Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
5 minute read
1 Aug 2021
7:32 pm

How your Covid-19 vaccine stance could affect your life insurance

Ina Opperman

Insurers are considering the risk of covering unvaccinated clients after Discovery Life announced increased life insurance premiums for anti-vaxxers.

Image: iStock

The decision to jab or not can influence your life insurance premiums at Discovery Life, but other life insurers have so far not decided to follow suit. Discovery said last week that clients who are unwilling to be vaccinated may be subject to higher premiums due to increased risk.

“Clients with new polices, who indicate that they are unwilling to be vaccinated may, unfortunately, be subject to higher premiums due to the increased risk. Refusal to be vaccinated is treated similarly to smoking or lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, which receive a higher premium,” Riaan van Reenen, CEO of Discovery Life, said in a statement.

“COVID-19 has touched every facet of our society and we received claims from clients of all profiles. However, clear trends have emerged over the last year regarding gender, age, lifestyle choices, co-morbidities and occupation, which influence the number and severity of Covid-19 claims.”

Van Reenen added that this life insurance premium may be adjusted should an unvaccinated client later decide to get vaccinated.

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1Life

Anton Keet, head of risk services at 1Life Insurance, says the company is currently engaging with its reinsurers on their international research to determine whether they need to reprice for these risks for new clients where clients do not take up the vaccine.

“There is still a lot that we do not know or understand about Covid-19 and its longer-term implications and therefore we need to continually review new risks and ensure we price and underwrite accordingly. We will be guided by data and research to apply the most appropriate rating factors as this evolves.”

Critical to note though is that insurers need to consider whether all consumers have fair access to vaccines before a change in life insurance rates can be implemented.

“However, this is currently not yet the case in South Africa and hence we have not considered increasing premiums. Most of our products have premium guarantee periods, so existing client’s premiums would not be adjusted within their guarantee period.”

Not being vaccinated is a higher risk for life insurers. From the research and mortality experience seen so far, it reduces your probability of contracting severe Covid and dying, which consequently reduces the risk insurers carry.

According to Keet, South Africa’s second wave infections peak was 1.67 times that of the first wave and case fatality increased from 2.7% prior to the second wave to 3% in January. The second wave was also significantly higher than the first wave with excess natural cause deaths at the peak being 2.84 times that of the first wave peak.

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“Our peak of claims in the second wave was witnessed in the week of 11 – 17 January 2021, where we had 3.47 times our normal average claims volumes, 24.8% higher than the peak week in the first wave.

“As could be expected, all claims volumes increased for all age groups and there was a relative increase in claims for older policyholders during both waves than prior to Covid-19. Relatively, more 50-69-year-olds died in the period of the second wave.”

Outsurance

Natasha Kawulesar, head of client relations at Outsurance also says it really is too early to comment on whether life insurance premiums will increase for new clients.

“We may consider this in future and is dependent on how the pandemic develops.  Premiums will not be increased for existing clients who are not vaccinated.”

She says data collected so far shows that to date has shown that the vaccine reduces the probability of severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death for people who are infected by Covid-19.

“We do not offer any incentives to be vaccinated.”

Outsurance Life also found an increase in claims due to Covid-19.

RELATED: Life insurance claims show Covid death toll may be underreported

Old Mutual

Kavir Ramjee, general manager for Protection Solutions at Old Mutual, said the company fully supports government’s stance that people should be encouraged, but not forced to take the vaccine. “It is imperative that we ramp up vaccinations to safeguard public health and reach herd immunity as quickly as possible. Old Mutual is not implementing any penalties for policyholders, based on whether they are vaccinated or not.”

Momentum

Momentum has assured its existing clients that there are no exclusions on any of its Myriad life insurance benefits regarding the coronavirus. This means that clients’ cover remains intact, regardless of the virus and where they have travelled or intend to travel or whether they decide to be vaccinated or not.

“Although Momentum Life supports the official scientific view of the protective power of vaccines, we do not require clients to be vaccinated at present. We would therefore not require proof of them being vaccinated at this time, but the situation is fluid as more information about the effectiveness, wide-spread availability and overall take-up of the vaccines become available.”

Momentum says it will take any new insights and experience into account before considering a change in its approach to require a vaccination for new cover. “We will aim to provide sufficient time for any new clients to get their vaccinations voluntarily before considering a change in our approach.”

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Liberty

Liberty Life says it recognises that the vaccination programme is a critical strategy to preserve lives and that it supports the mass vaccination programme and government’s objective of ensuring equitable access to vaccines for everyone, whether they are members of a medical aid scheme or not.

“We are pleased to play our part in helping to curb the pandemic and have recently opened a public vaccination centre at our head office in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. We encourage all eligible members of the public to get vaccinated and thereby reduce the health risks associated with the pandemic.”

Liberty constantly reviews developments that could potentially impact the health and well-being of its clients and is closely monitoring mortality and morbidity data relating to the local and international Covid-19 vaccination roll-out.

“As vaccines are yet to be rolled out to people under the age of 35, we feel it is premature to be making changes to our underwriting position at this stage”.