Life cover a boon for clients
FOR the insurance industry, managing clients with HIV over the past decade has been a game-changer.
While there is no law that compels companies to provide life insurance for individuals living with HIV/Aids, insurance companies have had to push aside the notion of “risks” to create awareness that the syndrome is not a death sentence, and to design products accordingly.
“Slightly deranged is what many thought of our idea,” Ross Beerman says in recalling the reaction when he and his business partners introduced the concept of providing exclusive life insurance cover to HIV-positive people 10 years ago.
“It is only when we explained to them that we would be walking a journey with our clients that they warmed to the idea. Our purpose was to pull together and deliver to make it real.”
In 2005, Beerman’s AllLife became the first to offer underwritten whole life cover exclusively to HIV- positive individuals. The response has been phenomenal, he said.
At first the company received more than 10 000 calls a month.
People have become more comfortable speaking about their HIV status. “Our consultants are trained well.”
If prospective clients’ CD4 counts are below 200, the company does not sign them up.
“Our consultants encourage people to get that number back up. But if you are already covered with us, the drop in your CD4 count will have no bearing on your cover,” Beerman explained.
The company’s consultants make monthly calls to check on clients and remind them to take their ARVs and lead healthy lifestyles.
Sixty percent of the company’s clients are women.
Research shows that the risk and prevalence of infection is highest among women aged between 15 and 24. Women are at five times more at risk than men. Beerman also says more single women and mothers sign up for life cover.
Ryan Chegwidden, head of product and technical at Hollard Life, said the company first covered an HIV-positive client in 1999. Take-up had been reasonable.
“We went this way because the proportion of our policyholders who have this benefit is lower than the HIV prevalence in our target market,” he said.
“HIV- positive clients do pay more, just as clients with other chronic illnesses pay more for their cover.”
Sanlam offers a standard life cover for clients, irrespective of their HIV status.
“Medical research shows the prognosis for HIV with optimal treatment and compliance is better than expected. This has allowed Sanlam to offer even better terms to HIV- positive clients,” said Sanlam medical adviser Dr Jack van Zyl.
“We are seeing more people living with HIV coming forward… to purchase cover.”
There were many positive signs that the stigma associated with HIV was shifting, Van Zyl added.
COSTLY: A pharmacist dispenses antiretroviral drugs at the Mater Hospital in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.