Making a living will

Insurance is, of course, about planning for a future event before it happens. For life insurance, it is often described as a fundamentally altruistic purchase: you buy it to benefit someone else. Of course, the holder does enjoy a benefit, which is peace of mind. The planning helps us to relax a bit about the future, a future we know is coming for us: one day our life will end. Making a living will is also a kind of plan. A way to say some of the more difficult things, or put in focus some of the things you would most like to be remembered for. At this link you will find a beautiful article about a living will and what it meant to the family. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ethical-will-legacy-letter-why-you-want-one_n_5eeb7a09c5b6c8594c7f2d03 About a ten minute read and well worth it. 


Age and population standardised mortality data for 2020 compared to 2019

Following the article by Farah Hancock we had our new data specialist Ed Foster take a look at mortality data. They standardised the mortality rate per capita and also for age and gender demographics. By those calculations New Zealand experienced 116 fewer deaths than would be expected. Within the context of a year in which we would normally see about 30,000 deaths, this is a very small number. But what it show is a continuing absence of excess mortality seen in other markets.

Cause of death is not officially released until 6 months after the event, but we do know for sure that there have been fewer road and work related deaths - this may go some way in explaining the gap. Also, we know that rates of 'flu and 'flu-like illnesses have dropped due to the recent lock-down - and these cause some deaths too, and that number will be much lower. There is still plenty of bad news to wash through the economic system, and hit people's lives: as headlines about redundancies show. There are also the consequences of deferred treatment to examine. We shall be reporting on this in more detail in each of the next two or three quarterly life and health sector reports, as there is still more to be learned. 

We are happy to share data tables if you would like to take a look. 


Daily news update: Cigna price changes introduced, and more stories

Cigna has made price changes to a number of products. The range of the changes are detailed in the table below. You can tell from the variety of changes that this is a complete repricing exercise - not merely an increase or decrease of a blanket percentage. Some prices will be much more competitive. Some segments are being increased. The only way to know for certain, is to do a comparison for each life. That's why a price comparison across the market is vital if you wish to offer help to clients seeking the most competitive products. Quotemonster still offers free price comparisons for financial advisers with an FSP number and an email account. 

YRT Life

11/05/2020

From -12% to +8%

Level Life

11/05/2020

From -24% to +1% Non-Smokers & Female Smokers, from -17% to +8% Male Smokers

Trauma

11/05/2020

From -13% to +10% Non-Smokers & -3% to +15% Smokers

Level Trauma

11/05/2020

From -16% to +10% Non-Smokers, -16% to +18% Smokers

Income Protection

11/05/2020

From -1% to -2%

Mortgage Protection

11/05/2020

From + 5% to +25% Female, from +7% to +20% Male. As per discussion, indexation was previously offered free for the first year.

In other news:

AIA: Mentemia, a mental wellbeing app, is now part of the AIA Vitality program.

AIA: Clients can get one month’s premium free when they apply for a new eligible AIA policy between 5 March 2020 and 31 May 2020 and have the policy issued by 31 July 2020.

Partners Life: The automatic COVID-19 Mental Health exclusion that was applied to disability and business risk benefits has been replaced with more targeted and specific underwriting processes.

Partners Life: Clients who had the automatic mental health exclusion applied will have it replaced with an emergent mental health exclusion.

Partners Life: Underwriting restrictions 2020


COVID-19 Crisis will have diverse impacts on health and insurers

Members of parliament listened to the stories New Zealanders shared about their struggles and hardship during an Epidemic Response Committee meeting recently. No accounting of costs and benefits can be done in full for some years. The purpose of this post is not to attempt that. I acknowledge that a trade-off was made between the numbers that would become sick and die directly from COVID-19, indirectly from a poorly-managed response to the epidemic, against those that may suffer a similar fate because of restrictions due to the control measures. On balance, I prefer the control measures taken - as severely negative effects (more sickness and more death) are associated with a range of alternatives. However, the purpose of this post is rather to explore the impact on customers of insurance companies, and therefore the likely claim impact on insurers.

