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
BC Cancer launches lung-screening program | BC Gov News – BC Gov News
Warren Clarmont, provincial director, Indigenous Cancer Control, BC Cancer –
“Indigenous people are experiencing higher incidences of lung cancer when compared to other B.C. residents. The introduction of a provincewide lung-screening program will help reduce barriers to access for Indigenous people across B.C. We hope that with this new program, more lives will be saved through culturally safe and accessible screening for eligible First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.”
Sarah Roth, president and CEO, BC Cancer Foundation –
“This first-in-Canada provincewide lung cancer screening program would not be possible without our incredible community of donors. We are so proud to funnel their support, in partnership with the Province and BC Cancer, to help bring this life-saving prevention and early-detection tool to high-risk people across B.C., regardless of where they live. It is our deepest hope that it will change the game for the deadliest cancer in the province.”
Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, chief medical officer, BC Cancer –
“BC Cancer’s new Lung Screening Program will help diagnose lung cancer at an early stage before people develop symptoms. Cancer screening for early detection is a key tool in the fight against cancer. Earlier detection of cancer means treatment that can be less invasive and have faster recovery and higher rates of cure.”
Dr. Craig Earle, CEO, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) –
“CPAC congratulates British Columbia and the BC Cancer team for acting quickly to implement a provincewide lung cancer screening program and supporting early diagnosis for people at high risk for this disease. Because of the solid evidence showing that lung cancer screening saves lives, implementing screening programs is a priority initiative in the Canadian strategy for cancer control. Co-creating these programs across the country with First Nations, Inuit, Métis and equity-deserving communities will help achieve the strategy’s vision of equitable access to high-quality, culturally safe cancer prevention and care for all people in Canada.”
Shannon McCrae, B.C. lung-screening trial participant and lung cancer survivor –
“My best friend passed away from lung cancer, so I knew first-hand that lung cancer can be a silent killer. I was a smoker for over 20 years, so when I saw an ad about the BC Cancer lung-screening trial, I registered on the spot. I was shocked when the screening results came back positive even though I displayed no symptoms. The cancer was removed immediately after I was notified about my results. I can say with confidence and gratitude that early detection and the B.C. Lung Screening Pogram saved my life. I’d like to encourage all who qualify for the screening to enrol.”
Older adults face higher risks for long COVID, shots don’t prevent it: U.S. study – Global News
New U.S. research on long COVID-19 provides fresh evidence that it can happen even after breakthrough infections in vaccinated people, and that older adults face higher risks for the long-term effects.
In a study of veterans published Wednesday, about one-third who had breakthrough infections showed signs of long COVID.
A separate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that up to a year after an initial coronavirus infection, 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older had at least one potential long COVID health problem, compared with 1 in 5 younger adults.
Long COVID refers to any of more than two dozens symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection. These can affect all parts of the body and may include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and blood clots.
Coronavirus vaccines that help prevent initial infections and serious illnesses provide some protection against long COVID but mounting research shows not as much as scientists had first hoped.
The veterans study published in Nature Medicine reviewed medical records of mostly white male veterans, aged 60, on average. Of the 13 million veterans, almost 3 million had been vaccinated last year, through October.
About 1%, or nearly 34,000, developed breakthrough infections. Lead author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly noted that the study was done before the highly contagious omicron variant appeared at the end of the year and said the rate of breakthrough infections has likely increased.
Breakthrough infections and long COVID symptoms were more common among those who had received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot compared with two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Whether any had received booster shots is not known; the first booster wasn’t OK’d in the U.S. until late September.
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Overall, 32% had long COVID symptoms up to six months after breakthrough infections. That’s compared with 36% of unvaccinated veterans who had been infected and developed long COVID.
