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Covid vaccination status a watching brief for NZ insurers

New Zealand life insurers are keeping a close eye on developments regarding the vaccination status of their clients but say it's too early to make any policy or underwriting decisions.

Thursday, November 25th 2021, 11:59AM 2 Comments

by Matthew Martin

Asteron Life's Grant Willis.

In a recent Good Returns article Partners Life managing director Naomi Ballantyne and insurance adviser and Willowgrove Consulting owner Jon-Paul Hale said life and health insurers had some big decisions to make about how they plan to cover those who choose not to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

"To avoid all clients having to pay increased premiums to address this Covid-related increased claims risk, life insurers have several options," Ballantyne said.

She said those options were premium differences for vaccinated customers versus the unvaccinated, specific exclusions for the unvaccinated or declining cover altogether.

Head of Asteron Life Grant Willis says Asteron and its reinsurers are closely monitoring the medical developments around Covid-19 and its long term impacts.

"At this stage, we need more data to inform any decisions on how we underwrite for it in future.

"Kiwis tend to be under-insured when it comes to life and income protection type covers, and we think it’s important that New Zealanders know that there are still options for them when it comes to personal insurance, even if they have suffered from Covid-19 or other major health issues.

"Covid-19 has created a lot of uncertainty and hardship for many New Zealanders, and we have worked hard to ensure that our customers can keep and feel confident in the insurance they have purchased from Asteron Life."

Willis says Asteron has not applied any blanket exclusions for Covid-19 and have offered a range of support options to help customers keep their insurance cover in place through short-term periods of financial vulnerability.

AIA NZ acting chief executive Sharron Botica says AIA does not ask new customers to disclose their Covid-19 vaccination status as part of its underwriting process.

"We continue to monitor the developing situation, but at this time there is no new information that would cause us to change our current underwriting approach," she says.

General manager of strategy and marketing for Cigna New Zealand, Simon Tohill says it's also too early for them to "...fully assess the impact of the Government’s recent change in strategy from elimination to living with Covid-19.

Fidelity Life's chief insurance officer Kath Johnson says as a customer-led business Fidelity aims to give its customers certainty in an uncertain world.

"We currently have no plans to treat existing unvaccinated customers any differently to vaccinated customers and we don’t currently ask new customers if they are vaccinated.

"We continue to provide financial hardship support to our customers who need it, including as a result of Covid-19.

“In relation to potential underwriting changes in the future, we’ll make any decisions based on facts. Together with our reinsurers, partners and our industry body the Financial Services Council, we’ll keep monitoring medical developments closely, including the long term impacts of Covid-19.

"Once we have considered this further, we’ll factor that information into how we approach the underwriting of new policies."

Tags: AIA Asteron Cigna Covid-19 Fidelity Life Grant Willis Jon-Paul Hale Life insurance Naomi Ballantyne Sharron Botica Simon Tohill

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Comments from our readers

On 26 November 2021 at 10:09 am JPHale said:
Part of the support in our efforts to quell some of the noise on vaccines would be to have the insurers come to market with their actual claims experience relating to vaccine injury and Covid.

While we know the present insurance impact from Covid infections is low, and there is an expectation that there will be some claims related to vaccine injuries, having actual data from organisations independent from the government and medical systems would be helpful to support the view that the reporting from the government and medicines is clear and accurate.

Even in the financial adviser community, we have distrust of what we are seeing and that needs addressing.

When you have trust issues with the data, you seek external impartial investigation, and insurers are a source of that data, where they have a financial incentive to manage this too and they have mountains of data for claim experience and pricing purposes.

The insurance industry has a significant part it can play in helping people manage Covid risks effectively, including showing that there can be confidence in what is being published by the Ministry of Health and medical services.
On 4 December 2021 at 4:12 pm Paul J Burns said:
I note, with a well justified incredulity - the overly pious and sanctimonious freshly minted covid-19 underwriting 1st principles that have only recently come to print - just as we're on target for 90% plus double jab rate. Why were these dogmatic & purportedly "data driven, critical thinking" self-appointed doyens of underwriting best practice rather quiet last year? Their Johnny come lately, jumping on the bandwagon pontifications, are the sort of disingenuous antics that one would expect from an opportunistic politician.

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