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COVID-19: Life insurers’ measures

By Hubert Roy | May 04 2020 10:45AM

Photo: Freepik

P&C insurers are not the only firms that have taken measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Life insurers in Canada also adjusted their products and methods extensively.

The Insurance Portal compiled these changes based on notices that its life insurance product intelligence centre InsuranceINTEL published in its weekly news bulletin InsuranceINTEL Weekly.

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Assumption Life

Policy face amounts reduced to nonmedical limits until paramedical companies resume service or in-person visits:

- Ages 0-17: maximum $1,000,000;

- Ages 18-45: maximum $499,999;

- Ages 46-65: maximum $249,999;

- Ages 66-69: maximum $50,000;

- Ages 70+: case by case, but will most likely be postponed.

Possibility of deferring premium payment by 60 days for the following reasons:

- Illness or quarantine;

- Layoff or loss of job;

- Absence from work to care for children or a family member who caught COVID-19.

Dental care premiums are reduced by 70% for the months of April and May. This adjustment applies automatically to all plan members with dental care coverage for fully insured groups.

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Equitable Life Insurance

Temporary change to life insurance non-medical limits: no medical requirements for all issue ages up to 50 inclusively, on amounts up to $1 million inclusively for life insurance. For applications submitted prior to March 15 and still pending, non-medical limits are extended.

People who tested positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 are eligible for short-term disability coverage in group insurance. Those with a positive test are eligible starting from the first day of the self-isolation period.

Payment options are offered to existing customers who experience financial difficulties or who have lost their jobs. Possibility of extending the grace period for nonpayment of premiums to 90 days instead of 31 days.

Witness signature process temporarily revised: during the pandemic, forms will be processed even without the witness signature.

Access to the mental health and wellness portal Homeweb extended for up to 120 days for plan members who have temporarily lost their benefits.

Group insurance premiums reduced retroactively to April 1:

- Dental care: 50%;

- Vision and extended healthcare rates (excluding prescription drugs): 20%.

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BMO Insurance

Temporary changes to the accelerated underwriting program for all life insurance products:

- Tele-interview for customers ages 18 to 50, for up to $1 million of coverage;

- Tele-interview for customers ages 51 to 60, for up to $300,000 of coverage;

- Issue ages 61 and over will continue to follow published age and amount requirements.

Premium deferral possible for holders of individual and eligible term life insurance, whole life, universal life and critical illness policies. Policyholders may request a premium deferral for 90 days if they experience financial difficulties due to:

- illness or quarantine related to COVID-19;

- job loss (temporary or permanent);

- unpaid leave to care for a family member;

- business disruption.

This temporary measure can be requested for policies issued by March 13 at the latest, and is in force until May 31.

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Canada Life

Temporary suspension of contributions, transfers and redemptions of funds from Canadian real estate funds.

Underwriting limit with no medical exam for people ages 18 to 40 increased from $1 million to $2 million. The limits then decrease as the policyholder’s age increases. For critical illness insurance, this limit rises to $250,000 for insured ages 18 to 40. In disability insurance, the monthly limit increases to a monthly benefit of $6,000 per month, for people ages 40 and under.

Reduction in group insurance premiums, retroactively to April 1:

- Dental care: 50%;

- Vision and extended healthcare rates (excluding prescription drugs): 20%.

Premium payment can be deferred for 90 days in individual life insurance.

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Co-operators

Policyholders may request a premium deferral for 90 days if they experience financial difficulties.

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Québec Blue Cross

• Health insurance premiums reduced for three months, starting May 1:

- 50% reduction on the cost of dental care;

- 20% reduction on the cost of extended health benefits.

• Free access to the mental health program Stronger Minds by BEACON during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Starting April 1, 2020, charge backs of commissions due to cancellations or lapses received are postponed for a period of 60 days.

• Clients experiencing financial difficulties have up to 90 days to pay their premiums.

• For payment of the initial premium, cheques are not accepted for now. Credit card and preauthorized debit are the accepted payment modes.

• Exceptionally, during the COVID-19 period, insurance proposals, change requests and setting requirements without the witness signature are accepted.

