Asteron Life underwriting enhancements, and more daily news

Asteron life announced that as of 5 May 2021 enhancements have been made to the Underwriting Rules Engine (URE) within AsteronConnect. Asteron Life has said that the implementation of these new rules will mean more new business applications will be issued immediately through AsteronConnect.

Changes include:

  • Improvements to straight through acceptance rate for both advisers and customers
  • More assessments and acceptance of mental health conditions
  • More acceptance of Covid-19 related answers

“At 9pm on Wednesday 5 May we’re making some enhancements to our Underwriting Rules Engine (URE) within AsteronConnect. With these enhanced URE rules, more new business applications through AsteronConnect will be able to be issued immediately.

Some of the key changes you will notice are:

  • The Straight Through Acceptance rate for Advisers & customers is being improved - including both standard and substandard outcomes (exclusions, % loadings and combinations thereof).
  • More Mental Health conditions will be assessable and accepted by the URE, rather than referring to an Underwriter.
  • We are enabling more Covid-19 related answers to be accepted through the URE, especially
    1. For employee applicants requesting income protection.
    2. For self-employed applicants impacted by Covid-19 related trading restrictions.
  • For applicants not currently receiving a Government Covid-19 wage subsidy or other business income support and not working in the hospitality, travel, tourism or the international student education sectors.
  • For applicants with intended foreign travel plans that do not require a 14-day quarantine period upon their return to New Zealand. 

Advisers using paper applications will still need to complete the Covid-19 supplementary questionnaire when applying for cover.”

In other news

Russell’s piece in Good returns: Sharing is caring - consumer data rights for the advice sector

RBNZ: The Future Is Māori

Strategi: top tips for FAPland

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Cigna set to implement number of new processes, and more daily news

Cigna is set to implement several changes, including a new commission structure, a new specific injury product, new eApp and online Adviser Hub, and new underwriting processes. The announcement was made during Cigna Live. During the livestream, David Haak, General Manager of Distribution, discussed the changes to commission by noting that advisers would no longer be paid on a 13 month basis, instead payments would commence from month two. Cigna will also offer an 'as earned' payment option that will allow advisers to spread out commission payments.

During the session Alison Manning, Head of Product, announced that a new specific injury product would be introduced. The product will focus on offering financial support to customers that suffer injuries such as fractures or burns. Unlike other products, this product will offer cover up to $5,000 for single injuries and more for multiple injuries, regardless of age and smoker status. Cigna will not consider any offsets due to ACC payments. Payment will be a lump sum and will provide cover for surgery after an accident. Customers will be able to include this product as an add-on to other policies.

Chris Hand, North Island Regional Manager, noted that Cigna has been developing a new eApp and online Adviser Hub for the past 12 months. Hand said that the new hub is intended to offer advisers and customers more data security. The new hub is also set to streamline the quoting and application process.

Similarly, Cigna is set to improve underwriting processes. Chief Operating Officer Debbie Eyre highlighted that the new underwriting approach will ensure disclosure processes are made easier. This change includes shorter questions to increase completion rates. Cigna plans to have a single simplified underwriting process for all products. 

“Cigna's top brass made the announcements during a live webcast to more than 1200 advisers and industry commentators this morning.

General manager of distribution, David Haak gave some information about Cigna's new commission structure but did not cover specific rates as that information would be sent to advisers at a later date.

However, Haak did say the new commission structure would be simplified and tailored to individual advisers.

He says renewal commissions will be paid from month two, instead of month 13 and 100% of documented commissions would be paid out.

We understand this to mean that commissions are paid to the financial advice provider, who may pay them on to dealer groups or service providers. The payment of renewal commission from month two has the effect of increasing the commission paid in year one, but not at month one, clearly. 

"There will also be an 'as earned' payment option where you can spread out commissions over a longer period, instead of a lump sum."

Cigna head of product, Alison Manning also announced a new specific injury product that would provide more financial support for injuries like fractures or burns.

Manning says cover is not determined by age or smoker status and would provide up to $5000 of cover and a higher payment for multiple limb fractures.

It will also cover second and third-degree burn cover and can be used as an add-on to any other policy.

Accidental injury cover is a valuable addition to the product range - there are now three insurers offering similar products, so we shall be adding the rating to research subscribers (available at quotemonster.co.nz). 

She says the new product was called for by advisers and "Cigna had listened and tailored the product on feedback from the industry".

