Buying life insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buying life insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In countries like the US and Thailand, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a rush of ‘panic buying’ for Life Insurance, and even here in Australia we are seeing an increase in policies (mainly in the direct market) as consumers rush to protect themselves and their families.

But is Life Insurance a good ‘panic buy’ and how has the application process changed?

Fools rush in.

The short answer is ‘no’. It’s not something you should buy on a whim for a number of reasons. The products are complex and small details can have massive ramifications in terms of outcomes. It’s also a purchase that often involves a lot of conversations with partners, loved ones, and even those outside the family. Life insurance involves making decisions about how you want to live, and die, and these are not the kinds of decisions you want to rush through. We always recommend speaking to a financial Adviser (see https://fpa.com.au/, https://www.afa.asn.au/ or https://www.adviserratings.com.au/).

Applying for insurance – what has changed?

With social distancing here to stay for the foreseeable future, the normal process to getting life insurance has changed for many people. Everything from being able to meet face-to-face to getting medical exams are a little more challenging now. But what’s important to know is that life insurance companies are taking new clients, including those on the front-line and even if you have the potential to be exposed to COVID-19 through travel or your job.

  1. You may not need a medical exam. Actually, many applications depending on the type of cover and your personal circumstance have never needed any medical examinations or ‘physicals’. If you do need an examination, our providers have safeguards in place to manage infection (and always have had) and we consider the risk is no greater than any other personal care you might need in these times – like getting your hair cut. In many cases where we may need medical data we’re looking at existing medical records, prescriptions and other data points to get you covered.
  2. Collaborative conference applications. Where normally a Financial Adviser may sit with you in person at their office or your home, many are now using video conferencing to kick off the application process. There are some insurers (like us) who have designed in the ability to ask the health questions we need in the application process, that is online on a sharable screen so that client and Adviser can complete the process together via video-conferencing for a much more collaborative and engaging process. 
  3. You may be asked new questions. For example, have you recently been on a cruise, or been in contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19 – many underwriters like Integrity who use a digital process, where you are only asked further questions relevant to your initial answers have not yet needed to ask questions this specific.
  4. You won’t need to fill in any paperwork. If you don’t have a printer, or feel like going to the post-office, or are inclined to complete pages and pages of questions – you may be able to take advantage of ‘smart forms’ that are 100% online and only ask the questions that are relevant to you – based on your previous responses. It saves considerable time completing applications and no painful paperwork.

Life insurance is now firmly on many people’s radar where previously it was the kind of thing that was put off until ‘later’. Make sure though when you are considering a policy to understand the process and that you’re generally not comparing apples with apples.

Scott Hodgson

Scott Hodgson

Chief Underwriter

Supporting clients, customers and community during COVID-19.

Supporting clients, customers and community during COVID-19.

It’s been heartening to see how Australians everywhere have come together to help flatten the curve and support each other during these unprecedented times. Whether it’s through physical distancing, local manufacturers turning their trade to producing essentials (like hand-sanitizer) or just supporting positive mental health with a bit of fun, we’re all doing out bit to ensure we get through this together. We’re no different. We have made a number of significant changes to how we do business in order to support Adviser and Broker clients, our customers and communities. Here are just some of those initiatives.

Adapting our claims process.

Our role is to be there when people need us most, and there is no time when you will need help more than at claim time. To guide our systems and processes we have a simple and straight forward claims philosophy. We treat all people who lodge a claim the way we would want to be treated if we were in their place. Integrity isn’t just our name, it’s also the way we do business.

We’ve eliminated claim forms for almost all claims and replaced them with a tele-claim process that allows us to collect the information we need for a claim quickly and with less follow ups for additional information. We’ve even extended this to generating fully personalised treating physician questionnaires so that busy Doctors can provide information on a claim without having to wade through pages of questions.

We’re also continuing to pay ongoing benefits even if medical information is temporarily unavailable from hospitals and medical centres. This ensures your clients keep getting paid without putting any additional pressure on medical professionals during this time.  

Financial hardship.

We have invoked our financial hardship policy for anyone who has lost a job as a result of COVID-19 or who has had a significant reduction in hours/pay. Not only have we introduced premium waivers, but we’re also allowing suspension of cover for 6 months or 1 year, depending how long the policy has been in-force.  

