Insurers make exclusions in new policy offers

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Life and health insurers are trimming their policy offerings in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, because some risks linked to the virus are deemed too great.

  • This story was first published by RNZ
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Partners Life founder and risk expert Naomi Ballantyne said it was important consumers knew what they were covered for, particularly if they were renewing or switching policies.

She said existing policies could not be altered, but getting cover for Covid-19-related issues was becoming harder to find.

"Things like redundancy, which are often optional benefits built into disability products, for example. Some companies - like ours - are applying a mental health exclusion for new customers, because the risk of stress and mental health claims is also unknowable and unquantifiable.

"Some companies have actually put [Covid-19] exclusions on the policies for new customers… so those circumstances wouldn't be covered for Covid-19-related claims at all, because they have decided that the risk is too high for them to accept."

She said consumers should seek advice from an adviser.

"You can still buy insurance for heart attacks, stroke, cancers, accidents all the other things that you could buy before … obviously if the only reason you want it is to cover yourself from Covid-19 then you're probably too late."

Ballantyne said people needed to be aware that policies such as income protection insurance, mortgage repayment cover or household expenses cover would not cover you if you were just in financial difficulty.

"Those are all disability policies so, if there is a health issue as a result of Covid-19, then those policies would definitely respond, but they're not unemployment benefits.

"Unless you've bought a redundancy option under those policies, then the standard disability benefit only responds to disability and not to, 'I'm out of work', which is not the same thing."

She said misconceptions around what health and life insurance customers could be covered for was important to clear up, and there had also been misinformation circulating on social media about medical insurance and the need to urgently buy it.

'The likelihood of you requiring private medical treatment, which is what medical insurance policies cover for Covid-related issues, is pretty small… so while I certainly wouldn't discourage people from buying medical insurance, don't buy it to cover yourself from Covid-19 because that's not what that product is designed to do."

Ballantyne said some companies, including Partners Life, were offering premium holidays for periods of time, where the client could essentially put their policy on hold if they were struggling financially.

She said she would not recommend cancelling a policy if you were in financial difficulty because it may be difficult to get again with the pre-Covid-19 benefits still in place.

 

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