 

Death claims are much higher in markets where there has been a delayed or poorly managed response to the epidemic. Take the example of Lombardy, detailed in this news. Deaths from out of hospital cardiac arrests rose sharply, as people deferred or tried to avoid treatment, and possibly, some were simply unable to receive emergency treatment in time. Cancer treatment would likely have been affected similarly - as it has been in the UK, with some patients missing chemotherapy appointments, probably, in part, due to fear of visiting hospitals where there are a lot of COVID-19 patients. These all have an impact on insurers - as shown in these reported results from Europe: pandemic takes its toll on insurers’ first quarter results.

 

But that doesn't mean we have avoided all the negative effects of the pandemic. Various tests and treatment were deferred to ensure sufficient capacity in hospitals for the epidemic and they will take time to restart, let alone catch up. See: some DHBs weeks away from restarting breast cancer screening. Take cancer care: delays in diagnosis and treatment, for example, are likely to have some effects. In this news piece one patient explains the treatment delay and how they are now seeking treatment privately so that they will not have to wait. Inevitably in a large pool of people where diagnosis and treatment are delayed there will be some increase in cancers at a later stage and some increase in deaths. The difference between the effect of death claims from COVID-19 and those that may arise due to treatment delays is probably in three dimensions, time, scale, and age of the person affected. A COVID-19 death would tend to happen quickly, soon after the time of infection, compared to the cancer death that will emerge over a period of up to two years. The age of the person affected is likely to be younger, but the scale of people affected should be much smaller than the numbers that could have been affected by an un-managed outbreak. 

 

Three scenarios can be constructed. One was the expected claims budget for 2020 before the pandemic. It is the budget baseline. Then there is the possible scenario without effective management. Then there is the likely current scenario compared to the baseline. It seems clear that the 'saving' due to lower death claims from COVID-19 is probably large. But it not clear that the small reduction in deaths and injury due to fewer road accidents and workplace deaths may not be sufficient to off-set the other indirect affects of the COVID-19 crisis. At present, as explored in this blog post, the death rate is running slightly above last year. I think I would still expect higher claims for 2020 for life, trauma, and IP products as per this post. 

 

In other news:

Pandemic will reset all markets, economist says

Pricing strategy – choices and their meanings

Australia: Financial planners have proven incapable of self-regulation, but can FASEA stop the client rorts?

 

 


Westpac's strategic refocus and environmental commitment

At times like this, it is not uncommon for businesses to consider strategic restructuring. This has been the case for Westpac, who are considering redirecting their attention and resources to their core products. Group CEO Peter King has stated that Westpac is also committed to the Paris Agreement and is looking to reduce carbon emissions.

"Westpac is open to selling its general and life insurance businesses as the lender looks to put in more resources to rebuild its core banking operations.

 

The banking group revealed the possible divestment plan today in its half-year financial results, which show cash earnings tanking by 70% from a year earlier to $993 million and statutory net profit slumping 62% to $1.19 billion.

 

Westpac blames the poor results on the fallout from the virus pandemic disruption and impairment charges for a money laundering scandal.

 

Group CEO Peter King says the insurance units and other non-core operations such as superannuation will be moved to a new Specialist Businesses division with a strategic review of their future to follow in coming months." Click here to read more

In other news:

Instant Finance: Former AIA head of sales and distribution joins Instant Finance

Tower: Familiar face moves into general insurance

Asteron Life: Tech adoption a pandemic positive: Hill

NZ Funds: NZ Funds picks up Partners software


Pinnacle Life on who needs life insurance, who doesn’t

Pinnacle Life Marketing Manager Kerry Vaughan spoke with Newshub to clarify life insurance. Kerry stated that it would be a good idea if people with financial obligations took out life insurance. In the interview Kerry provides three different examples of when life insurance is necessary.