Vaccination reduced the chances for any long COVID symptoms by a “modest” 15%,” although it cut the risk in half for lingering respiratory or clotting problems, said Al-Aly, a researcher with Washington University and the Veterans Affairs health system in St. Louis. These symptoms included persistent shortness of breath or cough and blood clots in lungs or veins in the legs.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Kristin Englund, who runs a center for long COVID patients at the Cleveland Clinic, said the Nature Medicine study mirrors what she sees at her clinic. Long COVID patients there include people who were vaccinated and received boosters.
“As we have no clear treatments for long COVID, it is important for everyone to get vaccinated and use other proven methods of prevention such as masking and social distancing in order to prevent infections with COVID and thus long COVID,” Englund said.
Monkeypox patterns of transmission ‘not typical,’ but virus is ‘containable’: WHO
The CDC report, released Tuesday, used medical records for almost 2 million U.S. adults from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to last November. They included 353,000 who had COVID-19. Patients were tracked for up to a year to determine if they developed any of 26 health conditions that have been attributed to long COVID.
Those who had COVID were much more likely than other adults without COVID to develop at least one of these conditions, and risks were greatest for those aged 65 and older. Information on vaccination, sex and race was not included.
Breathing problems and muscle aches were among the most common conditions.
Older adults’ risks were higher for certain conditions, including strokes, brain fog, kidney failure and mental health problems. The findings are worrisome because those conditions can hasten older adults’ needs for long-term care, the report authors said.
They stressed that routine assessment of all COVID patients “is critical to reduce the incidence” of long COVID.
© 2022 The Associated Press
Monkeypox: Cases in Canada climb to 16, PHAC says – CTV News
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it has now confirmed a total of 16 cases of monkeypox in the country, all in Quebec.
The latest update on the spread of the viral disease came in a statement issued Wednesday evening.
The statement says Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory continues to receive samples from multiple jurisdictions for confirmation testing.
“At this time, cases of monkeypox are being identified and treated by local health clinics,” the statement said.
“There is ongoing planning with provinces and territories to provide access to approved vaccines in Canada that, if required, can be used in managing monkeypox in their jurisdiction.”
In April, Public Services and Procurement Canada submitted a tender to purchase 500,000 doses of the Imvamune vaccine between 2023 and 2028.
There is currently no need for mass immunizations, the PHAC says.
“I know Canadians are concerned,” Duclos said in a statement Tuesday. “The Government of Canada is prepared to respond to emerging public health events and takes precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.”
The national laboratory received its first samples during the week of May 16, before announcing the first two cases of monkeypox identified in Quebec on May 19. That number rose to five cases the following day.
Since then, other possible cases of monkeypox have emerged in Canada. On Wednesday, Toronto public health authorities said they identified two new suspected cases in the city, along with one probable case currently under investigation.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that was first discovered among colonies of monkeys used for research. Historically, it has also been transmitted from animals to humans, with the first human case recorded in 1970. The virus can spread through close contact with an infected animal, human, or contaminated material.
The federal government is prepared to help provinces and territories develop their own means of testing for the disease in order to monitor it more easily, Duclos said.
“Our surveillance system is working, as is our testing system, though we will continue to refine both, including supporting provinces and territories in building their own testing capacities so cases can be identified and traced even more efficiently,” Duclos’ statement read.
The government will also provide updated guidance on preventing infection, as well as procedures around isolation and case management. Canadians can expect the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide additional guidance in the coming weeks as well.
In his statement, Duclos emphasized that the emergence of monkeypox is not the same as COVID-19, which quickly spiralled into a worldwide pandemic.
“I want to re-iterate to Canadians that this is a different situation than we saw ourselves in with the emergence of COVID-19,” Duclos’ statement read. “While global understanding of the monkeypox virus is still evolving, we do have a supply of vaccines, which we will be sure to maintain, and we are working hand-in-hand with our provincial and territorial counterparts to roll out our response plan as quickly as possible.”
In an effort to avoid contracting the disease, Canadians are advised to physically distance from those around them, frequently wash their hands and wear masks in crowded environments.
With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press
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