There are many uncertainties around the pandemic – including what it means for life cover. We speak to insurance companies to find out what’s true, and what’s not.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Your life insurance policy will not be rendered “null and void” if you get the Covid-19 vaccine, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and various life assurers say.
The FSCA has reiterated that the claim, which has been made on social media, has no basis or merit and is, instead, leading to unnecessary fear, anxiety and uncertainty at a time when South Africa is dealing with the third Covid-19 wave. Positive cases were up to more than 17,000 overnight at the time of writing this article.
Insurers champion vaccination
Riaan van Reenen, chief executive officer of Discovery Life, says the assurer recognises that vaccination is South Africa’s strongest possible defence to limit the future impact of Covid-19 and strongly encourages all policyholders to get vaccinated when eligible.
“Whether a policyholder opts to have a Covid-19 vaccine or not, comprehensive cover on their respective plans will remain in place with all their contractual benefits and rewards. Receiving the vaccine will not negatively impact your policy.
“Discovery Life will not implement any claim exclusions on any of our available plans following a policyholder being vaccinated against Covid-19,” he confirms.
All the life assurers canvassed by DM168 were of the same opinion.
Anton Keet, head of risk services at 1Life, says the insurer would not apply any loadings on clients who were previously infected with Covid-19. Getting the vaccine would not invalidate a life insurance or funeral policy claim, he says.
Keet points out, however, that depending on how severe the Covid-19 infection was or whether any complications occurred – for example, you had to spend time in hospital – a new policy application may be deferred for a certain period to allow you to fully recover before 1Life underwrites you or assesses your risk.
“There are many uncertainties surrounding this disease. However, we can say that vaccination, for any disease, has never been a prerequisite to get cover for a life policy with 1Life,” Keet says.
Dr Kerissa Naidoo, chief medical officer at Old Mutual, said: “To qualify for cover, you are assessed based on your health status at the time of your application.
“If you have made a full recovery from Covid-19 with no remaining symptoms or complications, you will be underwritten based on your general health risk profile. If you suffer any complications of Covid-19, or have complications due to other diseases, illnesses or impacts on your health, you will be underwritten accordingly,” she says.
Dr Marion Morkel, chief medical officer at Sanlam, says getting a Covid-19 vaccine would not lead to a Sanlam life insurance policy being cancelled or a claim rejected.
“We are firmly committed to the vaccine drive, and, as a corporate citizen, will assist government in the effective vaccine rollout within our communities.
“Sanlam is convinced that vaccination is an effective health tool to assist in flattening or even stopping this pandemic,” she says.
She adds that the application of a new policy may be delayed until you recover from Covid-19, as with any other acute illness.
“For all existing policyholders, there is no change to the premium or other terms and conditions. In addition, unless you have decided to change aspects of your policy or submitted a Covid-19 claim under one of your products, there is no requirement for existing policyholders to share their Covid-19 status with Sanlam,” she says.
Jenny Ingram, head of product development at Momentum Retail Life Insurance, says new clients would have to declare their medical history as part of the normal underwriting process.
“If you have made a full recovery from Covid-19, no limitations will be applied.” But if Covid-19 “has caused a longer-term impact, a loading, exclusion or defer decision will be applied if required. This is based on our current understanding of the impact of the virus and our approach may be reviewed over time as we gain more insight,” she says.
Complications won’t nullify policy
Both Morkel and Lee Bromfield, chief executive of FNB Life, indicated that valid life insurance policies will be honoured even if you die from complications after receiving the vaccine.
“We will definitely pay out if someone dies from vaccine complications,” Bromfield says.
“FNB Life sees the vaccination programme as something that will lower the mortality rate of all customers and any insurer not paying in this circumstance is missing the bigger picture.”
Ingram says in the unlikely event that a claim is submitted where the Covid-19 vaccine is mentioned as a possible cause for the claim, Momentum Retail Life Insurance will continue to assess the claim on individual merit and against the terms, conditions and claim definitions relevant to the benefits on the policy contract, criteria of the claim and applicable waiting periods.
“We are still globally in the throes of a pandemic that has enormous financial, societal and physical consequences,” Morkel says.
“We know that during times of great need, the most creative solutions are born. There are many within the global insurance market looking to see how products moving forward may be shaped by the lessons learned from the pandemic, so this is something to track in the next few years.
“No such changes are already in the pipeline, though,” he says.
Although FNB Life does not have plans to make vaccination a requirement to access insurance products, Bromfield says he does foresee circumstances in the future where a vaccinated customer gets a lower premium or insurers don’t cover unvaccinated customers.
Naidoo cautions that, although getting a vaccine is not currently a requirement for any Old Mutual insurance products, Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus and “this approach may be reviewed as we learn more about it in the long term”. DM168
Don’t be fooled by fake news on social media
Under the Disaster Management Act, any person who publishes a statement, through any medium including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about Covid-19 is committing a criminal offence. The penalty is a fine or six months’ imprisonment, or both.
Stick to information from reputable news sources or verifiable sources.
Avoid the Covid-19 news circulating via WhatsApp voice notes. These, more often than not, turn out to be fake news or very stale news and cause unnecessary panic.
Use trusted websites such as the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Don’t repost or share information before you have fact-checked or verified it.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.