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AIA NZ improves mental health underwriting

AIA NZ is urging its customers to "tell their own story" about mental ill-health when applying for insurance cover.

Friday, August 13th 2021, 11:55AM

by Matthew Martin

Sharron Botica.

Improvements have been made to the insurer’s underwriting approach to mental ill-health disclosures for income protection cover via its online platform AIAHub.

These changes include an expanded set of questions to better understand the nature and severity of any mental health conditions being disclosed, and in some circumstances, provide straight-through processing.

“With the growing maturity of automated underwriting and our ability to analyse data from many years of customer disclosures, we are pleased to have been able to review our previous approach of manual underwriting, and introduce some automation to better support customers with mental ill-health,” says AIA NZ chief customer officer Sharron Botica.

In the past, Botica says applications for income protection have been referred for manual underwriting when mental health issues are disclosed, irrespective of the severity or type of mental health condition or the impact on a customer's circumstances.

Across the market, mental ill-health is considered a disclosure that requires independent, third-party information such as a doctor's report, to ensure it can be accurately underwritten due to its subjective or changing nature, which makes it difficult to assess.

“Mental ill-health disclosures are never easy, and the revised question set will offer AIA NZ customers the chance to share their personal experiences, and allow our underwriters to only become more involved on those cases that require further consideration,” Botica says.

She says the more severe mental ill-health conditions will continue to be automatically referred but some milder conditions, such as those that are relatively short-lived, or those which have little impact on daily work and activities, will – in the majority of cases – no longer require additional medical information to be provided.

AIA NZ’s charity partner, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, stated in their 2020 Wellbeing study that a quarter of New Zealanders currently have poor levels of mental and emotional wellbeing, including nearly a third of women.

“We know mental ill health is something affecting many New Zealanders, and we feel it is important that we find ways within our underwriting practices to be more inclusive."

Botica says AIA NZ will continue to look closely at other underwriting considerations and disclosures, such as smoking status, alcohol consumption and BMI, which research shows are all drivers of poorer mental health outcomes.

“At AIA our dream is for New Zealand to become one of the healthiest and best-protected nations in the world."

Tags: AIA health insurance Mental health Sharron Botica Underwriting

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