From her locked down status in Melbourne, Equity Trustees head of insurance Princess Navarro (pictured) sees some positives for the insurance industry from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Insurers have turned to technology to improve claims processing and benefit delivery as a way to steer through social distancing restrictions, Navarro said.

“There are certainly practices that have been adopted during this time that should stay,’’ she said.

“The progress digitally and electronically for claims assessment requirements has reasonably relaxed. If you’re on a long-term income protection arrangement, for example, insurers have relaxed some of their requirements and reduced the frequency of progress claim forms, particularly for members with more serious long-term conditions.’’

She said the “Jurassic-style” paper-based systems of application forms, proof of identification and policy endorsements are being replaced with online options, video conferencing and electronic signature capability for day-to-day transactions.

Video or telehealth has also allowed for medical appointments to be recorded to give insurers better access to information for members on claim.

“One insurer has invested in the use of (customer management software) Salesforce, allowing people to lodge their claims online. One of the things I find impressive is that you can dictate the information (on voice to text software) to help members to lodge their claim online. This is something that’s going to take us into the next advancement on insurance,” Navarro said.

Apps like Colibra are also providing productivity gains for insurers such as the travel insurance app which provides compensation for delayed flights without having to file a claim, she said.

A similar technology could be used for life insurers, she said.

“I would like to see software connect with birth, death and marriage registries, as soon as they have confirmation of the death certificate, that goes directly to the insurer. If insurers could admit a death claim without the bereaved family having to fill in a claim form, that would be great.”

Navarro hopes to contribute some positive points to a panel discussion on “The Coronavirus Effect: the impact on life and what we have learnt” at Investment Magazine’s Group Insurance Summit on August 18. You can still register for the event here.

But she also sees some negatives from the pandemic for the industry and its customers.

After a decades-long career in the industry across all aspects of insurance, from handling claims and underwriting with an insurer, giving advice on insurance product design changes for a master trust and now working with an independent trustee on insurance governance, Navarro is worried that super fund members will continue to pay for insurance cover they cannot claim from without realising it.

“What really worries me is the ongoing cost of income protection cover from some superannuation funds with retained category or individual sections.  You might not be employed or been stood down and despite ongoing premiums being deducted from your super account for your income protection (IP) cover, you may not be eligible to claim,’’ she said.

“Last week a lot of Victorians lost their jobs. That’s an issue because members don’t understand that when they’re not employed premiums are still going to continue to be deducted from their account for IP cover, even though they are not eligible to claim.

“It’s incumbent on trustees to remind those who have lost their jobs that they won’t be eligible to claim because IP is not an unemployment benefit,’’ she said.

Insurers have not been forthcoming with how they will deal with JobKeeper payments as part of IP claims and haven’t addressed that issue within the policies or engaged with their members ahead of any expected claims, she said.

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