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INSURANCE

Covid ghosts continue to haunt Liberty claims even as deaths decrease

Covid ghosts continue to haunt Liberty claims even as deaths decrease
(Image: iStock | Liberty logo)

Although Liberty saw a 31% decrease in claims paid out last year compared with the previous year, the insurer still paid out an average of R26.95m per working day in 2022.

The total R6.98-billion in claims included life cover, retrenchment cover and education policies that cover the cost of children’s education up to and including tertiary education when a parent dies. 

Liberty says the 31% decrease in total payouts can largely be attributed to the reduction in claims as the Covid pandemic petered out.   

While deaths may have declined, the health impact of the pandemic continues to be felt, with suicide claims accounting for half of the mental health claims in 2022, followed by depression and anxiety at 16%.  

Liberty says suicides did fall compared with 2021, but there has been an increase in the proportion of income protection claims related to mental illness. In these cases, people have claimed income protection on the grounds that they were unable to work for a short period due to mental illness problems.

Claims related to deaths decreased by R3.14-billion, highlighting the severity of the pandemic during 2021. There were only 191 Covid-related claims identified in 2022, compared with 1,058 in 2021. 

However, David Jewell, executive for retail solutions at Liberty, cautions that despite the signals that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, secondary effects of the pandemic have emerged in the form of chronic illnesses.

Cancer continued to be the leading cause of claims for both men and women, constituting 28.8% of claims, followed by heart diseases and disorders at 22.4%, respiratory disorders at 11.9%, strokes at 6.5%, and renal disorders at 5.9%.

Breast cancer accounted for 49% of cancer-related claims in women, while prostate cancer accounted for 31.5% of cancer-related claims in men.

Liberty’s claim stats mirror previous findings by the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa, showing that women are more likely to be underinsured than men for both death and disability events.

In terms of gender, 68% of claims for death, disability and critical illness were from men.

Kedibone Chuene, chief specialist of risk product marketing at Liberty, says this is a function of a historic gender skew towards men being breadwinners and financial decision-makers in the household, but also highlights the current insurance gap for females, particularly at older ages.

“Our claim numbers reflect a more balanced ratio of females-to-males at younger ages. Societal shifts towards females becoming breadwinners and the heads of single-parent households mean the need for cover in women is always increasing.  

“Claims paid to men above 65 years old were particularly high,” she says. BM/DM

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