now most, almost all, diabetics can get some form of life insurance,” he said.
Marr said the situation changed because insurance companies have more data to evaluate life expectancy while medications and treatments have also improved.
“There used to be only one or two companies offering these type of policies, now there’s probably 10 different companies.”
No Medical Exam Life Insurance offers two forms of term insurance — Guaranteed Issue for people facing, for example, a serious cancer diagnosis; and Simplified Issue, a less expensive policy used for people with more manageable and less severe conditions.
With new and better treatments come changes from insurers. Canada Protection Plan has followed Manulife and Sun Life, which in 2016 began to offer insurance to some HIV-positive clients.
Traditional carriers require these patients have five years of stability on anti-retroviral therapy, an undetectable viral load and receive treatment by an HIV expert. Manulife precludes those with hepatitis, a history of intravenous drug use or other substance abuse, history of coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer and AIDS-defining illness.
Canada Protection Plan doesn’t have these restrictions and offers $50,000 of coverage. That’s much less than the million-dollar limit by Sun Life and up to $2 million for Manulife applicants aged 30 to 65.
Still, not everyone benefits from the insurers’ more open approach. Intravenous drug users, for example are denied coverage, which can be a problem for some people living with HIV, said Tammy Yates, executive director of community advocacy group Realize.
She argues that insurance companies should shorten the five-year treatment requirement to two years since medical advancements have improved life expectancy.
The history of the illness and the public stigma towards those living with HIV has ensured that very few people even contemplate seeking insurance coverage, said Shaun Proulx, a Realize board member.
In the early days of the illness, there was no chance of even considering insurance, he said.
“But there was a frustrating period after that when people were living longer and having healthier lives and were still being denied insurance as well and it made no sense.”
Proulx says the insurance companies aren’t doing enough to educate those living with HIV about availability.
“That’s an enormous amount of business that they’re leaving behind on the table.”
Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
China's new coronavirus has spread to more cities – Quartz
From our Obsession
Even small changes in China have global effects.
Chinese authorities confirmed on Monday (Jan. 20) that an outbreak of a new pneumonia-like illness had spread to two more mainland cities. The number of new infections reported has also sharply jumped in Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was first spotted last month, officials said.
The worrying turn for China’s mysterious new coronavirus comes as the country readies for one of its busiest travel seasons in the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, and as some health experts caution that the actual number of infections could be far higher than what authorities are saying.
South Korea, meanwhile, confirmed its first case on Monday. Officials there said a traveler arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport, who had been to Wuhan last week, tested positive for the virus and had been treated at a local hospital. This brings the number of countries with confirmed cases to four.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s Daxing district announced early Monday that it had confirmed two cases of the new type of coronavirus, a family of infections that cause the common cold but also far more serious illnesses, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
Three people have so far died from illnesses caused by this new virus—all in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
“Two patients have been treated in isolation at designated hospitals. They have no respiratory symptoms and are in stable condition. Our district has carried out medical observations on close contacts, and currently, there are no abnormalities such as fever,” the Beijing district’s health commission said (link in Chinese).
The southern tech hub of Shenzhen, located a short high-speed train ride from Hong Kong, confirmed that it had one case. Meanwhile, 136 fresh infections were reported over the weekend in Wuhan, bringing the total number of cases China has confirmed to more than 200. A statistical analysis from Imperial College London’s infectious disease research center estimated on Friday that the number of infections in Wuhan ought to be far higher, in the range of roughly 1,700 cases. The estimate was based on an extrapolation from the presence of international cases.
On Dec. 31, China informed the World Health Organization of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause, later identifying the infection on Jan. 7 as a new type of coronavirus, which typically is transmitted to humans from animals. The Wuhan infections, which include symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath, have been linked to a wholesale seafood market in that city, but some of the confirmed cases involve people who had not visited the market.
The three patients in Beijing and Shenzhen had traveled to Wuhan recently, state-run news agency Xinhua said. The patient in Japan had traveled to Wuhan, where he did not visit any live animal market but did come into close contact with a person with pneumonia. Chinese authorities have not confirmed any cases of human-to-human infection, but the Hong Kong health department noted that ”the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission could not be ruled out.”
Social media users said the developments of recent days were bringing back uneasy memories of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which left more than 8,000 people in the region sick and killed nearly 800, including nearly 270 in Hong Kong. Some also wondered if China had announced the spread of infections to other cities as speedily as it ought to have. “They could not cover this up and now finally decided to announce the cases,” said one user of social media platform Weibo (link in Chinese).
Airports in and beyond the region have begun tracking travelers from China for symptoms and exposure to agricultural markets in Wuhan. Hong Kong has been screening travelers with temperature checks. Thailand, where two cases of coronavirus were reported, is screening arrivals in Bangkok and other popular tourist cities. The US said it will begin screening travelers arriving at New York’s JFK and other key hubs.
Jane Li contributed reporting.
Correction: The analysis from Imperial College London’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis was published on Jan. 17, not Jan. 20.
Victoria family focuses on 'letting go, enjoying time together' after dad gets dementia – Maple Ridge News
When Walter Strauss, a certified accountant — who with his wife, had spent years creating a magazine with over a million subscribers — started to have trouble with numbers his family knew something was wrong.
“Nobody wanted to believe it, but something wasn’t right,” says Strauss’s daughter, Helga. The family ended up moving back to Canada from the Bahamas to be closer to family. It wasn’t until a year later, in 2018, when Strauss received a formal diagnosis after a long process of tests.
