Life insurers are jumping on the health bandwagon by rolling out initiatives and products that encourage a healthier lifestyle.
The concerted efforts are a bid to drive lifestyle changes to counter unhealthy living, to stay ahead of escalating healthcare costs and at the same time ensure their own long- term sustainability.
It is a win-win stuation as customers enjoy rewards such as discounted premiums or vouchers when they achieve health goals while insurers benefit from a healthier pool of policyholders, which means they can continue to offer insurance at affordable rates.
Mr Patrick Teow, president of the Life Insurance Association and AIA Singapore chief executive, noted recently that the life insurance industry is redefining "protection" with people-centric initiatives that include championing preventive healthcare because prevention is better - and cheaper - than cure.
The Sunday Times highlights some of the health and wellness initiatives.
Every step counts for Vitality members
AIA VITALITY PROGRAMME
AIA Vitality, which started in 2013, is a comprehensive wellness programme that rewards people for the small steps they take to become a little healthier every day.
AIA Singapore chief marketing officer Ho Lee Yen says: "This is done by applying the principles of behavioural science, keeping individuals motivated by adding up the benefits of every healthy choice they make, no matter how small."
For instance, members get paid as they take steps to live healthier lifestyles and improve what is called their AIA Vitality status - Bronze, Silver or Gold.
They enjoy free additional coverage or an upfront discount on their first-year premium when they buy selected AIA insurance policies. AIA boosts their free coverage and premium discount to up to 15 per cent as they get healthier and improve their status.
Other rewards include cashback of up to 25 per cent on "HealthyFood" items at Cold Storage. Members also get up to 33 per cent off on a range of fitness devices such as Fitbit that help them achieve their health goals. There are also gym and yoga membership discounts and special rates on movies at Golden Village Multiplexes, AirAsia, Emirates and so on.
AIA Vitality Programme's membership has grown steadily at a 40 per cent rate on average each year.
AIA policyholders can join the programme with a membership fee of $3 a month.
"A healthier population means lower overall healthcare costs, claim costs and premium costs, benefiting individuals, families, companies, the nation and AIA Singapore," says Ms Ho.
AIA VITALITY WEEKLY CHALLENGE
This is a mobile app that rewards members with $5 vouchers each week from Cold Storage, Starbucks or Uber when they achieve health targets. Three AIA Vitality members can also form teams for an additional $5 voucher when all members hit the weekly target.
For example, walking 7,500 steps a day translates to 50 AIA Vitality points while 12,500 steps a day brings 100 points.
Since the launch of the AIA Vitality Weekly Challenge in January this year and as of April 30, AIA has seen a 155 per cent surge in the number of AIA Vitality members who exercise. More than $1.6 million worth of active rewards have been earned by AIA Vitality members.
AIA's corporate customers can also reap health benefits. At the AIA Vitality Summit this year, Mr Alexander Yap, APAC rewards director at United Test and Assembly Centre, recounted his company's success story after it implemented AIA Vitality.
An initiative that started from a cycling group to improve their health led to significant weight loss within five months as the team gradually increased the distances covered.
The Vitality programme was created by Discovery Vitality in South Africa. A study of Vitality members there found that those who engaged in the programme were less likely to fall sick or be hospitalised for prolonged illnesses.
AIA says that in partnership with Diabetic Society of Singapore, funds raised at AIA Charity Golf 2017 will be used to further drive public awareness and promote education outreach on diabetes prevention.
AIA Singapore also partnered with HungryGoWhere to create the Brown Rice Guide - a directory of restaurants offering healthier meal options.
In addition, it sponsors fitness events such as The Music Run and FitnessFest 2017.
Policyholders of AIA's integrated Shield hospitalisation plan - AIA HealthShield Gold Max - can enjoy up to 15 per cent discounts on their AIA Max Essential premiums when they join AIA Vitality and meet health targets.
Ms Ho says AIA wants to work together with individuals and families to improve their health. One initiative is the recent launch of the AIA Diabetes Care plan that offers a critical illness cover tailored to the needs of type-II diabetics and pre-diabetics.
Initiatives include GE Women's Run
LIVE GREAT PROGRAMME
The first integrated health and wellness initiative from a life insurer in Singapore aims to empower and reward policyholders and the community to live healthier and better.
GE tells The Sunday Times that it arose from extensive customer insights and research showing that a common concern was health and wellness issues, in particular the rising cost of medical care.
The programme, which started in 2012, is built on five pillars: wellness tools, health tips, mobile apps, workshops and events and exclusive privileges with the Live Great Card.
