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BCNA News 17 Mar 2016

Accessing superannuation and insurance still difficult for women

Each year around 3,000 Australians die as a result of secondary (advanced, metastatic) breast cancer. A 2014 Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) survey of more than 580 people living with secondary breast cancer found that 29% had not been able to access their superannuation even though they had wanted to. The most common reasons people gave for being unable to access their superannuation were the terminology around the number of months they were expected to live and the complexity of paper work.

In 2015, BCNA was instrumental in having the legislation that allows access to superannuation under the terminal illness provision changed. Following representations to then Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg MP, the Government amended the legislation to change the life expectancy provision from one year to two years. The intention of this change was to make it easier for people with a terminal illness to access their funds earlier should they need to.

BCNA CEO Christine Nolan said the changes, which took effect on 1 July 2015, assist not only women and men living with secondary breast cancer, but all Australians living with a terminal illness. BCNA remains concerned however with the complexity of application processes and delays in payouts.

'Many of our members have expressed their frustration at the complex application process that currently exists', Ms Nolan said. 'They are also concerned that with some insurance payments connected to their superannuation policies, such as Total and Temporary Disability (TTD), they are required to provide new forms every three months indicating they are still living with a terminal illness. This is stressful and time consuming, both for the woman concerned and for her clinicians who are required to complete lengthy paperwork.'

Ms Nolan said issues raised in the recent Four Corners program on the ABC were very distressing. 'I am sure most people would assume their superannuation lump sum and insurance entitlements would be paid out if they had completed the necessary forms correctly, and had two clinicians indicating a life expectancy of less than two years,' she said. 'However it appears this is not the case with all claims.

'We do welcome announcements by some superannuation funds that they are re-negotiating arrangements with their insurance providers to allow death benefits to be paid out to terminally ill members with a life expectancy of two years.'

In response to these issues BCNA has today released a fact sheet to assist people living with a terminal illness to understand their rights around accessing their superannuation and insurance entitlements.

BCNA’s fact sheet provides information on superannuation and insurances that may be available to people living with a terminal illness, how to claim them, and where to go if you have trouble making the claim or disagree with the response you receive from your superannuation fund or insurance company. 'Our advice to anyone who does not receive their full pay out is to seek legal advice,' Ms Nolan said.

Ms Nolan said BCNA will be raising these issues with the Australian Government. 'It is vital that people who are living with a terminal illness are able to access the funds that are legally due to them with a minimum of stress,' she said. 'These funds can be vital to pay for medical treatments and other costs associated with living with a terminal illness.'

For media enquiries please contact:

Claudia Innes | BCNA Media Officer | (03) 9805 2592 | 0403 744 552 | cinnes@bcna.org.au