Ongoing support for our frontline.

As we have always done, we’re continuing to support Australia’s frontline workers by maintaining our standard application rules. This means no loadings or exclusions for frontline workers and we have expanded the definition of ‘frontline’ to include many additional essential jobs like Pharmacist, Police Officer and Aged Care worker.

Supporting Advisers and their clients through technology.

Our Award-Winning Adviser portal was built to accommodate both remote working for Advisers and remote applications for clients. We have a number of features that support this like; an adaptive portal that can be accessed on any device from anywhere with an internet connection, our “Send App to Client” feature which allows Advisers to get clients to complete their background and medical information via a secure link in the privacy of their own home (eliminating the need for tele-interviews or paper forms), and we have a raft of features that save Advisers time – like virtual underwriting.

Supporting our people.

Our entire company was able to transfer seamlessly to ‘working from home’ within 24 hours and we continue to comply with all physical distancing rules with minimal impact to underwriting, applications or processing of claims. We’ve been fortunate as a new operation to be able to leverage the same technology that big tech companies like Google and Facebook use. This means all our people can access everything they need to support your clients and our customers remotely. We’re ensuring they’re able to be here for the long-haul too with a number of programs to support and sustain positive mental and physical health.  

If you would like more information on any of these initiatives, feel free to get in contact with us

Lesley Mamelok

Lesley Mamelok

Chief Executive Officer

April 1 changes to Integrity’s retail products summarised.

April 1 changes to Integrity’s retail products summarised.

In line with the removal of Agreed Value from our Income Insurance product, we also wanted to take the opportunity to make some other changes based on your feedback. Please find below a summary of these changes.

Income Insurance.

  • Removal of Agreed Value – this change aligns Income Insurance to the sustainability measures announced by APRA in early December 2019. Although no longer on sale, any Agreed Value cover will be guaranteed renewable and can be updated at any time in the future (subject to a few conditions).
  • Addition of a new Waiting Period: 1 Year – This change aligns the Waiting Period on Retail with the Five+ Benefit Period providing advisers and their clients complimentary product offerings. We now have 30, 60 90 days, 1 and 2 year waiting periods across all Income Insurance.

TPD.

  • Increase to maximum Cover Amount to $5m – this is in response to direct adviser feedback. You asked for it, we delivered! TPD cover amounts are min $50k – max $5m
  • Aligning definitions to make things easier to understand – the definition of ‘Activities of Daily Living’ now includes the addition of a 6th limb ‘using the shower or bath to bathe’. Now our ADL definition is the same across Retail and Group.

Care Support Package.

  • We have increased the timeframe for submission of reimbursements – where previously this was 30 days we are now allowing claimants more time to lodge their claim and have extended this to 90 days.

Policies owned by Diversa via Integrity’s Here for You Super Plan.

  • Introduction of ability to pay premiums on a monthly basis in the form of direct debit – we have introduced the ability to pay premiums on a monthly basis in the form of direct debit. This change is in response to adviser feedback and will allow members of the Super Plan to make monthly contributions to pay their premiums. 

The final note.

Pssst…and just so you know… we have also extended our 8% Lifetime Discount offer to 30 April 2020 to give you a bit more time to take up this great offer.

 

William Rogers

William Rogers

Head of Retail Product

Your questions answered on COVID-19.

Your questions answered on COVID-19.

As we navigate unprecedented events, we want you to know we’ve got your back. We have a number of ways we’re ensuring the least interruption to our normal operations or any reduction in service levels. We’ve had a few questions about COVID-19 with regards to your clients’ Policies and our operational capability, so we wanted to provide you with the details.

Is Integrity open for business?

Yes, and we will remain so! As a cloud-based Insurer, the tools we need to serve you and operate our business are accessible to us from any secure location. Our Claims Assessors, Underwriters and Customer Care teams also operate using cloud-based technology, so whether they’re in the office or working from home – our service and delivery to you and your clients will not be impacted by remote working.

What about new business? Can people still apply for insurance during the pandemic?

Yes, Integrity’s underwriting and new business processes are operating as normal and we’re taking new applications every day! You will notice that there are some additional questions related to potential exposure to COVID-19. Integrity is a signatory to the FSC COVID-19 initiative to support frontline healthcare workers, so there are levels of cover available to customers working in those roles – these questions are to ensure we accurately assess applicants in relation to our current customers.

