S’pore insurers to retain Covid-19 coverage even as govt subsidies for treatment are cut

Insurers are keeping Covid-19 coverage for customers at a time when government subsidies for the treatment are being cut back. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – Insurance coverage for Covid-19 and vaccination side effects looks set to stay, with major insurers here saying they have no plans to reduce such protection from their offerings even as the world emerges from the pandemic.

Prudential Singapore will be continuing with a free plan that was rolled out in 2021 which covers hospitalisation due to side effects of Covid-19 vaccination.

This comes even as Singapore in February lowered its disease outbreak response system condition (Dorscon) level to green – indicating that a disease is mild and poses minimal disruption to daily life – after more than three years of heightened health alerts.

Insurers are keeping Covid-19 coverage for customers at a time when government subsidies for the viral illness’ treatment are being cut back and overseas travel is on an uptrend.

In Prudential Singapore’s case, customers who sign up for a complimentary plan that offers a $100 daily cash allowance for up to 14 days of hospitalisation will be covered till the end of the year. This also applies to existing customers of the plan.

The PRUSafe CovidCover plan was launched in January 2021 for Singapore residents, including non-Prudential customers. It extended coverage to children aged between five and 17 in March 2022. To make a claim, one has to be hospitalised within seven days of receiving a vaccination dose.

Mr Goh Theng Kiat, Prudential Singapore’s chief customer officer, noted that the national Covid-19 vaccination programme is ongoing for those who have not received minimum protection or taken their booster jabs.

“We will continue to offer PRUSafe CovidCover as we want to support our customers and the community in the transition to an endemic Covid-19 new norm,” he said.

Prudential also launched a microinsurance plan called PRUSafe Guard 22 in 2022. The policy, which costs $26 for a six-month term, gives its holders a lump sum payout of $500 if they are hospitalised due to Covid-19, and $1,000 upon diagnosis of any of 21 infectious diseases.  

The insurer gave out $3.5 million in cash benefits and donations as part of a care package in 2020. More than half of the sum was paid to 500 customers and their immediate family members who were hospitalised due to the virus, said Mr Goh, noting that a small amount was also paid out to those who bought PRUSafe CovidCover and PRUSafe Guard 22.

Prudential also joins other major insurers that offer Covid-19 coverage in various existing policies. Under these plans, customers are insured against events like hospitalisation and death due to the virus, similar to other conditions they might contract.

Income Insurance foresees an increase in claims as full government subsidies cease for hospitalisation due to Covid-19.

Patients who require treatment for the viral illness and its complications will no longer receive a 100 per cent subsidy at hospitals or Covid-19 treatment facilities from April, regardless of their vaccination status.

Mr Fabian Ng, general manager for Income Insurance’s consumer business, said the company nonetheless continues to include Covid-19 coverage across various insurance plans such as travel, domestic helper insurance and its IncomeShield plans.

“We believe that Covid-19 coverage remains an important benefit to offer our customers peace of mind even as the pandemic situation has normalised and hence, we are reviewing how we can enhance related benefits to close protection gaps,” he said.

Mr Eddy Lim, Great Eastern’s head of propositions and portfolio management, said that all the company’s hospitalisation plans cover admission due to Covid-19. 

“For travel insurance plans, all our products are also enhanced with Covid-19 coverage for medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellation and disruption, and so on. This has not changed,” he said.

Great Eastern disbursed $1 million to 263 policyholders in 2020 under a fund that gave them daily hospitalisation income and a lump sum death benefit.

It pledged another $1 million in a separate fund in January 2021 for hospitalisation benefits in the event of complications arising from approved Covid-19 vaccinations.

“Although the $2 million funds have been fully disbursed, Great Eastern is still closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation as (borders have just fully) reopened, and the situation has just started to normalise. It is still too early to reduce or cease our Covid-19 coverage,” said Mr Lim.

Ms Tay Jin Li, head of product management and proposition at AIA Singapore, said the insurer has paid out $25.7 million to its customers for Covid-19-related claims so far.

Covid-19 coverage is included in its various plans such as medical, critical illness, disability income and travel insurance.

“We have no plans to reduce the Covid-19 coverage under these policies at this juncture,” said Ms Tay.

Raffles Health Insurance policyholders are similarly covered for Covid-19 under Raffles Shield, its Integrated Shield Plan.

Mr Richard Vargo, group head of products, proposition and transformation at Singlife, said the insurer’s Covid-19 coverage encompasses vaccine side effects, hospitalisation due to the disease, death, terminal illness, disability, and total and permanent disability.

Customers are also protected when they travel – for example, they are covered in areas such as their medical expenses and trip cancellations due to the virus. 

Singlife has handed out a low seven-figure sum for Covid-19-related claims across life and health plans.

The number of Covid-19-related claims in 2022 was also the highest since 2020, when such coverage was first included in its plans, said Mr Vargo.

He added: “Even with Singapore moving to Dorscon Green and Covid-19 normalising, Singlife has no plans to change or reduce cover at the moment. While the virus poses less of a threat with most of the population vaccinated, there are still unknowns which affect people differently depending on their health and immunity.”

An HSBC Life spokesman, likewise said the company does not intend to change the current Covid-19 coverage under its plans. This includes in- and out-patient treatment for Covid-19, and hospitalisation for vaccination complications, under HSBC Life Shield and individual and group health plans.

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