That’s how dementia starts to present itself in people says Tara Speirs with the Alzheimer Society of B.C.
“All of us from time to time forget things,” she says, adding it’s more significant forgetfulness that can be indicative of the disease. “[For example] the person who always starts their day by making coffee and wakes up one morning [not knowing] how to work the coffee maker.”
Speirs facilitates a fitness and social program for people living with early-stage dementia and their care partners called Minds in Motion, where she met Strauss.
“When I approached Walter about being a spokesperson for the campaign, he thought about it and the first thing he said to me was ‘Can I tell people I don’t want them to tell me to fight it? I just want to be me’,” says Speirs.
It’s one of the biggest messages the Strauss and Speirs want to share with the public during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month — just because you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, doesn’t mean you can no longer live well.
Since Strauss’s diagnosis, he’s developed an interest in music and even takes line dancing classes in addition to the Minds in Motion class. Helga has learned she can’t correct Strauss when he forgets something and says it’s become about “letting go and enjoying their time together.”’
One in four Canadians surveyed say they would feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia, which is what spurred the need for the Alzheimer Society’s new campaign: I live with dementia, let me help you understand.
Speirs explains there are many kinds of dementia, but says the thing they all have in common is the brain cells and neuropathways in people living with the disease, are dying. The cause of dementia is unknown, with only a small portion of the population diagnosed with the genetic disease Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer Society, more than half a million people in Canada are living with dementia today, with many more family members who provide care affected as well. Research shows that in the next 12 years, nearly a million Canadians will be living with dementia.
One of the biggest factors leading to the stigmatization of dementia, says Speirs, is how isolating it can be once you’ve been diagnosed. For the first half of the Minds in Motion class, a fitness instructor leads participants in 45 minutes of seated exercise, but the last 45 minutes are focused on connection.
Speirs leads the group in conversation focusing on seasonal topics, most recently the theme was what winter and the holidays were like during the participants’ youth. Another favorite is music bingo with songs from the 1950s.
“I’ve been doing this job for four years, and it’s really difficult to see the disease progressing,” says Spiers. “It’s not a nice disease, and it’s a really cruel reality so we just try to maintain quality of life for as long as possible because there is no cure.”
Minds in Motion is run out of six recreation centers across Greater Victoria, for more information on the program visit bit.ly/2FX5QgZ.
The Alzheimer Society also offers many other support services for those living with dementia and their care partners, such as an outreach call system, a first link dementia helpline — which offers services in Cantonese, Punjabi and Mandarin — along with support groups. For more information on the Society visit alzheimer.ca/en/bc .
China coronavirus: Number of cases jumps as virus spreads to new cities – BBC News
Chinese authorities have reported 139 new cases of a mysterious virus in two days, marking the first time that the infection has been confirmed in the country outside of Wuhan city.
The new cases were identified in the cities of Wuhan, Beijing and Shenzhen.
South Korea also reported its first confirmed case of the virus on Monday, following Thailand and Japan.
The total number of confirmed cases now exceeds 200, and three have died from the respiratory illness.
Health officials have identified the infection, which first appeared in Wuhan in December, as being a strain of coronavirus. They say it has led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia, but much about it remains unknown.
Experts in the UK told the BBC the number of people infected could still be far greater than official figures suggest, with estimates closer to 1,700.
China has promised to step up monitoring efforts during this week’s Lunar New Year celebrations, when millions of people will travel to be with their families.
Who has been infected?
Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan said 136 new cases had been confirmed over the weekend, and a third person there died from the virus.
In total, the city alone has confirmed almost 200 cases of the coronavirus. As of late Sunday, officials said 170 people in Wuhan were still being treated in hospital, including nine in critical condition.
Health officials in Beijing’s Daxing district said two people who had travelled to Wuhan were treated for pneumonia linked to the virus.
In Shenzhen, officials said a 66-year-old man showed symptoms of the virus following a trip to visit relatives in Wuhan.
The virus has also spread abroad. Two cases have been confirmed in Thailand and one in Japan – all of them involving people from Wuhan or who had visited the city.
South Korea reported its first confirmed case of the mystery illness on Monday. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a 35-year-old Chinese woman was suffering from a fever and respiratory problems after travelling to the country from Wuhan.
She was put into isolation and treated at a local hospital, they said.
What have health officials said?
China’s National Health Commission on Sunday said the virus was “still preventable and controllable”, while warning that close monitoring was needed given that the source, transmission and mutation methods were unknown.
They said there had been no cases of the virus spreading from one person to another, but that it had instead crossed the species barrier and come from infected animals at a seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan.
The WHO said an “animal source seems the most likely source” of the virus, but that there was “some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts.”
“As more… cases are identified and more analysis undertaken, we will get a clearer picture of disease severity and transmission patterns,” it wrote on Twitter.
It noted that the rise in cases in China was a result of “increased searching and testing for [the virus] among people sick with respiratory illness”.
People could reduce the risk of catching the coronavirus by taking measures such as avoiding “unprotected” contact with live animals, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, and avoiding close contact with anyone with colds or flu-like symptoms, it said.
What exactly is this virus?
Viral samples have been taken from patients and analysed in the laboratory, with officials in China and the WHO concluding that the infection is a coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people.
At the mild end they cause the common cold, but severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) is a coronavirus that killed 774 of the 8,098 people infected in an outbreak that started in China in 2002.
Analysis of the genetic code of the new virus shows it is more closely related to Sars than any other human coronavirus.
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