Southern Cross appoints new COO and more daily news

Southern Cross Healthcare has appointed Mark Stewart as Chief Operating Officer, which they say completes recent changes to the executive team. From the Southern Cross media release:

"Mr Stewart brings with him a wealth of expertise in developing innovative strategies within complex environments and leading business transformations. He joins Southern Cross from PwC, where he led the company’s engagement with national telehealth service Whakarongorau Aotearoa.

Prior to that role, Mr Stewart spent more than a decade working for NZ Post, including four years as the state-owned enterprise’s COO. There, he held operational and strategic leadership for more than 5,000 people and co-led the organisation’s transformation in supporting the growing demands of online retail.

Mr Stewart has also spent several years working in the UK and has completed a PhD in Management Science/Operations Research.

Southern Cross Healthcare CEO Chris White says Mr Stewart’s experience makes him the ideal choice for leading operational functions across the hospitals side of the business.

“Mark has a strong track record in leadership and change management within large-scale, complex environments, and these skills will be critical as Southern Cross Healthcare evolves into a more integrated healthcare system that offers consistently high-quality care,” he said.

Mr Stewart will be joining Southern Cross Healthcare from 20 June 2022.

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Long covid research and more daily news

Bloomberg reports on research which finds that Covid may persist in the gut and, by inference, in other organs, for months. This is explored as a source of some of the symptoms of long-Covid, an over-arching term for all symptoms that last beyond the initial infection rather than a single discrete disorder:

In the largest study tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces and Covid symptoms, scientists at California’s Stanford University found that about half of infected patients shed traces of the virus in their waste in the week after infection and almost 4% patients still emit them seven months later. The researchers also linked coronavirus RNA in feces to gastric upsets, and concluded that SARS-CoV-2 likely directly infects the gastrointestinal tract, where it may hide out.

Southern Cross update and more daily news

Southern Cross Healthcare appoints Chris White into permanent CEO role. In the same week Southern Cross Health Insurance is promoting the value of vaccination against inflenza – offering a free ‘flu vaccine to members, announced Nick Astwick.

Southern Cross Healthcare has announced that interim CEO Chris White will take up the role permanently, effective immediately. 

Since taking on the role of Interim CEO, Chris has led the Healthcare team through one of its most challenging and unprecedented periods in the organisation’s history.

On his appointment, Mr White said, “Despite the challenges Covid-19 has presented within health, it’s an incredibly exciting sector with huge opportunities to deliver quality outcomes to New Zealanders. Southern Cross Healthcare is a dynamic business filled with fantastic people who are passionate about delivering high quality healthcare experiences and it is a privilege to be in a position to lead our journey from a hospital-centric organisation to a healthcare organisation.”

Chris began with the Southern Cross family as a CEO on the Insurance side of the business in 2017. From there, he moved across to Southern Cross Healthcare as Chief Operating Officer, and then to his current role as Interim CEO in October 2021.


More daily news:

Southern Cross has also announced a new online procedure checking tool

The FMA is hiring:

Donate to long-covid research:

Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

16 March 2022 – The Commission for Financial Capability released commentary titled, “A deep dive into Pacific People’s financial capability.”

17 March 2022 – FMA update released, including the following:

  • Speech by Samantha Barrass, FMA Chief Executive, to Financial Services Council Connect

  • ‘No action’ relief as a result of COVID-19

  • a project to review five existing class exemptions due to expire this year, with consultations on the last two also released today, with submissions closing on 11 April 2022:
    • Multiple-participant Schemes - Participation Agreements exemption notice 2017, expires 22.10.22
    • Disclosure Using Overseas GAAP exemption notice 2021, expires 3.11.22
    • Financial Statements for Schemes Consisting Only of Separate Funds exemption notice 2017, expires 17.12.22
    • Irrigation Companies exemption notice 2018, expires 31.12.22
    • Small Co-operatives exemption notice 2021, expires 31.12.22

17 March 2022 – MBIE advised of the release of a range of documents relevant to the legislative proposals relating to the Conduct of Financial institutions (CoFI). The documents are available on the MBIE dedicated CoFI webpage.

Population and migration updates - significant changes due to COVID-19

Stats NZ has released some deaths and population figures which show the impact of the pandemic so far and the policies used to contain it.

First, we look at deaths. During the winter of 2020 after a long initial lock-down and the closing of borders mortality fell below historic trends and the containment measures cut deaths from a variety of causes (for example, winter viruses already in circulation, plus reduced accidents from reduced work). 

Deaths in New Zealand increased to the highest on record in 2021, but this is expected as it reflects our aging population, Stats NZ said today.

There were 34,932 deaths registered in New Zealand in 2021, up from 32,613 in 2020 (an increase of seven percent, or 2,319 deaths). However, the 2021 total was only a slight increase (two percent or 672 deaths) on the 34,260 deaths registered in 2019.

