Consumer magazine on mental health underwriting and more daily news

In April, Consumer Magazine published an article on the underwriting of mental health conditions. My thoughts on the article are below:

Positives: the article is a good vehicle for the complaints levelled against the insurers, relying mainly on the Beyond Blue report from Australia and some good personal stories from applicants.

Problems: while calling for fairness, it fails to explore in detail how underwriting is done, what is meant by unfairness, or the complex issue of fairness to other policy holders and the effect on them. There is no exploration of the economics of underwriting or how the proposed changes would affect the market. There are serious issues to consider in the underwriting of mental health problems, as there are with many others. One the one hand questions are criticised for not being personalised enough, on the other hand they are criticised for being too ‘invasive’. There does not appear to be a clear idea of what good looks like.

As a publication meant to enable consumers to make better choices about products and services to acquire, I was left wondering, as a consumer, what this article was suggesting - it seemed not to guide consumers either towards or even away from any specific product but could easily put off applications from people with mental health problems, when in fact a lot of cover is available for them, and a lot of good work is done in underwriting to enable insurance to work for the whole risk pool.


More daily news:

  • Financial Advice New Zealand is running a licensing workshop with the FMA on the 27th
  • The FMA is also running a licensing event supported by Partners Life and Fidelity Life on the 5th of May - details here.
  • FANZ also has the details of a member survey on adviser attitudes towards the government proposed income insurance scheme - 23% support the idea, while many are undecided or would prefer a scheme in partnership with industry (more like KiwiSaver).


Fidelity Life introduces new claims information and more daily news

Fidelity Life has released lots more claims information. I love good claims information and this has much to commend it: an overall claims paid percentage (93%), a release of process information, summary statistics (including average age of claims) and case studies. From their media release: 

At the heart of the new content is Fidelity Life’s claims promise, which sets out the standards of care customers can expect at each and every interaction during their claim.

Other useful content includes a step by step guide to making a claim, information on the most commonly claimed conditions and why not all claims are accepted, and videos with real customers sharing their claims stories.

“This new material, written in plain English, aims to give customers clarity on what they can expect when it comes to making a claim, and provide reassurance that we’ll support them during this often stressful time”, says Peter.

The new claims content can be found on Fidelity Life’s website, along with another recent content initiative: Insurance 101.

More daily news:

  • Would you like to check out the new Quotemonster website? Give us a call to get access now
  • Consumer has published an article on how mental health issues are underwritten
  • Goodreturns has a survey of advisers on the government-proposed income insurance scheme Link.


Report critical of results of additional mental health spending

Newshub has details of a report critical of the results of the additional spending on mental health, highlighting findings which suggest limited increase in access. Link:

Health services failures criticised

The mental health foundation has criticised the health service for failures which in cases related to five homicides. Link. Tara Shaskey of the New Zealand Herald reports:

"Heartbreaking" and "absolutely avoidable".

Those are the words an unmistakably frustrated Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation chief executive, used to describe five unconnected but equally tragic homicides by five mentally-ill people.

"What makes me most angry is that this is total system failure in terms of responding to people's mental health needs," Robinson told Open Justice.

For more, read the whole article.

nib foundation name Health Smart Grants programme partners, and more daily news

nib foundation has announced a partnership with Clearhead, the University of Otago and Youthline as they all work to reach youth and young adults through digital platforms. Through nib foundation’s new Health Smart Grants programme each organisation has been awarded over $128,000 in funding.

"Three New Zealand organisations dedicated to empowering Kiwi young adults to make smarter health choices have received over $128,000 in funding from nib foundation’s new Health Smart Grants programme.

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, said the foundation is thrilled to partner with Clearhead, the University of Otago and Youthline, who are each doing their part to reach our rangatahi (youth and young adults) and help prevent long-term health problems.

“Chronic health conditions account for 80% of all deaths in New Zealand, yet we know over a third of these are caused by modifiable risks that can be reduced or avoided. Through these partnerships we aim to help Kiwis better understand these risks and the positive lifestyle changes they can make every day to live longer and healthier lives,”

Mrs Tribe said.  

The charities will use digital platforms to deliver innovative programmes and educational campaigns targeted at youth and young adults on topics such as mental health and wellbeing, and harmful alcohol consumption.

“We intentionally partnered with charities who were eager to use digital platforms to reach their target audience so that more people are provided the opportunity to keep on top of their health,” Mrs Tribe said.

“For example, our funding will support Clearhead to develop a digital tool via their online platform to help young adults find their purpose in life. This is in response to data collected from their users which revealed loneliness and a lack of purpose are the two leading causes of psychological distress among young people,” she added.

