Discovery will give adult members of its Vitality behaviour change platform 2 500 points for being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 this year. The points will be awarded before the end of the year and members will receive further details next month. The move follows the announcement by Discovery Group CEO Adrian Gore last week that mandates vaccination for all employees by January.
Discovery Vitality CEO Dinesh Govender says: “Given that vaccination is our best hope of beating the pandemic and restoring our national vitality and way of life, we need to encourage vaccination at scale.
“There is overwhelming proof that vaccination is the single most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and others against Covid-19. The pandemic has been deadly and a fourth wave is likely, yet the ability to suppress it remains within our control.”
“Based on our actuarial projections, over 30 000 lives could be saved if we are able to vaccinate the majority of our population over the coming months,” says Govender.
“The data reflects the power of vaccination to save lives and reduce our healthcare burden: vaccination reduces infection and transmission risk by 50% to 80%, reduces hospitalisation risk by 60% to 90%, and reduces risk of death by over 90%.
“In fact, while your [unvaccinated] risk of death from Covid-19 is eight to 10 times higher than death from flu, once vaccinated, your risk of death from Covid-19 is lower than from flu.”
Discovery says this Vitality points allocation further reflects Discovery’s commitment to getting all South Africans vaccinated.
Points allocated automatically
The 2 500 points are (obviously) higher than the incentive for getting an annual flu vaccination (1 000 points) and are comparable to the points awarded for other health checks based on age and gender, including a pap smear, mammogram, colonoscopy or glaucoma screening.
“If members have already been vaccinated, there is nothing more they need to do – points will be automatically allocated before the end of the year,” says Govender.
He adds that the allocation of Vitality points – used to incentivise members towards positive behaviour change – is in line with Discovery’s shared-value business model.
Discovery is the first insurer to have offered an incentive for fully vaccinated life insurance clients.
It announced in July that being vaccinated against Covid-19 is “now an additional consideration in determining life insurance premiums and benefits for new clients”.
Discovery says “clients with new policies who indicate that they are unwilling to be vaccinated may, unfortunately, be subject to higher premiums due to the increased risk”.
“Refusal to be vaccinated is treated similarly to smoking or lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, which receive a higher premium. This premium may be adjusted should an unvaccinated client later decide to get vaccinated.”
By law, medical aid schemes cannot discriminate against members who are not vaccinated.
So-called risk profiling is not allowed by South African medical aid schemes. The only factors in determining contributions are the number of dependents to be covered or income (Discovery has lower-end KeyCare plans which have strict income limits).
This is why Discovery designed its Vitality programme to begin with. This is the only way it is able to incentivise clients through providing discounts, cashback – or both – on spend with its partners.
None of the other large life insurers, including Old Mutual, Liberty or Momentum, have announced any plans yet to change their rules for unvaccinated policyholders.
Sanlam announced yesterday it will implement “fair and appropriate increases in annually renewable group risk premiums” (some of these are already in place).
It added that it will “implement underwriting changes in the latter part of 2021, by following a risk-based approach that takes vaccination status into account for certain product lines for those clients with particular risk profiles”.
Simply put, life insurance clients who are not yet vaccinated will pay more.