Mr Colin Chan, GE's managing director of group marketing, says that since the programme's inception, more than 1.5 million people have participated in its health and wellness events and workshops. Major initiatives include the GE Women's Run and GE Bubble Dash Run.
GE LIVE GREAT CARD
The Live Great card is free and offers access to health-related privileges from merchants and fitness providers. It is available to all GE policyholders who sign up for it via its website. It will be extended to Overseas Assurance Corp (OAC) policyholders with annualised plans from July 1.
GE has more than one million Live Great card members across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and more than 120 merchant partners in the region offering health and wellness privileges to cardmembers.
LIVE GREAT HEALTHY REWARDS PROGRAMME
Policyholders of GE's Supreme Term (a term insurance plan) and PayAssure plan enjoy premium rebates of 15 per cent for the first two years and a one-time 30 per cent premium rebate for the third year, as an incentive to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
PayAssure is an income protection plan that provides policyholders a monthly income benefit when they are unable to work due to an illness or injury.
More than 10,000 of eligible Supreme Term or PayAssure policyholders were offered this programme after undergoing a simple biometric test to assess key indicators such as Body Mass Index, cholesterol and blood pressure.
This is a three-month scheme aimed at improving the fitness level of first-time runners leading up to the Great Eastern Women's Run. Non-runners are empowered to take the first steps to healthier living with a complimentary starter's kit including running shoes, running T-shirt, activity tracker and an exercise plan.
As part of the training, Madam Teo Yok Wan, who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, brisk-walked and ran three times a week.
At the end of three months, not only did Madam Teo, 65, manage to complete her first 21.1km run but her blood pressure and cholesterol levels also returned to normal .
"When I first started to run, I was panting and trying to catch my breath. My daughter suggested I start with brisk-walking. So I did and managed 3km. Then 5km. And I kept going further... I can't believe I completed the 21km in three hours and three minutes," she says.
LIFE PROGRAMME FOR GE EMPLOYEES
This programme rewards GE staff with Life points (1 Life point = $1) that can be used for health and wellness benefits, including products and services offered by Live Great Programme partners, fund premiums for insurance plans from GE as well as medical expenses.
For example, Ms Tabitha Tan, 52, regularly participates in Life Programme activities such as the vertical challenge which involves climbing flights of stairs at the office. She no longer has high blood pressure, exercises three times a week and keeps a healthy diet.
Around 75 per cent of staff at the Great Eastern Group participate in the programme, which has seen more employees improve their biometric health assessment scores, which in turn has contributed to better overall work-life balance and higher productivity.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS CREDIT CARDS
In collaboration with OCBC Bank, GE offers the OCBC Great Eastern Cashflo card (Singapore) and the OCBC Great Eastern Co-Branded Live Great card (Malaysia).
Besides providing access to health and wellness privileges, the OCBC Great Eastern Cashflo card offers 1 per cent cash rebates on selected GE and OAC endowment and protection plans.
GE HEALTH PLANS
Health Connect, which started in March, is a complimentary and optional call-in service that helps customers make appointments with medical specialists and offers pre-authorisation of medical expenses before admission.
It is only for customers of GE's integrated Shield (hospitalisation) plan, Supreme Health.
The call-in service on 6563-2233 helps with scheduling an appointment with GE's selected panel of doctors across 20 medical specialities. But appointments with specialists at restructured hospitals have to be made by the patient or his next of kin.
After the consultation and diagnosis, Health Connect will allow the assessment of the policyholder's medical expenses before hospital admission, based on the estimated bill size, against the IP coverage and rider. A certificate of pre-authorisation will then be provided, which waives the hospital admission deposit.
And claimable expenses will be settled directly with the hospital, which results in convenience and a hassle-free discharge as it does away with the need to wait for reimbursement.
Mr Chan says: "This offers customers greater peace of mind as it manages certainty at the beginning, rather than at the point of claims reimbursement after discharge."
At the start of this month, GE rolled out a new integrated Shield plan (IP) rider, Total Health Platinum Select, for its IP that covers private hospitals.
This offers complete coverage from the first dollar up by taking care of the deductible and co-insurance components of the policyholder's bill. The waiver of the two components is conditional on the policyholder using the pre-authorisation service via Health Connect.
For new plan, the men don’t get it
ORANGE HEALTH PROGRAMME
Insurance co-operative NTUC Income's Orange Health programme, which was launched in May 2015, rewards people who keep themselves healthy.
