AM Best expects the claims impact from the coronavirus outbreak to be manageable for Southeast Asia-based insurance companies over the near term; however, a persisting slowdown of business activity and reduced regional economic growth could pressure insurers, according to an AM Best report.
A new Best’s Commentary, titled, "Southeast Asian Insurers Face Uncertainty in Wider Economic Fallout From Coronavirus Outbreak," states that AM Best expects the potential direct impacts to insurers to include medical, personal accident, mortality, travel and business interruption claims. The low number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, epidemic policy exclusions and governments’ undertaking of diagnosis and treatment costs are some of the factors likely to limit the potential loss outcome for the insurance industry.
However, the future effect of COVID-19-related claims on Southeast Asia insurers’ remains closely linked to and largely dependent on the spread of the virus in this region over the coming months. Furthermore, it is already clear that the general economic impact and resulting slowdown of business activity in the region, will likely be unfavorable for insurers’ investment activities, revenue generation and day-to-day operations over the near term.
Notwithstanding this, a number of larger non-life insurance companies, which operate in coronavirus-affected markets–including Singapore and Malaysia, have made announcements regarding the coverage of COVID-19 claims and in some cases, enhanced the benefits for those diagnosed with the coronavirus, even for policies with exclusions for "wide spread diseases" and "virus outbreaks." The announced benefits included hospital cash; lump-sum payments if diagnosed (essentially treating COVID-19 as a critical illness); waiver of waiting periods for new policies; faster claim payments and a general relaxation of the rules around claim submissions. Policies amended with such benefits were typically effective from January 2020 through to the end of April 2020.
There have also been a number of life insurance companies, which have announced new coronavirus-related benefits, such as cash payment on diagnosis, hospital cash and a premium payment extension period for those diagnosed–for both new and existing life insurance customers. Such a move provides support to policyholders and helps to protect the company from mortality claims by encouraging policyholders to seek timely treatment. The new coronavirus coverage benefits are likely to serve as an incentive for prospective customers.
The reinsurance industry is also carefully looking at the spread of COVID-19 and related insurance claims in order to determine its potential exposure. Many life insurers in Asia do not have reinsurance protection for extreme mortality, such as epidemics, while health reinsurance contracts are mostly purchased on a proportional basis and local insurers often have relatively low retention limits. As a result, should there be an increase in health insurance claims, reinsurers are likely to pick up a share of the losses.
To access the full copy of this commentary please visit http://www3.ambest.com/bestweek/purchase.asp?record_code=294583.
AM Best is a global credit rating agency, news publisher and data analytics provider specializing in the insurance industry. Headquartered in the United States, the company does business in over 100 countries with regional offices in New York, London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico City. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.
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