Are there any restrictions on cover due to Coronavirus?

Integrity does not have any blanket exclusions specific to pandemics or the current Coronavirus and just as we assess any health issue according to the risk it presents, we’re assessing COVID-19 in the same way. Clients will be asked questions related to potential exposure to COVID-19 as well as other health history as is normal when applying for life insurance. They will need to comply with their normal duty to disclose any existing illness when they apply. As a signatory to the FSC COVID-19 initiative to support frontline healthcare workers, we’re committed to ensuring healthcare workers who are keeping Australia safe have access to insurance. 

What about medical screening for underwriting?

We know that medical facilities are operating at capacity so we’re doing everything we can to reduce the burden. This means that in many cases we’re taking advantage of existing medical documentation rather than requesting any new medical screenings or test. It should be noted that our current rate of tests required for underwriting is less than 5% (as at August 2020).

While we do expect there to be some delays in receiving medical information from medical centres due to their increased workload, we are communicating frequently with all our partners to ensure any delays are known and accounted for so you can communicate this to your clients.

What about financial hardship?

We have a Financial Hardship policy that we are invoking for any client who has reduced capacity to pay based on the current situation. All you need to do is get in contact with us and we can support financial hardship in a number of ways including waiving premium or suspending cover. You can download the policy here

Does Integrity have the funds to pay a large number of claims?

As a APRA regulated Life Insurer we have met all of APRA’s current and previous capital requirements. Additionally, we are reinsured which means that we spread all our risk with another insurer.

How will COVID-19 affect my client’s ability to claim on their policy?

Integrity Cover does not have any blanket exclusions for any issues or health concerns related to COVID-19 or any other pandemic. Any Claim we receive, including one where the cause of death is Coronavirus (COVID-19) – will be assessed under our Claims guidelines.

What happens if an insured client with Income Protection cover gets sick from COVID-19 and is unable to work?

Where an insured person is disabled and unable to perform their usual occupation due to a sickness, injury or illness for a period longer than the waiting period set out on their Integrity policy schedule, it is likely they will qualify for an income protection benefit. All income protection claims will be assessed under our claims guidelines.

Can an insured person claim if they are prevented from attending work due to company or government restrictions.

In order to receive an income protection benefit an insured must meet the definition of disability as defined in their Integrity policy. This requires that a person be suffering from an injury or illness. Restrictions on attending a workplace based on company or government advice would not satisfy the definition of disability and would not lead to a benefit payment.

What about an insured person who is already on claim who may have trouble accessing their normal treating doctor?

As there is additional strain on medical services presently, we have implemented a number of measures to support clients.

  • For any insured people who are already on claim, we’re using alternate methods of information collection and may continue to pay Income Insurance benefits for a period even if medical evidence is delayed.
  • We’re working with a variety of practitioners who are able to support clients via video conferencing or telehealth.
  • We have also hired additional permanent staff at Integrity to ensure our team have the time and space to work with our clients to find alternative ways we can support them.
  • Finally, we’re scoping additional support in areas like Mental Health which is an area of growing concern and demand.

We would encourage anyone suffering from a health condition that could be made worse by exposure to COVID-19 to contact us to discuss our ongoing information requirements as we do not want to expose anyone to increased risk by attending hospitals or medical centres.

What about needing to lodge a new claim?

Please contact us if you need to lodge a claim.  We will conduct an assessment over the phone and consider how best to gather the required medical information without exposing the insured to unnecessary risk or placing additional burden on medical service providers.

I still have more questions, what do I do? 

If you have any further questions on this, please get in contact with us any way you choose, or contact your BDM. 

 

Integrity Life

Integrity Life

From the newsroom

Integrity operations and COVID-19.

Integrity operations and COVID-19.

As we navigate unprecedented events, we want you to know we’ve got your back. We have a number of ways we’re ensuring there is no interruption to our normal operations and no reduction in service. We’ve had a few questions about COVID-19 with regards to your clients’ Policies and our operational capability, so we wanted to provide you with the details.

Are my clients covered in relation to COVID-19?

Integrity Policies do not exclude issues or health concerns related to COVID-19 or any other pandemic. Any Claim we receive, including one where the cause of death is Coronavirus (COVID-19) – will be assessed under our Claims guidelines.

