Insurer Partners Life warns of suicide threat from business closures
Life insurance company Partners Life expects a rise in suicide claims as a result of businesses failing in the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.
“We’ve certainly experienced already suicides that are directly related to businesses being shut down,” Ballantyne said.
The Covid-19 economic crisis was putting unprecedented pressure on businesses and their owners, and there have been predictions the pandemic could result in a rise in self-harm.
Business failure could have an intense emotional impact on individuals, and business failures were sometimes implicated as a factor contributing to owners’ sudden deaths.In desperation, people sometimes convinced themselves that their families would be better off with a payout on their life insurance policies than with them remaining alive, Ballantyne said.
“When it hits the hardest, they honestly convince themselves their families would be better with the money than with them. That’s what they convince themselves of, which is so sad,” Ballantyne said.
“Suicide rates for life insurance are not high. We don’t have a huge volume of claims as a result of suicide,” she said.
“But business failure is one of the triggers, and as a result of that, we are anticipating that we will have a higher rate of suicide rates as a result of this process.”
The life insurance industry remained financially strong, and like banks had provided options for policyholders under financial pressure to take premium holidays, or temporarily suspend policies without cancelling them.
So far Partners Life had not seen mass cancellations of policies, Ballantyne said, but many policy holders had applied for, and been granted premium holidays as a result of drops in their incomes caused by the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.
So far, Partners Life had processed 4500 premium holiday claims.
Partners Life had not seen a big claim in redundancy claims.
“We don’t have a lot of redundancy covers because it’s an expensive benefit to buy … so most customers don’t buy it,” Ballantyne said.
“The vast majority of our premium holiday claims were a loss of income or a bankruptcy, not a redundancy,” she said.
That’s about 35 times higher than pre-Covid-19 levels.
“That 4500 customers we are still supporting because it is up to six months. We don’t know how long we will be supporting them,” she said.
“The first wave of mass redundancies has gone, but we do know there will be a steady increase in redundancies over time,” she said.
Other impacts on life insurers from lockdown were a drop in accident and disability claims, and a temporary postponement of health insurance claims.
When lockdown began, Partners Life stopped providing any new disability cover for mental illness preventing them from working.
That had now been lifted, but the insurer was now asking more questions of applicants at assess risk individually.
“In order to remove the blanket exclusions for everybody, we have added to the questionaires so we can get a feel for the emergent financial and mental health situations for customers.”
Asking about insomnia, and other indicators of emerging mental health
Mental health exclusions, but have made them limited to the first six months of cover so they don’t stay on people’s policies forever.
“Our main risk is what’s coming. It’s the depression, it’s the stress, which takes time to manifest to the point that it becomes disabling,” she said.
“All of those things are coming, and I think they will start to manifest in the next month, or so,” she said.
Partners Life had not returned to providing new redundancy cover, however,
“Redundancy is just too high risk,” Ballantyne said.
While the life insurance industry was well capitalised to pay claims, Ballantyne said, but sales of new policies were down.
Partners Life had made no redundancies like other life insurers, and hoped not to, Ballantyne said.
“Our intent is to hold onto every job.”
“We put on hold bonuses and salary increases for people who had had their anniversaries immediately,” she said.
If needed salaries would be cut before Partners Life considered cutting jobs.
But, she said: “We are not out of the woods as an industry.”
Partners continued to do business during lockdown. The most technologically advanced insurance advisers continued selling new policies to clients, while the half of advisers who had not embraced technology before the lockdown did not business at all.
“It was a game of two halves. It was fascinating to watch,” Ballantyne said.
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you, or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, counsellors are available 24/7:
— 0800 LIFELINE (0800 54 33 54) or free text HELP (4357)
— Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 TAUTOKO (0508 82 88 65)
— Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54
— Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234.
If it’s an emergency, please phone 111.
Is there any way to get up to date figures on the actual suicide numbers since the Chinese flu lock down started? there are so many conflicting reports from different sources. We have a friend who was talking to a person in the Waikato Health system who said there were 24 in a week. That’s just in the Waikato.
If this is the case Cindy has a lot more to worry about than just going from level two to level one.