Warning on income protection insurance

RANKIN Park woman Elisha Rendle was relieved she had decided to take out income protection insurance when a series of blinding headaches and other symptoms led to a diagnosis of epilepsy.

But months of dispute with her insurer have led her to speak out with the aim of alerting others to potential problems with this type of policy.

Ms Rendle, 34, said she had been with industrial company Sandvik for two years when she was struck down in August last year.

‘‘The headaches were ferocious, the original thought was that they were migraines, but they weren’t and after a series of tests I was diagnosed with epilepsy,’’ Ms Rendle said.

After exhausting her sick leave with Sandvik, Ms Rendle lodged a claim through her superannuation company, Colonial First State.

The first shock was a three-month waiting period before any payments began.

She had to go through three types of anti-epilepsy medication before finding one that worked without side effects, and she was preparing to return to work when she was struck by another seizure.

‘‘But apparently the doctor had told the insurer the medication had worked, so when I had the next seizure the insurer tried to say it was a different illness and that they only paid out on one disability every 12 months,’’ Ms Rendle said.

Since the Newcastle Herald’s intervention, Colonial First State has said it would provide financial support ‘‘in good faith while we investigate the return of the initial condition’’.

Ms Rendle’s mother Lyn Rendle said she had watched her daughter wrestle a system that put far too much pressure on an ill person.

‘‘Elisha had an advocate through Sandvik’s financial advisers, Axis, but the insurer would not talk with the advocate, saying it would only deal with Elisha directly.’’

She said her daughter’s problems showed an urgent need for an ombudsman or a formal mechanism to intervene in difficult cases.

A Colonial spokesman said about 20 per cent of Australians had income protection insurance through their super funds, with another 10 per cent having separate policies.

Ms Rendle said the final straw came this week when she applied to withdraw some of her meagre superannuation savings to pay for urgent medical treatment.

‘‘They wanted me to withdraw all of my super but that would have left me without an insurance policy.’’

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