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Covid-19 death claims top those for all other causes combined: Discovery

28 October 2021 - 16:05
Covid-19 has overtaken cancer as well as heart and artery claims, which in previous years were the main causes of death. Stock photo.
Covid-19 has overtaken cancer as well as heart and artery claims, which in previous years were the main causes of death. Stock photo.
Image: Lightbox

In the first eight months of this year, Covid-19 accounted for 57% of Discovery Life’s death claims — almost 50% more than all other causes of death combined.

The insurer revealed this startling statistic with the release of its 2020 claims analysis report this week.

“If we inspect the highest claims category per year for the past 10 years, we find that Covid-19 has emerged as the leading cause of death — overtaking cancer as well as heart and artery claims, which in previous years were the main causes of death,” said Discovery Life CEO Riaan van Reenen.

In the previous nine years, heart and artery diseases accounted for an average of 27% of death claims lodged with the insurer each year.

“A tragic second and third wave of Covid-19, driven mainly by the Beta variant followed by the highly transmissible Delta variant, as well as the long-term health effect of long Covid-19, have driven a higher-than-usual claims experience attributed to the pandemic,” Van Reenen said.

“Though Covid-19 affected claims in 2020 materially, the effect of the second and third waves primarily affected the 2021 claims experience.”

The insurer had paid almost R3bn to clients in Covid-19 related claims by the end of June this year, with its highest-ever claims amount, in a single month, being during January 2021.

“Based on our projections, we expect a total of R6.2bn in Covid-19 related claims to be paid out between individual and group risk insurance policies by June 2022,” Van Reenen said.

And there is no end in sight.

“Covid-19 is likely to become an endemic disease in the near future with a continued effect on society in the years to come.”

Income-protection claims accounted for more than half the number of Discovery Life’s Covid-19 related claims.

While death claims have a much larger payout, since the start of the pandemic the insurer has paid out about R38m in income-protection claims.

Healthcare professionals have claimed more than any other occupation, accounting for a huge 74% of claims in 2020. But with the rollout of the vaccine, that figure has dropped to 53% so far in 2021.

Discovery Life chief medical officer Dr Maritha van der Walt said emerging data points to the fact that a healthy lifestyle can reduce an individual’s risk of severe complications from Covid-19.

“Our data and analysis show that in 2020, clients on Gold and Diamond status had 73% lower mortality rates than clients without Vitality and those on a Blue status,” she said.

Eight out of 10 of Discovery Life’s clients older than 60 have been vaccinated, with 71% of all clients having received at least one vaccine.

From the end of July this year, those who signed up for life insurance with Discovery Life benefited from lower premiums if they’d been vaccinated against Covid-19. Those who refuse to get vaccinated “may, unfortunately”, be subject to higher premiums because of the increased risk, Van Reenen said at the time.

“Refusal to be vaccinated is treated similarly to smoking or lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, which receive a higher premium. This premium will be adjusted should an unvaccinated client later decide to get vaccinated.”

Existing clients’ risk and premium will not be affected by their vaccination status.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer