Partners Life and Cigna offer claims reassurance

As most people cancel their life and trauma insurance before retiring, the majority of life and trauma policyholders are younger and more likely to survive COVID-19. For this reason, life insurers are not expecting an increase in claims as a result of COVID-19. In this article both Partners Life and Cigna confirm that they have pandemic insurance in place, but also remind customers that they have relatively low levels of insurance on those that are most likely to be affected. Click here to read more :

"From a claims point of view, we don't believe it will come across in our claims experience on the types of products we sell," said Naomi Ballantyne, founder and managing director of Partners Life.

Most people cancelled their life and trauma insurance long before they retired, meaning most policyholders were younger, and had a very high likelihood of surviving a Covid-19 should they be infected.

I expect all New Zealand life and health insurers are in good shape to meet all claims.

FMA confirms list of essential financial services - and helps insurers out with a claims

The FMA has confirmed a list of essential financial services, worked out in conjunction with the council of financial regulators in a recent statement:

The Government has confirmed that financial services are essential services that will continue operating when New Zealand moves to level 4 in its COVID-19 response.

The Council of Financial Regulators (CoFR) has consulted with the Government to provide detail on those financial services that should be considered essential services. This includes all financial institutions and suppliers or providers to those entities that are essential to ensure continued operation of our financial system and access to this system for all New Zealanders.

The detailed list includes specific inclusion for suppliers where they support essential operations, including the importance of those involved in claims: 

Access to medical records through doctors’ surgeries
Psychologists, counsellors etc. (mental health claims)
Access to medical laboratories for medical tests
Private hospitals and associated staff/professionals
Access to external medical specialists.

This will be a great relief to insurers and their clients. While we all expect that health resources will go first to saving lives, while there is capacity to provide help with claims, it is important.  Some clients depend on claims payments these for their livelihood. Even for clients that are not on claim, confidence in insurers is an important component of confidence in the financial system.


The truth behind back pains

Back pain is the leading cause of disability in most countries. Doctors often prescribe addictive pain relief as it is the simpler to prescribe medications and order tests than telling patients it is unlikely to resolve their back pain. Doctors willingness to prescribe pain relief is why back pain is a major reason for people getting addicted to opioids.

Americans spend $88b USD annually to treat back and neck pain, while the best treatment for most back pain is non-medical. Cigna found that 87% of clients who had surgery were still in so much pain two years post-surgery that they need additional treatment. Click here to read more. Many of these medical interventions have a dubious track record for success. 

We might speculate that in combination, non-specific pain, medical willingness to try something - anything - and long-term income protection could be either immensely valuable, or dangerous to long-term health, or perhaps, at different stages, both. 

Australia: Financial Services Council suggests further amendments

In their submission to a Treasury consultation, the Australian FSC is urging the reconsideration of certain professionals from being experts in claims matters as they are independent of insurers and do not hold delegated authority to make claims decisions. In its submission, the FSC also argued against additional disclosure obligations being imposed. Fascinating for claims sector watchers here in New Zealand: imagine if a physiotherapist that provides a report on a claims case (as opposed to providing services directly to a claimant) had to hold a licence to do so - in much the same manner as a financial services provider has to? How many physios do you think would seek such a licence? What do you think it would do to the cost of getting a claim file reviewed? Click here to read more. I hope the Australian FSC is able to win this point. 

Bowel cancer is killing 1,200 Kiwis a year

Accuro are offering free bowel screening kits to members to assist in early detection of the disease, with their acting CEO Gavin Rutherford saying "The problem is that many insurers do not engage with their members until after they have been diagnosed,"

Currently NZ's National Bowel Screening Programme aim to invite 700,00 people for free bowel screening by June 2021, but it is limited to those aged 60 - 74.

Click here to read more. 

Road Risk

What has changed between 2013 and now? There has been a 39% increase in road traffic fatalities. You cannot change the whole system but you can change your own choices - and remarkably, the Automobile Association pointed out the simplest just over a year ago: wear a seat belt: 

"...non-seat belt fatalities accounted for 19-30% of overall motor vehicle occupant road deaths between 2006 and 2016"

In addition you can take all those other boring, basic, steps: 

Check your vehicle carefully before a long trip

Keep to the speed limit

Consider breaking the trip up into shorter segments

Avoid driver distractions

Limit overtaking to places where there are passing lanes

Avoid travel while tired

Don't drink and drive



Reinsurers Pressure Life Insurers Over Vaping Health Risks

According to this article "Global reinsurers are stepping up their warnings to life insurer clients about the potential risks of vaping, putting pressure on underwriters to charge certain vapers higher rates than smokers, or even exclude them altogether."

This is a direct consequence of dozens of cases of lung disease in young people in the United States, apparently linked to vaping. The lack of sufficient objective data is a concern. Initially, indications were that vaping, if adopted by smokers, showed a dramatic reduction in disease rates. But it now seems that quality problems, and adoption by young, formerly non-smokers, could mean that vaping results in an increase in harm. Only time will tell.