It comprises a low-cost health screening offering and an Orange Health app that enables consumers to keep tabs on their health status, medical appointments and insurance details.
The app also allows users to keep track of the medical habits of their dependants while the Caregiver function lets the assigned caregiver get notifications when the user acknowledges his alarms for taking medication and medical appointments. This offers caregivers greater peace of mind, especially when they are at work and unable to keep an eye on their loved ones.
ORANGE HEALTH SCREENING
This is a low-cost medical check-up programme that rewards you for staying healthy. The screening costs $15 and it rewards you if your test results are within the acceptable range for four health markers - Body Mass Index, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose and cholesterol. The four tests are recommended by the Health Promotion Board for general health screening.
Those who are insured under IncomeShield plan, Enhanced IncomeShield plan or IncomeShield Standard plan and pass all four tests will receive a $50 shopping voucher. They can undergo the same test each year and get the same reward if their results are good.
Early detection of illness through the tailored age-appropriate health screening can help people better take charge of their health and well-being.
MR MARCUS CHEW, Income's chief marketing officer.
Those who are not insured under any of the three plans will receive a $50 discount off their first-year premiums if they sign up for Enhanced IncomeShield or IncomeShield Standard Plan within six months of the screening test date.
NEW HEALTH PLAN
The Lady 360 plan covers women against critical illnesses. It was recently launched as part of Income's Women's Campaign.
Mr Marcus Chew, Income's chief marketing officer, said the target customers are women in their 20s and 30s who are looking for an affordable, female-specific protection plan that can accompany them throughout their lives as the benefits provide coverage as the policyholder ages.
Osteoporotic factures, for example, are more prevalent among older women so the plan offers a tailored biennial health check that include age-appropriate screenings such as breast mammogram for those above 40.
The plan complements existing insurance coverage, such as sur- gery for polycystic ovarian syndrome, which would not have been payable under an Integrated Shield hospitalisation plan as it is fertility-related.
It also offers cover to women who want benefits such as eggs freezing, gene profiling for breast cancer, outpatient psychiatric treatment and hormone replacement therapy.
Mr Chew says: "Early detection of illness through the tailored age-appropriate health screening can help people better take charge of their health and well-being.
"Lady 360 can be a complementary plan for a woman who does not have early-stage critical illness coverage as it provides comprehensive coverage for early-stage cancers of the breasts and reproductive organs."
He adds that it is recommended that critical illness coverage should be at least three times your annual income to protect against income loss as a result of a critical illness.
A lump-sum payout to plug the loss of income will be made if the policyholder needs to stop work as a result of the illness.
The monthly premium for a 10-year renewable policy held by a 35-year-old is $15.78 for every $10,000 assured. So for a sum assured of $25,000, the premium is $39.45 a month. The premium will be adjusted according to the age at renewal.
Know your DNA, know what to eat
Prudential recently introduced myDNA, a health tool that analyses genetic information to provide diet and fitness recommendations.
It offers a comprehensive report with fitness and diet recommendations, a mobile application, on-demand chat with a dietitian and a suite of wellness activities to help customers adopt healthy lifestyles.
The myDNA kit is available to consumers at a fee of $100 if they renew their PRUshield extra A Premier rider or take up PRUshield extra A Premier Saver and PRUshield extra A Plus riders by July 31.
New and existing customers who buy selected savings and protection plans during the promotion period from this month to June 30 will receive a complimentary myDNA kit.
Mr Mack Eng, head of medical at Prudential Singapore, says it will help customers better understand how their genes affect their diet, nutrition and exercise, and provide an opportunity to chat with dietitians.
The myDNA tool kit uses the customer's saliva sample to glean valuable insights into what may be the most optimal diet, nutrients and exercise based on an individual's genetic make-up.
For example, individuals can learn how they process vitamins, their sensitivities to carbohydrates, fats and alcohol, and if they are more prone to obesity. Following the DNA assessment report, myDNA provides real-time advice through the myDNA mobile app with dietitians to help individuals reach their health goals.
Prudential rolled out a male-focused critical illness (CI) plan on Friday called PRUman. The insurer says this is the only standalone CI plan designed for men available here.
Prudential claims data has reflected a continuous rise in diagnoses for male-specific illnesses, such as prostate cancer, over the past five years.
In addition, Ministry of Health studies indicate that one in four men is expected to develop cancer by the age of 75. Prostate cancer is one of the top three cancers diagnosed in men.
