Health risks propel interest in insurance
I was so scared. I didn’t expect such a major infectious disease to
be so close to us. I was thinking about how to weather a similar crisis
in the future without suffering financially.Yan Zhou, 36, a nurse in Hubei Province, said she considered private health insurance for the first time for her family, especially for her retired parents.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has been a wake-up call for people to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” That sentiment is positive for the insurance sector.
Yan Zhou, a 36-year-old nurse in Hubei Province, said she never dreamed she would find herself caring for coronavirus patients in isolation wards, which prevented her from going home for a month.
When she herself came down with a fever, her anxiety heightened.
“I was so scared,” she said. “I didn’t expect such a major infectious disease to be so close to us.”
Yan said she considered private health insurance for the first time for her family, especially for her retired parents.
“I was thinking about how to weather a similar crisis in the future without suffering financially,” she explained.
In February, she applied for accident insurance coverage with Ping An Health Insurance Co. The plan was free for front-line medical workers.
Yan is not alone in confronting the chilling prospect of personal risk in a world where the unexpected can happen.
Cao Lu, 29, who works in marketing in Wuhan, also in Hubei, said the experience was unlike anything she had ever imagined.
“Everybody was terrified, and we were all looking for ways to protect ourselves after the outbreak,” she told Shanghai Daily.
Learning from a WeChat group that WeSure Insurance Ltd, Tencent’s insurance platform, was offering a COVID-19-related insurance plan, free of charge, to all WeChat users, Cao signed up for coverage immediately.
Everybody was terrified, and we were all looking for ways to protect ourselves after the outbreak.Cao Lu, 29, a marketing professional in Wuhan, Hubei Province, signed up for a coverage immediately via WeChat that WeSure offers.
The social distancing measures put in place to contain the virus have caused unprecedented economic and psychological upheaval across the world, fundamentally reshaping many aspects of life, Moody’s Investors Service said in a recent report.
The fear of the unknown opens new opportunities for insurers in a country where many people have not seen the need for private coverage in the past.
In the early stages of the outbreak, insurance agency platform WeSure unveiled free COVID-19 coverage for front-line medical workers, providing payouts of up to 600,000 yuan (US$84,507) if a virus infection was diagnosed.
Over 100,000 medical professionals across China signed up for the plan within just one week, the company said.
A week later, the Shenzhen-based company opened the policy to all Chinese nationals 65 years or younger, providing a minimum 10,000-yuan compensation in cash.
More than 3 million users signed up for the policy in less than two weeks.
The pandemic has actually raised public awareness of the need for personal and family protection, a recent Swiss Re survey found.
Over a quarter of respondents in a survey covering China, Australia and Singapore said they were worried about how they would survive the pandemic financially.
Many have placed insurance as a “must-have” priority now, the survey said. At least three-quarters of respondents on the Chinese mainland said they talked with insurers or did some online research on the subject after the outbreak. Of those, more than half said they discovered benefits they were unaware of in the past.
ABC Life Insurance, a subsidiary of state-owned Agricultural Bank of China, also gave free coverage for front-line medical staff in Hubei, including those who were sent from other provinces to support the local battle against the disease.
Liu Bo, a civil servant in Hubei Province, was confined to his home village for 58 days during the lockdown. He did some volunteer anti-poverty work while there.
I am now looking for a policy that is costeffective, be it sold by insurance agent or online.Liu Bo, a civil servant in Hubei Province, said the experience of coronavirus taught him to better deal with the risks in life.
The experience taught him to better deal with the risks in life.
Before the pandemic, he said he had considered taking out a private insurance policy but couldn’t find one that suited him.
“I am now looking for a policy that is cost-effective, be it sold by insurance agent or online,” he said.
It’s not only individuals being driven to insurance coverage. During the health crisis, private businesses were also hard hit as people were forced to curtail out-of-home activities.
To protect this group, WeSure partnered with WeChat Pay to provide insurance targeting affected smaller business owners.
Under its policy, if merchants or their spouses are diagnosed with coronavirus and admitted for inpatient hospital treatment, they can claim cash compensation of 1,000 yuan per day for up to 30 days.
China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co, in partnership with Shanghai’s Huangpu District, has introduced a protection plan to address public fears about contracting the virus while shopping in the popular Nanjing Road commercial area.
Business disruptions there are also covered under the plan. Joining hand with the Tencent Foundation and China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, WeSure unveiled insurance protection for COVID-19 volunteers and community workers.
“WeSure is actively responding to the call of the country to help prevent and control the crisis,” said Alan Lau, chief executive officer of the firm.
Beside the dedicated plans covering medical workers, small business owners and the general public, WeSure also expanded coverage of all existing medical policies to include reimbursement of up to 150 yuan a day for hospital patients with coronavirus.
The epidemic has indeed created a dramatic increase in demand for insurance products.
WeSure’s online platform added 25 million active users during the pandemic and insured 15 million people, including medical staff, pharmacists, small merchants, front-line media reporters and existing policyholders.