Meanwhile, the University of Otago will use the funding to build on the findings of their Youth2000 Series Survey and address harmful drinking in young people through a series of evidence-based webinars and online fact sheets to influence community-level action.

“Another significant contributor to chronic disease and health loss in New Zealand is alcohol and harmful drinking, and these risky drinking behaviours often begin early on in high school,” Mrs Tribe said.

“That’s why we’re supporting the University of Otago to develop these resources that we hope will influence policymakers, programme developers, and those who work with young people to better educate the community on alcohol harm and reduce long-term health impacts,” she added.

nib foundation’s 2022 New Zealand Health Smart partners are:

  • Clearhead NZ - Digital tool for finding life purpose
  • University of Otago NZ - Reducing Alcohol Harm in Young People
  •           Youthline - Empowering young New Zealanders to support their own wellbeing and build resilience

In other news

Asteron Life: Principal Underwriter role being advertised

FSC: Strong year for health insurance sector in 2021

Southern Cross: Workplace happiness key to retaining staff amid the ‘Great Resignation’

AIA publish adviser wellbeing report, and more daily news

AIA has revealed the full findings of the adviser wellbeing survey that was conducted last year by Dr Adam Fraser and Dr John Molineux. Acting CEO, Sharron Botica, has said that AIA has a role to play in role in raising the topic of adviser wellbeing with different industry bodies and leaders.

“A new report released by AIA New Zealand finds that Kiwi financial advisers increasingly face work burnout and deteriorating mental wellbeing.

Conducted by researchers Dr Adam Fraser and Dr John Molineux for AIA NZ, the study shows that one in five advisers are seeking or have sought medical care for stress, with 15 percent reporting that their doctor has advised them that they are in a high-risk category for heart disease or stroke.

Sam Tremethick, AIA NZ’s Chief Partnership Insurance Officer, says that AIA NZ undertook the research to better understand how operating in a global pandemic, increasing industry regulation, and changing client needs are impacting the adviser industry.

“Financial advisers largely fly under the radar as a sector. They work under difficult circumstances and have challenging roles. So we felt it was important that we better understand how the industry is faring on the whole and identify ways they can be better supported.”

Results found that a quarter of advisers are considering leaving their job due to stress, and a quarter also intend to take stress leave. Furthermore, two in five advisers believe this stress is impacting their ability to get adequate sleep.

Looking at specific pressure points, more than 60 percent of advisers who responded to questions about key sources of stress said the newly introduced government regulation was highly to very highly stressful, 42 percent said work overload was highly to very highly stressful, and 37 percent said meeting future education standards was highly to very highly stressful.

The good news is that seven in 10 (67 percent) of advisers surveyed said they are doing a good job in managing work-life balance, and 44 percent of advisers said that they feel their ‘personal time is their own’.

Similar research conducted in 2020 across the financial adviser sector in Australia provides a clear caution of the risks Kiwi advisers face if current industry issues aren’t addressed.

“Many of the NZ advisers said the increase in compliance and regulation had already had a negative impact on them. They were very concerned that New Zealand may follow the lead of Australia, where regulatory demands  have led  to advisers becoming disengaged and more likely to leave the industry,” continues Tremethick. “However, we appreciate the regulatory environment is very different over the Tasman, and maintain that overall the changes in NZ were a needed step to improve the professionalism of our industry, and support good customer outcomes.”

AIA NZ’s Acting CEO, Sharron Botica, agrees. “Having reviewed the research findings, we believe our role at AIA NZ is to be a catalyst for change by raising the conversation around adviser wellbeing with industry bodies and leaders, and to challenge what we can do to collectively make improvements for the future.

“At AIA we are committed to helping people live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives, with the goal of making New Zealand the healthiest and best protected nation in the world. Aotearoa’s financial advisers and their businesses are an important part of this. For a business to be able to deliver meaningful impact, it must be in good shape. And for a business to be in good shape, its people need to be in good shape.”

AIA has committed to looking at their own practices for ways to improve and offer additional support to advisers. Plans include extending AIA NZ's Best Doctor’s offering to all advisers that have a relationship with us. Best Doctors provides the option of securing a second medical opinion on any medical diagnosis, as well as access to a range of medical experts including those specialised in mental health. The company will also host a number of wellness-focussed sessions for advisers throughout the year, and make further enhancements to the current AIA Vitality programme offering for mental wellbeing.

“For us, it's about guiding and supporting each other to think differently about the health of ourselves and our businesses so we can make a greater difference for our clients, our business, our own wellbeing, and our communities,” concludes Botica.

