Head of Product Development at Momentum Life Insurance, Jenny Ingram, provided a window into the impact COVID-19 has had and will have on life insurance claims. Based on insights from a significant life insurance market share, Ingram is confident that these statistics provide a view of the impact this virus has had on the South African insured population as well as the positive effect of the vaccination rollout.
Ingram revealed that of the R5.5 billion in claims paid in 2020, over R370 million was for 217 COVID-19 related death claims. For 2021, until the end of July, Momentum has paid close to R1.4 billion for another 842 COVID-19 related death claims, which shows the devastation inflicted by the second and third waves – and without a clear end in sight for the third wave.
To provide perspective, Ingram said respiratory death claims (in which COVID-19 is categorised) formed the third highest number of claims in 2020, representing 19% of their 2020 death claims. However, the top two reasons for death claims at Momentum Life Insurance in 2020 remained Cardiovascular Disease at 28% followed by Cancer with 25% of claims.
Although only representing 19% of total death claims, respiratory complications had seen a dramatic increase of 145% from the previous year. “This increase is directly linked to COVID-19,” said Ingram. “Another interesting trend that was observed during 2020, was the fact that high value death claims of R10 million or more, almost doubled from the year before. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, death happens to everyone and can happen at any time.”
Ingram said Momentum has seen an obvious increase in the number of death claims in this period, with the majority of COVID-19 related death claim payouts made to clients older than 60 years of age. “Although most of those clients who passed away were old enough to retire, we cannot ignore the fact that our youngest client to pass away from COVID-19 was only 31 years old. The virus does not discriminate. However, based on evidence from our claims experience relating to clients in the healthcare profession, it is clear that a vaccination is our best solution to the COVID-19 problem.”
In terms of the largest COVID-19 death claim paid out by Momentum Life Insurance in 2020, an amount of R70 million was paid. The client, who was otherwise healthy and in his 60s, contracted the virus 18 days after his policy started, and sadly passed away a month later. “Thanks to the life cover he had in place, his family and business was financially secure after he passed away,” said Ingram.
Regarding the geographic spread, Ingram said the provincial split may be unsurprising to most with Gauteng at 41%, KwaZulu-Natal at 10% followed by the Western Cape with 10% of claims.
Ingram said, “As we battle the impact of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics clearly indicate that the fear of contracting the virus prevents many people from consulting with their doctors or specialists regarding treatment for the most prevalent chronic diseases in the country, which our statistics reveal as cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.”
She adds that, “This trend was also highlighted by The Hospital Association of South Africa, which mostly represents private hospitals. On a global scale, the number of new oncology patient registrations has decreased by 50% year-on-year during periods of severe COVID-19 increases in countries with established oncology care programmes. In all likelihood, this will result in an unusual increase in the number of claims for critical illnesses going forward.”
From an income protection point of view, from March 2020 until July 2021, Momentum Life Insurance has paid 902 COVID-19 related income protection claim payouts to a total value of more than R20 million.
Although medical professionals made up the bulk of income protection claims in the first wave of the infections, this number showed a steady and remarkable decrease as the country moved through the second wave and into the third. This number went from 60% in the first wave, to 48% in the second wave to 34% in the third wave (thus far). “I am confident that this has predominantly been driven by the fact that our healthcare workers were receiving COVID-19 vaccinations as part of the Sisonke trial,” said Ingram.
She said one thing remains certain in these times, “Getting vaccinated is the best thing any South African can do to protect their families, themselves, and our nation’s economy. Our claims experience proves first-hand that the vaccines work. Every jab enables the continuation of our journeys to success. Every push of the syringe enables life.”
Ingram encouraged all South Africans to get vaccinated by registering on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) and make a booking at momentum.co.za to book a spot at one of Momentum’s vaccination centres. “We need to get back to living our lives and enjoying all the things that bring us closer to our families and make our country stronger.”