Coronavirus, life insurance and Critical Illness cover: what will and won’t pay out?
Published on April 9, 2020 by Blackstone
With more than two million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and fears that up 80% of the UK population will fall ill as a result of the global pandemic, many people are looking to their insurance providers to clarify what will and won’t be covered.
If you have not received any clarification from your insurer, then here are a few facts that may help you understand your current position.
What does life insurance cover?
Whilst there are many different types of life insurance, strictly speaking, they should all do one important job – pay out if you die during the term of the policy. This relies on you having kept up to date with your premiums, answered all the application questions honestly, and, if you have a term life insurance policy, that you are within the covered period.
All life insurance policies will contain some special circumstances under which they will not pay. These, however, will vary from policy to policy. To be sure exactly which exemptions apply to your policy, you must take a detailed read through your policy documents or contact your provider for clarification. Some, for example, will not pay out if you are deemed culpable for your own death in some way.
However, the life insurance companies who have so far issued statements have all made it clear that they will be honouring all policies where death occurs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What do the life insurance companies say about coronavirus?
In common with other major insurance providers, Zurich say that if a customer holding a Zurich life insurance policy dies of coronavirus, they will pay out following their “normal claims process and assessment”.
Aviva are also clear they will be paying out.
“With the news that Covid-19, more commonly known as coronavirus, is spreading across the UK we want to give you clarification around our claims and underwriting position.
“We’re continuing to pay all valid claims and committed to giving you access to valuable protection insurance. We remain a market-leading protection insurer for claim paid amounts.”
Vitality state that “Covid-19 or any other infectious disease which results in the plan holder dying, will be covered.”
While some insurers have not yet issued any statement regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, those who have make it clear that there is no pandemic or epidemic exclusion for life insurance.
This means if you have a current life insurance policy and you have continued to pay your premiums, your beneficiaries should receive a payout if you die from Covid-19 or related complications.
What about Critical Illness cover?
When it comes to Critical Illness cover, however, things become a bit less straightforward.
Generally, insurers have been saying that they will not pay out on Critical Illness cover as a result of coronavirus because it is not a specified illness under the terms of their policy.
They also state that most people who contract it go on to make a full recovery which is, thankfully, true. However, around 5% of those infected face critical illness as a result of contracting the virus, including respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ failure.
Additionally, medical professionals are now saying that some of those who are infected with Covid-19 and who do not die from it, do suffer from what are most likely to be lasting lung conditions. Under these circumstances, you may be able to make a claim, but this will depend on the exact wording of your policy.
Zurich, in answer to enquiries on this question, have stated that:
“Coronavirus is not a specified ‘Critical Illness’ on Zurich’s policy.
“Under our ‘Respiratory Failure – Of Specified Severity’ definition, it is possible a claim might be presented but the opinion of our Claims and Medical Officer is that the coronavirus is unlikely to produce the permanent symptoms or impairment to lung function required to meet this definition.
“We will consider any such claims presented on the basis of the individual circumstances.”
In response to enquiries from members of the public who are understandably confused and worried, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have attempted to bring some clarity.
Their advice is that customers should expect insurers to treat any claim for coronavirus in the same way they would treat other claims for Critical Illness cover. They also advise customers to note that Critical Illness cover is only paid out where it falls under the specific set of criteria laid down in the ABI Guide to Minimum Standards for Critical Illness Cover[CC1] .
All Critical Illness policies are required under these minimum requirements to cover heart attack, stroke and cancer, but beyond that, policies can and do vary. It may be that one policy covers for coma, respiratory failure and kidney failure – which may come about in the most serious Covid-19 cases – while others will not.
In other words, the only way to be sure what your Critical Illness policy will cover you or your loved ones for is to read your policy terms and conditions. It may be that while coronavirus infection itself is not a covered condition on any Critical Illness policy, the complications that can arise from it, are.
Contacting your insurer
If you have any further questions about your policy cover, then you should in the first instance consult your insurer. Be warned, however, that their phone lines may be very busy at the moment, so it may be better to check their website for information. Most providers have updated their websites to include answers to specific questions about Covid-19 for worried customers.
The ABI provides some reassurance that while this is a particularly difficult time for claimants and insurers alike, they are doing everything in their power to keep their operations running as efficiently as possible and to offer clear and up-to-date information to their customers.
If you have any questions about the life or Critical Illness cover you have in place, please get in touch with us.
Please note: All details are correct as of 24th March 2020 and are taken from each insurance company’s website.