The study contains recommendations for the industry and individual advisers on ways to improve and better support wellbeing outcomes. Please refer to the AIA NZ website for detailed report findings and further insights.

AIA adviser wellbeing survey key insights

In other news

World Day of Social Justice is on 20 February

Asteron Life: The results are in for Asteron Life

Southern Cross offer free online consultations

As of 1 December, Southern Cross is providing all Southern Cross members (regardless of plan type) with access to unlimited free online doctor consultations via CareHQ, and 3 free mental health sessions for counseling or well-being coaching with Raise. The Raise counseling or well-being coaching sessions normally cost $140 per consult, and sessions can be carried out virtually or face-to-face (Covid levels permitting). This is an initiative that will run through until 31 March 2022. 

For more information please click here.

AIA release initial findings of Adviser Wellbeing Survey, and more daily news

AIA has released initial findings of the Adviser Wellbeing Survey that was conducted by Dr. Adam Fraser and Dr. John Molineux to understand the views of nearly 600 financial advisers from all around the country. The full report will be published early next year.

Key findings include:

  • 43% of respondents said that alcohol is used as a coping mechanism for stress
  • 25% of respondents are considering leaving the industry
  • 37% of respondents see future education standards as a source of stress
  • 61% found government regulations stressful
  • 41% found work overload stressful
  • A quarter said that they were considering leaving the industry because of work overload

“Preliminary results from the recent AIA Adviser Wellbeing Survey have uncovered some concerning results with around half of those surveyed saying they are using alcohol to cope with stress.

Also of concern was that 25% of advisers surveyed indicated they were considering leaving the industry altogether.

In late September, AIA undertook a wellbeing survey of almost 600 Kiwi financial advisers to gauge the mental health of advisers and explore the habits and attitudes of advisers experiencing positive mental wellbeing and understand the behaviours needed to manage significant market disruptions.

The research is being done by Sydney-based researcher Dr Adam Fraser, founder of The e-lab, and Dr John Molineux. AIA NZ is sponsoring the research and will make the findings available when the full report is completed around February next year.

AIA NZ chief partnership insurance officer Sam Tremethick presented some of the preliminary findings during a virtual adviser roadshow saying there were some concerning results, as well as some positive findings.

"The feedback was honest and raw, and to be honest, confronting at times but it provided us with a great insight as to how you are feeling and how we can make the industry stronger," he said.

"The most alarming statistic that came out of our study was that 25% of all advisers surveyed said they were considering leaving the industry.

"This is a massive concern as we know that clients are better off if they receive financial advice and understand that our customers will be the poorer for it if this is lost."

Tremethick said while collectively this paints a concerning picture of the health and wellbeing of the adviser market, Kiwis are still faring a lot better than their Australian counterparts in almost all areas.

There were some positive points uncovered as well – one being there are pockets of advisers who are doing better than ever in the current environment, and the report will share some insights into what they do differently to thrive. Click here to read more

In other news

December 10 is World Human Rights Day

FSC: Financial Advertising and the new guidelines session 13 December at 3 pm

FSC: Launch of Women and Financial Wellbeing Research 14 December at 3.30 pm

nib publish findings of parenting survey, and more daily news

nib has published the findings of the nib State of the Nation Parenting Survey that they conducted in partnership with One Picture. 1,200 parents from around New Zealand were surveyed. There are three key themes, the links between screen time and mental health, positive shifts from the pandemic, and greater awareness on health needed.

Key points from the survey include:

  • Use of technology and screen time ranked as the top parenting concern again
  • 77% of respondents expressed mental health concerns
  • Screen time, social media and gaming reported as the top three addictive activities
  • 63% of respondents believed their child couldn’t live without their devices
  • Sleep, diet and exercise, and behavioural issues are top three health-related concerns
  • 57% of respondents noted their appreciation for their family’s good health and time spent together increased in the last 12 months
  • Over 50% of respondents said they have had help from family and friends while daycare and school were closed
  • 38% of respondents highlighted that balancing work and parenting was the number one source of household stress
  • Over one in three parents prioritise their child’s health over their own
  • 73% of respondents knew or had a record of all the vaccinations their children had and only 42% said they kept track of their own

Positive shifts from the pandemic

Despite health-related concerns increasing last year, this year’s survey findings highlighted that most Kiwi parents are feeling more optimistic now, with results having largely dropped back to 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels. Sleep, diet and exercise, and behavioural issues were cited as the top three health-related concerns.

For 57% of parents, appreciation for their family’s good health and time spent together increased in the last 12 months. Of those, more than half said both factors were a direct result of the pandemic, demonstrating some positive shifts for Kiwi families. 