Then we consider population. The closing of the border had a dramatic effect on migration. Although we know many New Zealanders wanted to return home - some permanently, most temporarily, to re-establish links with family and business - and that more than 200,000 passed through MIQ, the net effect was -3,900. That's right, we lost population during the pandemic due to migration. This was offset by natural increase:

During the year ended December 2021:

  • New Zealand’s population grew by 23,500 (0.5 percent)
  • estimated natural increase (births minus deaths) was 27,400
  • estimated net migration (migrant arrivals minus migrant departures) was -3,900.

 National population estimates: At 31 December 2021 – Infoshare tables

Partners Life announces changes to COVID amendments, and more daily news

Partners Life has announced that the temporary amendments to Premium Holidays and Policy Suspensions will be reverted back. Below are examples of when customers are eligible for Premium Holidays and Policy Suspensions.

“On the 17th August 2021, we extended our financial assistance offering to assist clients who may have been financially impacted as a result of

COVID-19 restrictions, so that they could have the best chance of retaining their valuable cover in the longer term.

With the country having moved into the ‘Traffic Light’ settings of the COVID-19 Protection Framework and with Level 4 Lockdowns behind us, we feel the time is right to revert to the original criteria for Premium Holiday claims and Policy Suspension claims, as documented in the policy wordings.

For your reference, below is a brief summary of when your client may qualify for a Premium Holiday claim.

If the Life Assured undergoes any of the following:

Redundancy; or Bankruptcy; or Leaving paid employment to become a full-time caregiver to a spouse, de facto partner or Civil Union partner who for the first time requires such care as a result of an illness or injury; or Leaving paid employment to become a full-time caregiver to a Dependent Child who for the first time requires such care as a result of an illness or injury; or Death of a spouse, partner or child; or Natural Disaster where the event affects a life assured’s ability to undertake their usual work and where interruption is likely to last more than thirty days; or Any other event Partners Life agrees to, at its sole discretion

For Policy Suspension claims only:

Employer approved leave without pay; or Employer approved parental leave; or Overseas travel; or Tertiary Education”

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FSC summit postponed, and more daily news

The FSC has announced that the upcoming Future Ready Advice Summit in Queenstown is now postponed. The Summit will go ahead in person once the country enters orange. In the meantime the summit will be held virtually on 17 February.

“We had been looking forward to delivering our first in-person event of the year, the Future Ready Advice Summit in Queenstown, which will now be postponed until we can meet again in Orange level. We will have a virtual summit on the same day, and will share more on this shortly. Thanks to everyone who has already booked tickets and shown your support.

Covid-19 has made event planning especially difficult, as you'll already be aware, with the disruption to 2020 and 2021 events nationwide. Naturally your safety and that of all involved is our primary concern and we will be following:

  • All government advice
  • Ministry of Health guidelines
  • All venue rules and
  • All traffic light system advice

We are also aware that many companies have their own Health & Safety rules on meeting, events and travel, and we respect those too and will work with you to ensure we can guide, support and educate our members. The FSC team will stay close to the Covid-19 guidelines as they evolve and keep in touch with any changes that may affect our events and participation.” Click here to register

In other news

From Insurance Business Mag: Building trust in advice in a digital world

People with Covid-19 jabs have been less likely to die of other causes

The Economist has this report on a very large sample data investigation into all forms of mortality for people who have been jabbed against COVID-19 compared to those who have not. This is unlikely to be a direct effect of the vaccine, it is much more likely to be a consequence of sorting: 

"Large observational studies can give unparalleled insights into the safety and efficacy of vaccines across diverse populations. However, real-world data is never perfectly controlled. It seems all but certain that some still-invisible difference between people who get the vaccine and those who do not, rather than some unknown benefit of the jab, is to thank (or blame) for the vaccine’s correlative effects. Jabs are not immunisations against mortality."


More insurers share views on COVID-19 data and vaccinations, and more daily news

Head of Asteron Life, Grant Hill has announced that Asteron Life and its reinsurers have decided to monitor the long-term effects of COVID-19. Hill noted that they still need more data to ensure they implement effect underwriting processes.  

Similar to Asteron Life, AIA has said that they will monitor the situation, although acting CEO Sharron Botica has noted that new customers are not currently required to disclose whether they have had a vaccination against COVID-19. Botica has said that the underwriting approach will not change without new evidence.

Simon Tohill , General Manager of Strategy and Marketing has said that it is too early to understand the implications of the Government’s decision to transition from the elimination strategy to living with Covid-19.

Chief Insurance Officer Kath Johnson has said that Fidelity Life has decided treat existing unvaccinated and vaccinated customers equally. New customers will not be asked about their vaccination status and financial hardship support will continue to be offered.

“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.” Click here to read more

In other news

From The Spinoff: For many New Zealanders, Covid-19 will be a lifelong disease

FMA: FMA clarifies Wisdom House FAP cancellation decision

Strategi: Training opportunity with Strategi’s AML/CFT expert