Insurers are instituting a range of measures to ensure life policy customers financially impacted by COVID-19 are not disadvantaged.
We asked a number of insurers what measures they are implementing, or considering implementing, in terms of instituting life insurance premium waivers for policyholders financially impacted by the Coronavirus crisis.
And while some noted they will waive premiums for a period, others stated this was already included as part of policy terms for their product, or that pause features were in place, and others are assessing financial hardship on an individual basis.
Here are the responses received at the time of going to press.
Clearview says that just as it supported customers who faced severe financial hardship due to the bushfires and floods earlier this year, “… if a policyholder becomes involuntarily unemployed (other than as a direct result of sickness or injury), ClearView will waive the premium for up to three months”.
It says that it is currently reviewing options for self-employed customers.
MetLife stated that its retail customers have access to benefits and features that are available as part of their product, “…including premium waiver for involuntary unemployment and pause features that allow cover and premiums to be reduced and subsequently increased without medical underwriting”.
“We also understand that not all clients’ situations are the same, and we encourage advisers and/or clients to contact us if they are facing financial hardship due to the impacts of COVID-19, so that we can discuss how we may be able to further provide them with the assistance they need at this time,” the company says.
We also asked insurers how they were taking the Coronavirus pandemic into account in the challenge of underwriting new life insurance policy applications, and Metlife says all its existing customers are covered for COVID-19, according to their policy terms.
“MetLife maintains a position consistent with the Financial Services Council where the underwriting decision is deferred if a prospective client has been diagnosed with, or self-isolated because of, COVID-19, or returned from a country or region considered at risk. MetLife takes guidance from Government … to assist in determining how clients who may be travelling overseas should be assessed,” it says.
TAL stated too that it is there to support its customers “…and to work with them if they are facing immediate financial hardship”.
“TAL takes a holistic approach to financial hardship, ranging from additional support for customers who may be struggling to pay premiums, to ensuring that our claimants in financial difficulty are properly supported.”
It says it already provides customers with a range of ways to lower the cost of their premiums if they find themselves in financial hardship.
….additional options including increased flexibility around premium payments…
“In light of the challenging circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we have taken further steps to strengthen and adapt our existing Financial Hardship Policy, providing customers with additional options including increased flexibility around premium payments,” it says.
The insurer notes that it continues to evolve its approach to supporting customers during this crisis “… and we will be introducing further options in the near future in relation to financial hardship, including more flexibility for policy alterations with temporary cover and premium reductions, while providing continuity of cover in other ways. We encourage our customers facing financial difficulty to contact us directly, or their financial adviser to talk through these options with them”.
A statement from Integrity Life’s Suzie Brown, GM – Distribution, says it is focused on supporting its adviser partners, noting later in the statement that it is “… also invoking a financial hardship policy for any clients who have reduced capacity to pay due to the current situation. This includes waiving premiums or suspending cover, on a case-by-case basis”.
The statement says that Integrity policies do not exclude issues or health concerns related to COVID-19 or any other pandemic, and both existing and new policies will be treated equally.
“This means that claims for an income insurance benefit will likely be paid if the insured is unable to work due to sickness for a period longer than the waiting period. Any claim we receive, including one where the cause of death is COVID-19 – will be assessed under our Claims guidelines.
Zurich/OnePath said that its aim “… is to provide cover and protection to as many people as possible”.
The insurer says there are no general exclusions related to COVID-19 on any of its existing or new life insurance policies.
“Since the Coronavirus pandemic was declared, we have made the decision to add questions specifically about COVID-19 exposure. These questions are in keeping with government guidelines (e.g. recent international travel) and they are asked of all applicants regardless of occupation and coverage type.
“We assess the individual circumstances of each person applying for cover, as we always have. We do not have one single approach to new applications,” it says.
AMP Life says it recognises this is an unsettling and challenging time for many of its customers and “… AMP Life is committed to supporting them. If customers are experiencing financial difficulty, we’ll look at their circumstances and work out how best we can help”.
“Further, AMP Life customers are protected under their AMP Life insurance policy in the case of a claim for illness or death relating to COVID-19. All our customers are covered 24 hours a day, anywhere in the world – regardless of travel warnings – so long as the usual terms and conditions of their policy are met,” the insurer states.
“Our position on underwriting remains unchanged. As always, new applications are underwritten according to AMP Life’s underwriting philosophy and guideline standards. Medical and financial requirements depend on the customer’s individual circumstances, such as age, the sum insured applied for, and overall disclosures.”
MLC Life Insurance says it has “… existing financial hardship provisions to support customers and this will be extended to those impacted by COVID-19 and who are concerned about their ability to pay their life insurance premiums”.
Customers concerned about their ability to make life insurance premium payments should contact the company “… so that we can discuss what support can be provided during this time. Options are applied on a case-by-case basis in discussion between customers and our Education and Loyalty team”, it says in an FAQ to customers.
Some insurers are also becoming more flexible around medical evidence requirements.
Integrity Life noted that during this time where there may be additional strain on medical services “… we will consider alternate methods of information collection and additional income protection benefits for a period even if medical evidence is delayed for any insured people who are already on claim”.
TAL says that it has developed potential claims scenarios considering the ways in which COVID-19 might affect customers and their financial circumstances.
“As an extension of this, TAL has established a dedicated team with experts across Claims and Health Services to investigate alternative solutions for customers who may be experiencing difficulty meeting the information requirements of the claims process…
“We recognise that some customers may find it difficult to collect certain information required to process their claim, either due to social distancing, self-isolation or other matters, so we will continue to be flexible and pragmatic in our approach.
“For income protection claims, where we know a customer’s medical condition or capacity is unlikely to change, our team has started to schedule benefit payments for the next three months to ensure customers receive their benefits on time no matter what happens,” it says.