FIFI PETERS: There has been quite a lot of talk recently about whether the Covid-19 vaccine should be mandatory. Discovery has indicated that unvaccinated members will be rated as a higher risk, akin to smokers, which could increase the cost of their premiums.
To discuss the impact of the Covid-19 vaccine on life cover, we’re joined by Graham Thomas, divisional executive for risk product development at Liberty Corporate. Graham, thanks so much for your time. Will there be a different treatment under Liberty for those who are vaccinated as opposed to those who are not? This relates specifically to the cost of the cover.
GRAHAM THOMAS: Good evening, Fifi, and thanks for the opportunity. From our side, bearing in mind that on the Liberty Corporate side currently we’re providing benefits to retirement funds and employers, often it’s been very difficult to understand whether their staff or employees have been vaccinated or not.
So at this stage we’re not approaching that with pricing differentials or a difference in the approach to underwriting, particularly given how few of the population have been vaccinated. As you know, only in the last week a large part of the working population between the age of 18 and 35 have even been given the opportunity to get vaccinated.
FIFI PETERS: Surely there should be a difference, given the argument that vaccines reduce your risk of illness and even fatality? One could argue that there is a case to be made that individuals who are vaccinated or companies that have quite a lot of their staff being vaccinated should actually pay less because they are ‘less risky’.
GRAHAM THOMAS: Yes, absolutely. And I think it’s quite possible that we’ll get to that. We just think, particularly in the current environment where about 7% of the population has been vaccinated, to be saying we’re going to load everybody up now and start reducing as you get vaccinated is not quite fair on those who haven’t had the opportunity to get vaccinated.
As you know, the government’s deadline is to get a large part of the population vaccinated by the end of the year, so it’s quite possible that as the numbers start evolving and we understand where the kind of post-initial waves’ experience is settling down, we could start doing that and saying, well, either we might limit your cover or charge you more. But we haven’t made that call yet. We think there’s just still so much uncertainty around how many people will get vaccinated and then what impact it is ultimately having. But it’s quite possible we will get to that. We haven’t made that decision yet.
FIFI PETERS: You make an interesting point, especially regarding who has been able to access the vaccine up to this point. I think we’re now at the point whereby all adults can register and can go and get the jab. A catch-up conversation I suppose, wouldn’t be a bad idea towards the end of the year should you change.
But at this moment what would you like your members to be aware of in terms of what does change when it comes to life cover?
GRAHAM THOMAS: I think for us the most critical thing we want to make sure people understand is that particularly as you keep hearing (talk) around fake news, and some of the stories that have been going around are kind of fake-news articles with people saying, “If you’ve had the vaccine it’s experimental and the insurer is going to invalidate your cover,” for us it’s very concerning that stories like than are out there, because it’s not true at all.
So for us it’s important to understand that if you have the vaccine and you do develop any complications, you are still insured in terms of your policy with us. And if you don’t have the vaccine and you do develop Covid or any other complications, in terms of the policy conditions and the benefits report with us. you still do have your cover.
I think it’s really important for the man in the street and the person with cover to understand the insurers are not walking away from you at this particular time. So whether you choose to have the vaccine or not, you are still insured in terms of the policy and the benefits you’ve bought, and you shouldn’t be saying, well, “I’m not going to have the vaccine because the insurer might then turn around and say, ‘You’ve had arguably this experimental treatment and so you are not insured.’ That is completely and categorically untrue. We don’t want people to be believing that.
FIFI PETERS: I wasn’t even aware that news of that nature was making the rounds, Graham. But is there anything else that the listeners should be mindful of in this process, particularly when it relates to the payment of claims?
GRAHAM THOMAS: I think no. The reality is we’re one of the many big insurers that have, as you’ve known if you’ve looked at any of the financial results that have been published in the last few weeks and the trading updates by some of the big insurers who’ve put aside big provisions to pay Covid claims. So we’re going to be around to pay them.
All insurers have made sure we’ve got the capacity to pay those claims, so there shouldn’t be real delays in getting claims paid. There shouldn’t be issues with getting your claims paid. If they’re valid and they meet the conditions, the claims will be paid. The insurers have the funds, the reserves and the capacity to be able to pay those claims.
FIFI PETERS: That is good to know, Graham. Thanks so much for joining the SAfm market update and also just clarifying and debunking the fake news that’s going around regarding the payment process.
That was Graeme Thomas, divisional executive for risk product development at Liberty Corporate.