For a 35-year-old male non- smoker with $100,000 sum assured, the annual premium for PRUman is $1,152.60 for cover up to age 75.
Likewise, claims for female-specific diseases, such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer, have been increasing over the years.
That prompted Prudential to introduce PRUlady, an enhanced version of the existing PRUsmart Lady II, covering 12 medical conditions compared with 10 previously. PRUlady provides enhanced protection against illnesses that women are more predisposed to, with greater flexibility in pricing and coverage.
A 35-year-old female non- smoker with $100,000 sum assured will face annual premiums of $2,065.50 for cover up to age 75.
Ms Angela Hunter, chief customer officer at Prudential Singapore, says its research has shown a supply-demand gap in the market with regard to male-focused insurance products.
"The specific needs of each and every customer are important to us. We recognise that many people tend to stop work when diagnosed with critical illnesses," she notes.
"With PRUman and PRUlady, we want to ensure that our customers have the financial peace of mind to focus on their health recovery in the event of a crisis."
Applications for both PRUman and PRUlady plans do not require medical examination. The plans provide free biennial health screenings on top of vital protection against gender-specific illnesses. There is a benefit that waives premiums for up to 36 months if there is an eligible illness benefit claim of at least 50 per cent of the sum assured.
For PRUlady, a "maternity cover plus" benefit is offered as an optional add-on for cover against pregnancy complications.
Since the start of this month, Prudential has adopted a claims and age-based price approach for some customers of its PRUshield Extra A Premier, the rider of its Integrated Shield hospitalisation plan covering private hospitals.
The new approach rewards those who stay healthy as future premiums will be determined based on age as well as the customer's claims experience.
Affected Prudential customers could see their rider's renewal premiums increase by up to three times. Conversely, they will enjoy a 10 per cent discount on renewal premiums if there are no claims in the past three policy years.
CRITICAL ILLNESS COVER
Mr Eng recommends that a working adult be minimally covered against the 37 critical illnesses as listed by the Life Insurance Association, such as major cancers, stroke and kidney failure.
"Key factors to consider when deciding how much coverage is sufficient include one's lifestyle needs, budget and ongoing liabilities, which differ from person to person," he says. He also recommends seeking advice from a financial consultant on which policy is most suitable.
Besides being protected against critical illnesses, you should also adopt a preventive approach to health, as early detection allows for the right medical treatment, he adds.
Multiplier benefit for LifeReady customers
Manulife believes preventive care is important as it helps its customers stay healthy and reduces their overall medical expenses. This is reflected in its health and wellness initiatives, including sponsorships such as the Boston Marathon and Terry Fox Run.
Launched last month, Manulife LifeReady is a traditional whole- life solution with flexibility to tailor to customers' needs, such as upgrading cover at certain milestones without a medical check-up.
The milestones include graduation, buying the first home, getting married and having children. The plan also covers critical illnesses.
Customers are given two years to qualify for premium discounts by meeting a set of health targets, including Body Mass Index, blood pressure and cholesterol level. Once they qualify for the premium discount benefit, they can enjoy it for as long as they hold the plan.
Mr Carlos Vazquez, chief product officer at Manulife Singapore, says: ""If our customers hit their health objectives, it's a win-win situation for both customers and Manulife.
"By maintaining good health, customers are not just extending their own lives, but are also being rewarded financially for it."
Manulife LifeReady offers a "5x" multiplier benefit, which means the cover can go up to five times of the initial sum assured.
Assume a male policyholder aged 35 with an initial sum assured of $100,000. He pays a premium of $545 a month or $6,341 a year and he will be covered with a sum insured of $500,000 till age 70.
If he is diagnosed with an early critical illness at 40 and he has the early critical care rider, he will receive a payout of $250,000 to help with his recovery. The plan also offers his child free advanced stage critical illness coverage from 30 days old until the child turns 18 without any medical examination. The critical illness cover is capped at $250,000 per life per condition.
A term life product - ManuProtect Term - offers a "quit smoking" incentive to customers in the form of a premium discount when they quit. To encourage and reward smokers to quit, non-smoker (lower) premium rates for the first three years are offered.
"If customers provide us with evidence that they have stopped smoking within these three years, we will continue to offer them the lower premiums throughout the policy term," says Mr Vazquez.
Another health plan is Manulife Global Medical plan, which has a no-claims premium discount to reward healthy customers.
This is a high-end solution that covers hospital and outpatient medical bills, including maternity and dental expenses. It also offers a personalised health support team that takes away the hassle in arranging medical treatment.