Silicosis, caused by breathing the dust from manufactured stone, and containing crystalline silica, has become an epidemic among Australian stonemasons. The disease, the contemporary equivalent of the asbestosis scourge which still impacts many Australians, is incurable, with a high fatality rate. And even for those who don’t die as a direct result of the lung disease, they are often destined for a shortened lifespan with their quality of life considerably reduced as a consequence of breathing difficulties and consequently limited mobility.
The disease has become increasingly problematic over the past decade, with the proliferation of manufactured stone products in new kitchens and bathrooms. While it is much easier to work with than traditional stone, the historic practice of dry-cutting, which has now been banned in favour of wet-cutting, has been blamed for a significant proportion of the disease. The ABC reports that the industry itself has made considerable improvements in regulation and practices and now the Federal government is also stepping up to the plate with a $5 million initiative in the form of a national taskforce to help prevent potentially dust related diseases.
The question is, how has the insurance industry responded? Nine News recently reported on a concerning case where a 51 year old stonemason, Gary Moratti, diagnosed in 2017 with this terrible disease, was forced to quit the industry and, with his lungs already weakened as a consequence of the silicosis, was unable to sustain work elsewhere.
According to the article, MrMoratti made a claim on the total and permanent disability insurance policy included with his superannuation fund. While the insurance claim was awarded in the order of $93,000, MrMoratti discovered that his insurer had switched his TPD policy from a lump sum payment basis to a “drip feed” policy, meaning that he was now only eligible for $15,000 per annum rather than the lump sum payment he understood he was eligible for.
Remarkably, the Superfund’s response was that “as a profit-for-members fund…” its “…sole purpose is to act in the best interests of our members…”. That is, not in the best interests of the insured. While the Superfund’s actions may have been perfectly legal, there is a strong moral argument that in this case the insured has been substantially let down by the insurance process.
Protecting your income and your financial future through insurance products such as Total and Permanent Disability and Income Protection policies could be one of the smartest financial investments you could make on behalf of you and your family, particularly if you are self-employed.
However, it is important that you understand the differences between the types of policies offered through your superannuation fund, or by large, retail insurers, compared to the benefits of speaking to a specialist broker or insurer, whose interest is entirely focused on you as the customer and your needs. This will ensure that you get the insurance coverage most effectively matched to your employment type and your personal circumstances.
A tailored approach will ensure that you are regularly informed of potential policy changes and that there will be a constant focus on the effectiveness of your policy conditions compared to other options available.
Your financial future is too important to trust to a generic approach to insurance. Consider speaking to a specialist TPD and income insurer, such as Aspect UW, today and make sure you get the best quality, expert and professional advice from an independent whose focus is on you as the customer.