While many families struggled without access to daycare centres and schools during changing alert levels, more than half of respondents identified having close family to lean on, with friends (28%) and extended family (24%) also being common sources of support.

Noting the art of balancing work and parenting as the number one source of household stress (cited by 38%), many Kiwi companies can also be commended for contributing towards the almost half of working parents (47%) that experienced an increase in flexible working arrangements in the last 12 months.

nib New Zealand CEO, Rob Hennin said, “While nobody celebrates the disruption and distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided greater opportunity for companies to rethink traditional work practices and explore what work, family and life really looks like to our people.

“One aspect of this has been ensuring parents feel supported in the workplace to put their whānau first. At nib, we encourage flexibility around when and where our people work, so they can make time for key moments like their child’s doctor’s appointment, home-schooling during the pandemic or their afternoon sporting activities. We support this by providing our employees with an annual NZ$1,260 work from home allowance, in recognition of the ongoing costs of remote work as well as free access to online GP consultations in partnership with Tend,” Mr Hennin added.

Greater awareness on health needed

As the topic of health and vaccinations continue to dominate headlines, the survey uncovered it’s an area where parents require more support. Over one in three parents prioritise their child’s health over their own (especially when it came to lower income and single parent households) suggesting that many are faced with making a choice between addressing their own health issues or their child’s.

Around half of respondents knew what health checks their children needed each year, with this dropping to 35% when it came to their own health checks. While 73% knew or had a record of all the vaccinations their children had, only 42% of parents said they kept track of their own.

“With 71% of children having experienced at least one negative mental, physical or behavioural issue in the last six months, we need to ensure Kiwi parents are feeling supported to deal with the health and wellbeing needs of their whānau,” Mr Hennin said.

“We aim to address some of the barriers faced by families when accessing health information through our various initiatives – such as our partnership with Nathan Wallis, providing free resources to help families through life, as well as wellness programmes which deliver plans to help improve health outcomes for our members.”

“We hope these annual insights spark conversations around parenting and health and encourage all generations to be more proactive when looking after their health and wellbeing,” Mr Hennin said.

nib partnered with One Picture to deliver the nib State of the Nation Parenting Survey, which surveyed a representative sample of 1,200 respondents from around the country.

Screenshot 2021-11-24 160540

In other news

ASB: More people using financial advisers: ASB

AIA: AIA NZ chief executive takes leave

Screenshot 2021-11-24 155659

AIA offering access to Best Doctors, and more daily news

Beginning 1 November AIA started offering all group scheme customers and their immediate family members access to the Best Doctors service. Customers now have access to international specialists through the phone. This offer includes access to the Best Doctors Mental Health Navigator service, meaning customers now have access to mental health experts including psychologists and psychiatrists.

“AIA NZ is extending its product offering for all group scheme customers to include access to the highly sought-after Best Doctors service.

Best Doctors is a telehealth service, supporting AIA’s digital first proposition, and provides access to international specialists and mental health clinicians. Providing world-class advice and support when it is needed most, Best Doctors supports customers with diagnosis, treatment, and information, providing the confidence to make informed health decisions.

Sam Tremethick, Chief Partnership Insurance Officer says “At AIA NZ we believe we have a responsibility as New Zealand’s largest life insurer to move away from simply being a payer of claims, to partner with our customers to help them lead Healthier, Longer, Better Lives. We are proud to be able to offer access to Best Doctors, which is unique in the New Zealand market for group scheme customers.”

From 1 November 2021 eligible group scheme customers, who are often insured with AIA NZ through their employer’s insurance scheme or member association, will be able to access the benefit which also includes immediate family.

“Best Doctors is a fantastic offering, supporting our group scheme customers with the option of securing a second medical opinion on any medical diagnosis. We believe it is important to take a holistic approach to customer care, which is why we are thrilled to have this benefit extended to include immediate family as well, so they can also receive the right advice and support,” says Tremethick.

AIA NZ’s offering also includes access to Best Doctor’s market-leading Mental Health Navigator service, which provides direct online access to a multidisciplinary team of mental health experts including psychologists and psychiatrists. “Mental well-being is an area of significant concern in New Zealand, with depression the leading cause of disability worldwide. We know an estimated quarter of all Kiwis are currently affected by poor mental health. The Mental Health Navigator is one way we can help our customers get the right advice and information they need, so they can prioritise their mental health and get the support and help they need to lead Healthier, Longer, Better Lives.”

In other news

FSC: The Big Themes and Issues for Workplace Savings Schemes Regenerations session to be held at 9am 11 November

Upcoming sessions