Existing and new Policies will be treated equally – there will be no difference in service or offering.

Claims for an Income Insurance benefit will be paid if the insured is unable to work due to sickness for a period longer than the waiting period.

 

Will customer service, claims, or processes be impacted by COVID-19?

The short answer is no. As a cloud-based Insurer, the tools we need to serve you and operate our business are accessible to us from any secure location. Our Claims Assessors, Underwriters and Customer Care teams also operate using cloud-based technology, so whether they’re in the office or working from home – our service and delivery to you and your clients will be unchanged.

You can also continue to work with us whether you’re in the office or another location. Our Adviser Portal is available 24/7 so you can continue to create quotes and submit applications – anytime on any device, or contact our teams any way you choose.

 

We’re here to help now, and into the future.

Rest assured we’ll remain vigilant to protect the wellbeing of our team so we will be here to support you now, and into the future.

If you have any further questions on this, please get in contact with us any way you choose, or contact your BDM. 

 

Suzie Brown

Suzie Brown

General Manager Distribution

Ever wish that life insurance products worked better in practice? Us too!

Human centered product design. A new approach.

Human centered product design. A new approach.

It’s not every day you get the chance to rethink an entire suite of Life Insurance products from the ground up. When Will Rogers (our Head of Retail Products) got the chance, he jumped at it. The guiding principles were to create a ‘best-of-breed’ product but with some tweaks that elevate cover with integrity beyond just ‘cutting a cheque’ at claims time.

We sat down with Will to chat about how our Retail products support people financially, physically and mentally – when they need help most.

Thanks for your time Will, first we would like to know a bit about where you focused on improving the customer experience through product design?

My main driver was striving for simplification. For a long time, life insurance products have been extremely complex and hard to understand and in doing this we have created distrust in how we operate and what you may or may not be covered for. Simplification means an easier job for Advisers in explaining products and more comfort for clients in knowing what they’ve got and how they’re protected. Simplification doesn’t mean we took everything out, but we did rationalise everything in our policies to ensure they stood up to clients’ need’s, but we also just made our products easier to digest and used more accessible language throughout our documentation.

Another key focus for us was  our benefits and not overloading products with too many options and features (and thus complexity). The great thing about creating modern products was access to data and the wealth of experience of our team which allowed us to stick with benefits we know provide value to clients and avoid features that might sound great but never get claimed.

One of the most thoughtful features (we’re proud of) is the Terminal Illness Care Benefit, can you talk a bit about that and how it works?

The Terminal Illness Care benefit sits within our market-leading Care Support Package. Our Care Support Package contains a bundle of ancillary benefits which are traditionally found within core life insurance covers. Part of our initial simplification was to pull these ancillary benefits out of the core covers and bring prominence to them for customers.

We also saw the need to build a new type of ancillary benefit, which caters for those customers who are terminally ill and want to die with dignity at home. That’s where our Terminal Illness care benefit comes in. It allows the customer, who’s in their last 30 days, to obtain a benefit where they can choose how to spend it. They may put the benefit to accommodation, medical or other expenses that they are likely to incur during this time.

When designing this feature, we didn’t just pull from our underwriting and industry experience, this was one where personal experience of many of the people who work here was able to inform our approach.

What are some other examples of product features and how they work in real-life?

We know that sometimes when you’re recovering or getting back on your feet, there may be times that there’s a relapse of the condition that you initially suffered. Within our Income Insurance cover, we have an inbuilt feature which restarts an Income Insurance claim if there’s a relapse of the same condition up to 12 months after we stop paying a claim.

When people suffer a critical illness, such as a heart attack or are diagnosed with cancer, unfortunately there’s a strong likelihood that there’ll be a re-occurrence or relapse of the same or a related condition. To ensure our customers are protected when this occurs, we offer the ‘Critical Illness Relapse option’, which is a costed option within our Critical Illness cover. If someone’s cancer spreads to another organ or they suffer another heart attack or even need bypass surgery, the Critical Illness Relapse option will support them at this time.

In everything we do, we start with the principle we were founded on, how can we be there for people when they need it most. 

William Rogers

William Rogers

Head of Retail Product

Learn more about our innovative products designed for today’s customer needs.