Cigna's specific injury cover will not take into account any offsets due to ACC payments, will be paid out as a lump sum and will also provide cover for surgery after an accident.

Cigna's North Island regional manager Chris Hand gave a brief overview of the company's brand new eApp and online Adviser Hub that has been developed over the past 12 months.

He says the new hub will provide more data security for advisers and their clients as well as streamlining the quoting and application process allowing advisers to send questions to clients directly before any face to face meetings.

"In many cases, this will lead to instant cover and allow advisers to amend quotes on the fly."

Cigna's chief operating officer Debbie Eyre commented on the company's new underwriting approach that she says will make the disclosure process easier and clearer for its customers.

This will involve a new, shorter set of questions designed to increase disclosure rates and "maximise completions at point of sale".

"Regardless of the level of cover...there will be just one ruleset and one questions set...and will apply to almost all of our products - income protection, mortgage cover, trauma, life cover and waiver of premiums.

"This will mean our underwriting team are freed up to talk to you about more complex cases." Click here to read more

In other news

From Good returns: From army life to life insurance - a big gun leaves the industry

Quotemonster: QuoteMonster appoints new general manager


Insurers on transgender health cover, and more daily news

The availability of health insurance for transgender individuals was brought forward to the Finance and Expenditure Committee in June 2019 in the form of a petition. Elizabeth Poucher, the driver of the petition, stated that transgender women are unable to get the same level of cover as cisgender women.

“Elizabeth Poucher brought a petition asking for the House to conduct an inquiry into the availability of health insurance for transgender people's care related to transitioning.

She said that transgender people were often unable to get cover for things such as breast cancer, which were affected by hormone treatment, although a male-to-female transgender person was no more at risk than a cisgender woman. Poucher said that while people could sometimes get cover for other pre-existing conditions if they were willing to pay a premium loading, that was not the case for transgender people.”

In response, Roger Styles, Health Funds Association CEO has said that insurers look to offer affordable products and that transgender care was often excluded due to high costs associated with transitioning. For this reason, Styles says that exclusions are not discrimination against the transgender community.

“Health Funds Association chief executive Roger Styles said insurers had to be able to offer an affordable product that was appealing to people to voluntarily purchase.

Transgender care was excluded because of the high cost of the transition process, he said, and the risk of adverse selection. People who thought they might transition would take out cover that would pay for it, loading insurers with extra risk.

He said insurers did not agree with Poucher that this was discrimination.” Click here to read more

In other news

AA Insurance: AA Insurance is a finalist in 2020 Diversity Awards NZ

Southern Cross: Southern Cross celebrated Matariki

RBNZ: RBNZ announced that it will publish data from the Credit Conditions Survey for the June 2020 quarter on Tuesday 14 July. Usually run biannually in March and Sept, the Credit Conditions Survey asks banks qualitative questions about changes in credit conditions in bank lending markets. The RBNZ decided to conduct an interim Credit Conditions Survey for June 2020 to understand how domestic credit conditions have changed post-lockdown.

Cigna: David Haak has joined Cigna.


Partners Life: Mini adviser conference

Partners Life announce that they are hosting a mini adviser conference online on the 30th of April.

It has been split into two sections:

Business section: Naomi Ballantyne interviews Chief Underwriter Clayton Gardner about his Chief Underwriter role and delve into some of the more interesting underwriting issues he has experienced over his career to date. Register here.

Social section: Compete against your peers in the gigantic Partners Life Adviser pub quiz. Register here.

 


Income protection: a potential casualty of COVID-19

There is a difficulty in rating income protection products at the moment - the market is changing fast, and not all the changes being implemented by the market are yet formal policy. Decision-making is emergent, cases are being reviewed as they arrive. Economic data which may have an effect on the views of underwriters contemplating, say, the financial underwriting aspects of cover on self-employed businesses (even if the case were submitted weeks ago) is not yet available. Just how substantial the impact on the economy has been is yet to be revealed. We are all, to some extent, guessing. 

