Coronavirus: Great Eastern, Prudential offer 6-month grace period for insurance premium payments

This comes as the MAS said holders of life and health insurance policies will be allowed to defer premium payments. PHOTO: PRUDENTIAL, KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Life insurers including Great Eastern and Prudential are offering a six-month grace period for premium payments to Singapore customers whose incomes have been affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

This comes as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Tuesday said holders of life and health insurance policies will be allowed to defer premium payments for up to six months while maintaining insurance coverage.

The Life Insurance Association Singapore (LIA) said policyholders who are facing financial difficulties can apply for the grace period if their premium due date or policy renewal date falls between April 1 and Sept 30 (inclusive) this year. LIA members will then assess deserving cases appropriately.

Great Eastern, the insurance arm of OCBC, on Wednesday night confirmed that it is offering the six-month extension to its Singapore customers holding life insurance policies.

In Malaysia, Great Eastern is also offering a similar deferred premium payment programme for policyholders affected financially by the Covid-19 situation.

Meanwhile, Prudential Singapore chief executive officer Dennis Tan said: "With the extension of the grace period to pay premiums due, we hope customers will have peace of mind knowing that their protection and health needs will continue to be met."

Insurance is a financial safety net in times of crisis, for many of Prudential's customers, Mr Tan added.

As for general insurance - such as coverage for property and vehicles - both individuals and corporates can seek out instalment payment plans while retaining insurance protection, according to MAS's media statement on Tuesday which also represented LIA, the General Insurance Association (GIA), the Association of Banks in Singapore and the Finance Houses Association of Singapore.

General insurers will work with affected customers to review the financial difficulties and impact in each case, and to consider suitable instalment payment plans or other options to reduce insurance cover, GIA said.

"Some insurers may offer customers flexibility in paying their insurance premiums using their credit cards, which includes instalment payment plans," the association added.

Great Eastern on Wednesday said that businesses that are its general insurance customers can apply for instalment plans.

As for Prudential, premiums have been lowered for its public hospitalisation plans, to "ensure healthcare remains affordable".

With effect from April 1, premiums for PRUShield Plus - its base public hospitalisation Integrated Shield Plan - will be reduced by between 10 to 31 per cent for the additional private insurance coverage portion.

This applies to nearly 90 per cent of Prudential's existing PRUShield Plus customers.

Separately, the insurer on Wednesday introduced a new supplementary hospitalisation plan, PRUExtra Preferred CoPay, which gives policyholders access to medical treatment at public hospitals and private hospitals under its PRUPanel Connect programme.

Premiums for this new plan are 30 per cent lower than its existing private hospitalisation plan, PRUExtra Premier CoPay, for those aged 30.

On Thursday as at 11.08am, Great Eastern shares gained $0.22 or 1.3 per cent to trade at $17.80, while Prudential shares were flat at US$19.30.

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