COVID-19 has impacted every business sector, and insurance is not immune. Here’s how the industry is reacting and how the pandemic is affecting policies.
The world is running to catch up with the coronavirus pandemic, and in the U.S., the virus has hit New York the hardest. As of March 24, our state accounted for 60% of all new confirmed infections in the country, and public officials state that things will get worse before they get better.
It’s not just New Yorkers that are reeling; entire industries are feeling the impact as the economy grinds to a halt. And when it comes to insurance, people have questions about if and how the virus will affect their policies. Here are some of the latest developments.
Life insurance and coronavirus
Reuters reports that U.S. life insurers have begun imposing 30-day waiting periods on any applicants who’ve recently traveled to China, Europe, or Iran. The news agency also aired concerns from life coverage providers who fear ever-stricter measures for plan qualification may soon be in the cards. This change would stem from the still-developing understanding of COVID-19 and a global economic meltdown that may push life insurers’ credit ratings down.
This is a huge challenge for the life insurance industry. It’s facing the very real possibility of a stark rise in policy payouts at a time when investors are backing away. Bond rates have hit historic lows, a fact that may see life insurers forced to raise their premium rates and reprice plans in an attempt to offset huge financial losses. The industry is currently being tested to see how badly the outbreak has affected it.
For now, there’s been no shift in premium costs, and existing life insurance policies are set to pay out as normal if death occurs from coronavirus, since pandemics are one of the many outcomes covered. If you find yourself on a waiting list for life insurance due to recent travel, you can still apply for temporary life insurance that will provide you with coverage during the waiting period for another policy.
If you’re currently without life insurance and have been on the fence about committing, it may be a good time to sign up. Economic and industry conditions may recover well, but nobody can say for sure just how high coverage rates might climb in the future.
Health insurance providers pitch in
This sector’s response to the crisis has been swift and largely appropriate to the challenge. Here’s what some of the nation’s leading insurers are offering the public:
- Aetna – The company is waiving co-pays for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. This includes all member costs, whether you belong to Medicare, Medicaid, or Commercial lines of business. Telemedicine visits are also zero co-pay, and people diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive a care package.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield – The provider’s network of 36 independent and locally operated companies are covering all coronavirus tests at no cost to their members. They’re also waiving prescription refill limits on maintenance medication and offering access to telehealth and assistance hotlines. Click your state on this interactive map for more information.
- Cigna – This provider is covering the cost of coronavirus testing while waiving all cost-shares and co-pays for fully insured plans, including employer-provided coverage, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and individual market plans available through the Affordable Care Act. Cigna will also waive customers’ out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing-related visits with in-network providers, whether at urgent care clinics, a doctor’s office, an emergency room, or through telehealth until May 31, 2020. This includes U.S. customers covered under Cigna employer/union-sponsored group insurance plans, globally mobile plans, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and both the Individual and Family plans.
This is only a selection of the nation’s insurers; many more of them are offering similar cost-waiving measures. Contact your specific health insurance provider to learn more about what they’re doing to help.
Car insurance and coronavirus
Cars don’t get sick, but auto insurance is vulnerable to the virus in other ways. In an ideal world, less time on the road means fewer chances of an accident and potentially lower premiums. Hopes are high that the virus won’t be around long enough to affect premium rates measurably, but more immediate risks exist. The quarantines imposed for COVID-19 mean many New Yorkers will not be driving to or for work.
The industry does advise that all auto policies are kept up to date and not allowed to lapse. It’s a real possibility that an emergency trip for a loved one or supplies may become necessary on short notice. If a driver does so without the proper insurance in place, an accident during this stressful time will make a bad situation worse.
Some providers are allowing holds on policy terminations due to nonpayment, while others are offering temporary payment extensions and text-message-only claims handling. We recommend that you contact your insurer with any auto questions since each company will handle this differently.
Stay safe as events unfold
Our focus at NICRIS is always your wellbeing and safety. We recommend this state resource, which is a definitive and constantly updated guide to staying safe from coronavirus in New York. You’ll find information about best practices, testing, the operating status of various businesses, and the latest news about essential health services.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has also provided its own resource center with a focus on how COVID-19 will impact insurers and the insured.
Stay safe. We will get through this together.
NICRIS Insurance focuses on providing clients with the appropriate suite of products to protect them, their interests, and their loved ones. If you need some insurance advice or would like a free, personalized insurance review, just drop us a line.