  1. You have dependents
  2. You have a mortgage or other debt
  3. You’re worried about what getting ill would mean for you financially

Similarly, Vaughan gave three examples of when life insurance isn’t necessary:

  1. You have no dependents or debts
  2. You’re very young 
  3. You have out-lived your need for it

To the top list I would add the ideas that life insurance gives rapid payment compared to the sale of real property, and also if you expect that you might soon have one of those three reasons in the future. To the bottom list I would add that your assets have grown to the point where you have sufficient funds to meet your commitments and desires for your estate. 


FSC Launches new insurance research

The Financial Services Council has launched new insurance research highlighting the gap between typical and ideal cover levels and some significant challenges facing the industry in lifting consumer engagement.

In the media release the CEO of the FSC, Richard Klipin, highlighted the purpose and key findings: 

The study looked at the three main types of life insurance available in New Zealand; life insurance, income protection/mortgage repayment insurance and critical illness insurance. “While 54% of those surveyed agree that it is important to have the right amount of insurance to cover risks including illness, death and job loss; estimates of underinsurance are much higher,” continued Klipin. Critical illness showed the highest level of underinsurance with only an estimated 9% of Kiwi’s being sufficiently insured, followed by 11% who had adequate income protection/mortgage repayment insurance and 29% with adequate life insurance.

Consumer views are included in this introductory video: 

 

Gambling on life 2020-01-22 164052

The research can be viewed here


2020: changes to insurance contracts

The Government announced plans reform laws governing insurance contracts. Minister Faafoi has said that consumers will have greater certainty about their insurance cover when they need to make a claim.

Agreed changes include:

  • Placing the responsibility on insurers to ask consumers the right questions when processing new insurance policies
  • Requiring insurance policies to be written and presented clearly
  • Ensuring insurers respond proportionately when consumers don’t disclose something they should have, or misrepresent themselves
  • Strengthening protections for consumers against unfair terms in insurance contracts
  • Allowing the FMA to monitor and enforce compliance with new requirements

Click here to read more


End of Life Choice Bill coverage focuses on insurers... it probably shouldn't

Katrina Williams, writing for stuff.co.nz has a piece on how life insurance companies may have to decide how to cope with the new End of Life Choice Bill if it becomes law.

The first thing to be clear about is that life insurers are bound by their current contracts in the marketplace. I don't think that the article is as straightforward about this as it should be - it therefore raises doubts about claims payment under current contracts that are not really there. As one insurer in the article relates, most insurance policies cover suicide provided that the policy has been in force for at least 13 months and there was no evident intention to defraud the insurer. 

Another point to note is that end of life choice typically happens in old age. Although the debate about euthanasia tends to highlight extreme cases - like cases of severe illness in younger people because of the tragedy of them - these are rare. When you examine these cases more closely they are often (although not always) as a result of long-pre-existing disorders, sometimes congenital. Few such people own life insurance, and few people hold life insurance into very old age where most end of life choices are likely to be made. The actual number of policies affected is likely to be small, and in most cases, these claims are being met already under payments for terminal illness, and eventual death, whatever the exact cause.

Insurers are conscious, also, of the risks of commenting on a subject where views vary considerably and feelings are strong. The business of an insurer is insurance, not political advocacy. Whatever the views of individual executives might be, their shared project is the business, and they are conscious of that particular, defined duty to their clients. That is evident in Richard Klipin's response, as CEO of the Financial Services Council: 

"The life insurance industry and individual companies will work in a careful, considered way to review policies to ensure that they remain fit for purpose, in line with international best practice, and continue to provide the support and coverage that New Zealanders expect," 

There are wider implications if the Bill becomes law. Product design must consider moral hazard, which may be slightly elevated in the case that a decision to end one's life is more acceptable and legal. These challenges, however, are usually successfully navigated in this market, as they have been in other markets. The existing moral hazard of the incentives to fraud and murder are very well managed by New Zealand insurers through the underwriting process and through the law. There are many issues to consider in the End of Life Choice Bill debate, but how insurance may operate is not the most important. 

Click here to read more.