What are the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on life insurance?

Nov 22, 2020 | Advisers, Integrity101 | 0 comments

When we have so much to deal with in the ‘now’, like regulatory change (and uncertainty), technological transformation, and supporting client needs today, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s on the horizon. But what makes us good at our jobs (Adviser and Underwriter alike) is the ability to see the writing on the wall and ensure we take steps now to plan for what’s to come. Here are some key areas to watch that are likely to have broad impacts for Advisers, insurers, and clients.

 

More Australians may become critically ill over the next two years.

Data from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), analysed by the Heart Foundation, reveals a 10% drop in GP visits for the management of chronic disease in March 2020, equating to 96,000 fewer visits compared to the same time last year*. In fact, across the board fewer of us have been visiting the doctor to get check-ups – between 30% to 50% , with a 40% drop in pathology^.

What does this mean? Well we know the rates at which Australian’s develop chronic diseases, we’re just seeing the delay of those being discovered and treated. From a client point of view, not discovering these things sooner may make them harder to treat, and from an industry point of view, the increase in severity means bigger payments and potential cases for increasing the cost of premiums.

 

Mental health impacts are still largely unknown.

We do not yet know the impacts that long term isolation or living through a pandemic will have on people, but we do know enough about psychology and claims data to know that we are likely to see an increase in mental health issues. Acknowledging this very issue, the Federal Government pumped an additional $500 million into suicide prevention and mental health support as part of their COVID-19 response.

That said, it’s not only mental health issues and resulting claims caused directly by the pandemic, but as we have seen, people’s ability to access social support (emotional and practical) through extended family and other social interactions has been significantly affected by restrictions on movement and travel. This means for people who were already managing mental health concerns, their access to support has been limited. What we may see is not only relapse but mental health conditions on top of other long-term illness or injury.

 

Increased cost of Income Insurance.

While not a direct result of COVID-19 and more to do with the unsustainability of the products, the increased cost of II or IP (income protection) is likely going to compound the two other issues. Not the least of which because so many insurers cross-subsidise their products. Integrity, of course, does not.

 

So what does this mean for Advisers and clients?

It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone if prices for new protection policies started to rise, which means getting cover in place now may not be the worst idea. Whether we see price increases – and how big these may be – will largely depend on market forces, but either way, insurers are expecting a significant rise in claims – which often leads to higher prices.

Advisers have another important role to play here too and that is keeping their clients covered, even as financial pressure continues for many clients. Integrity, like many insurers, has options like premium waivers for financial hardship and ‘premium breaks’. These should always be the first resort before cancelling and removing cover altogether.

*http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/downloads

^https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/coronavirus/the-illnesses-being-missed-thanks-to-covid19-and-skipping-doctor-visits/news-story/1226638711cf48ae8dd0d39bdb088e86

 

This information has been prepared without considering your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on it, please consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.

Scott Hodgson

Scott Hodgson

Chief Underwriter