Subscribe to industry newsletters

Search jobs

Covid-19 and its impact on long-term insurance

Although there has been a significant increase in deaths and funeral claims as a result of Coivid-19, it is too early to tell whether the virus will have an impact on the cost of life insurance premiums.
Leza Wells, chief product actuary, FMI
Leza Wells, chief product actuary, FMI

It is premature to say what effects Covid-19 would have on the cost of premiums in the future, as pricing actuaries are guided by medical experts on the potential risks of the pandemic. However, it was important to note that any price increases would be based entirely on future risks and not to cover any perceived shortfalls because of higher claims in recent months, Leza Wells, chief product actuary at FMI, said at an online event.

“This has seen many insurers becoming more conservative in issuing new life cover and critical illness policies to older lives and those with co-morbidities until the industry has a clearer picture of the long-term effects of the virus.

"We are still assessing the longer-term impact of the pandemic in a number of areas, so it’s too early to say what the effects will be on premiums in the future. The vaccine rollout, and whether we can reach herd immunity and stamp out the illness together, will guide any decisions around price increases,” said Wells.

Less than two years' experience

One of the major areas of uncertainty for insurers was so-called long Covid, where medical research is still unclear on the long-term effects of the illness on people’s health, says FMI’s consulting chief medical officer, Dr Peter Bond, said at the same event.

“The current data suggests that up to 25% of Covid sufferers will continue to have symptoms, or develop further symptoms four weeks after testing positive. This is naturally a concerning figure for insurers. We have less than two years’ experience of this complication of this pandemic, therefore it will be many more years before the full effect is known, which will then allow the insurance industry to adapt with a reasonable amount of confidence,” said Bond.

Income protection

Wells added, “Having Covid-19, or long Covid may affect the insurability of new applicants in the future and is the subject of ongoing research. Most insurers are now requesting a Covid recovery questionnaire, and a questionnaire by the treating doctor, for any new applications. Greater vaccination levels will allow us to return to normal, less cautious underwriting for death and critical illness benefit.”

The pandemic has highlighted the need for South Africans to include income protection in their life insurance portfolios. “Income protection provides security when you need it the most. It provides you with the peace of mind of knowing that you will be able to pay all your expenses such as other insurance policies, annuities, household expenses, and school fees, should you be unable to earn an income,” she said.

Let's do Biz