Insurers are conservative in their views - they must be - and have to protect first and foremost the interests of existing customers, who expect them to meet claims. Income protection is not, for example, a form of redundancy insurance. What that means is that they are taking considerably more care with underwriting new cases than they would. Partners Life has made the most detailed announcements about their treatment of income protection policies and Quality Product Research Limited has adjusted ratings showing (for subscribers) on Quotemonster. However, this plainly fails to take into account the attitudes of underwriters to the cover across the market: Advisers tell me that variety of measures are being employed on a case-by-case basis: referring cover to reinsurers, reducing cover amounts, substituting indemnity contracts for other contract types, applying exclusions by endorsement, seeking additional financial information, deferring, and declining cases. The extent to which this all remains fluid over the next few weeks or coalesces into a new normal which becomes formalised in changes to income protection product ranges will very much depend on events: how soon we emerge from level four restrictions, more data about the impact on the local economy, and because we are a relatively open trading nation, the state of the economies of our main trading partners.

COVID-19 is most serious for people who already had underlying health impairments. Income protection is similar in that it already had serious problems before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing economic problems. It is in very bad shape now and we cannot say for sure how the product will fare over the next few weeks. It may never be the same again. 


Partners Life: Underwriting for COVID-19 financial risks

Partners Life are remaining open to new business during this uncertain time of COVID-19 but have announced a number of restrictions to IP, MP, and TPD, while placing a minimum 6 month stand-down for eligibility for Premium Holiday and Policy Suspension claims. Stating ‘As soon as we are able to remove these restrictions for new business, we will contact those advisers and clients affected directly to review and/or remove these restrictions for any policies issued during this interim period.’

Here is more information:

  1. No new Loss of Revenue Cover or Variable Loss of Revenue Cover benefits will be issued. The cover will be deferred.
     
  2. No new Agreed Value benefits based on Income will be issued. This includes Income Covers, Mortgage Repayment and Household Expenses benefit which are to be based on income. Indemnity Loss of Earnings Income Cover will be offered as an alternative by way of Offer of Terms.
     
  3. MRC and HEC based on actual mortgage repayments and expenses will still be allowed.
     
  4. Disability benefits of any kind will have a Mental health exclusion applied by way of Offer of Terms. This includes lump sum benefits which cover disability such as TPD, Trauma Cover and Hybrid Business Benefits.
     
  5. Disability benefits of any kind will have a restriction for disability first arising while a life assured is unemployed or is on a period of leave without pay. This includes lump sum benefits which cover disability such as TPD, Trauma Cover and Hybrid Business Benefits.

    These lives assured will instead be considered an Occupation Class 5 immediately they stop work rather than after the usual 12 month period. This restriction will be achieved by way of an Offer of Terms.
     
  6. All new policies to be issued will include a minimum 6 month stand-down for eligibility for Premium Holiday and Policy Suspension claims. This restriction which will be achieved by way of Offer of Terms.

Reinsurers putting pressure on Life Insurers over vaping health risks

There are a number of global reinsurers putting pressure on underwriters to charge certain people who vape even more than they charge smokers, or to exclude them all together from getting cover. This is following that announcement that there were 47 vape related deaths in the US last year and global research is indicating that vaping is not good.

Click here to read more. 


Partners Life: Chief Underwriter

Partners Life have announced that Clayton Gardner will return to the role of Chief Underwriter after spending several years as Chief Technical Underwriter. 

Naomi writes 'I am personally delighted that Clayton will once again be the public face of underwriting at Partners Life, and I am sure the many advisers who have had the pleasure of dealing with Clayton over the years will be equally delighted. 
As one of Partners Life’s founding employees, Clayton has demonstrated a loyalty and commitment to the company which is second to none, and his agreement to step back into the Chief Underwriter role is further evidence of this commitment.'


Good to see: actively managing exclusions and loadings

nib has announced that from February they will pro-actively manage exclusions and loadings: 

We’re taking proactive steps by reviewing existing members policies’ exclusions and loadings

For nib, our purpose is our members’ better health. Up until now, nib has relied on our members or their adviser to seek a review of any exclusions or loadings that have been applied to their policy. Starting February 2020, nib is changing our business process to proactively contact members who have special terms on their policies to encourage them to request a review if their health has improved, to ensure they are getting the best value from their health insurance.

Members who are eligible for an exclusion or loading review will be contacted by nib. We will offer them the opportunity to provide updated test results and disclose any new information relevant to their assessment.

Our underwriting team will seek confirmation of whether relevant symptoms still exist and whether the member has been treatment free for the period required. As part of the review, we will also be referring any members that could benefit from our nib Wellness Programs.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact our Adviser Partner Manager team.

Any other insurers that are taking this approach, I would love to hear from you.