• Initial insurance amount maintained for cases requiring a home visit, an attending physician’s report, paramedical services or other-person assessment. In this case, the insurance request will be delayed until paramedical suppliers resume their normal activities. Insured can also choose a lower insurance amount, which requires only a telephone interview as an underwriting requirement. In this case, clients will have to complete and sign a form confirming that they accept the change. 

• Clients under quarantine are eligible for disability benefits if they have been diagnosed with   COVID-19 and they meet the disability definition of their insurance contract. The waiting period starts on the first day they are placed under quarantine.

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Medavie Blue Cross

Premium relief program for group insurance plan sponsors:

- 50% credit on dental premiums;

- 10% credit on health care premiums, including both Drugs and Extended Health Benefits.

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Desjardins Insurance

In group insurance, four-month extension of all drug authorizations that end between March 30 and June 30, 2020.

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Empire Life

Increase in the No-Fluid Non-medical limit for applications:

- Ages 18 to 50: up to $1 million;

- Ages 51 to 60: up to $300,000;

- Ages 61 and up: issuance within the non-medical limits.

Extension of the grace period from 31 to 60 days for the monthly or annual premium payment for all policyholders upon request, in individual life insurance or critical illness insurance.

Increase in maximum insurance protection to $1 million instead of $500,000.

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Sun Life Financial

Requirements concerning the insurance amount for non-face-to-face clients are modified in individual life insurance. Notably, the $10 million maximum for life insurance products, particularly term, life permanent and universal insurance, is temporarily eliminated.

Temporary Insurance Coverage is extended from 90 to 120 days to allow advisors and clients time to complete any missing requirements.

Virtual health services are offered to customers with group guarantees, including those of Dialogue and Lumino Health.

Accelerated underwriting that uses artificial intelligence offered to more clients:

- For clients ages 18 to 42 who request insurance amounts of $500,000 to $2 million (previously $1 million);

- For clients ages 41 to 50 who request insurance amounts of $500,000 to $1 million (previously up to age 40).

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Green Shield Canada

Reduction in group insurance premiums for the months of April, May and June:

- 75% for dental care;

- 20% for health care, including vision care but excluding drugs.

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Humania Assurance

Exceptionally, the simplified CLHIA form will be accepted as an initial medical form for short-term disability benefits in group insurance. The initial statement completed by the employer and employee is required.

Group insurance coverage maintained for employees temporary laid off until June 30. Plan sponsors have the following options:

- Conserve all coverage except for disability insurance;

- Conserve health coverage only;

- Cancel all coverage, including health coverage, and transfer insured to RAMQ (Québec);

- Conserve all coverage, including disability insurance.

In group insurance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the premium payment period is extended by 15 days, for a total period of 45 days.

In group insurance, the risk taker may temporarily suspend the contract, for a maximum period of 120 days. During this suspension period, no premium will apply and all coverage is suspended. If a disability occurs during the suspension period, it will not be eligible when the policy takes effect again.

Possibility of deferring individual life insurance premium payments.

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iA Financial Group

Increase in maximum amount of life insurance for people ages 51 to 60, from $99,999 to $300,000 inclusively, based on a phone interview. The maximum amount for people under age 51 remains at $1 million inclusively.

All life insurance products are now available for non-face-to-face sales, including universal life insurance.

Possibility of deferring premium payment for 90 days in life, CI, disability and accident insurance, along with individual savings and retirement until May 31. In group insurance, a 60-day deferral is offered.

In group insurance, people on short-term disability following a diagnosis of COVID-19 receive immediate coverage, with no waiting period.

In group insurance, possibility of maintaining guarantees for employees laid off due to COVID-19.

Temporary automatic renewal of drugs that usually require prior authorization.

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ivari

Possibility of deferring premiums for all policies already in force at March 15, 2020, until July 1, 2020.

Extension of the grace period from 31 to 91 days to defer premium payment for clients who experience the following difficulties

- illness;

- reduction in income or job loss (permanent or temporary layoff);

- unpaid leave to care for a family member;

- business interruption.

For prosperity Simplified Issue & Guaranteed Issue policies, the grace period is extended from 31 to 61 days. Universal life policy owners are advised to use the premium holiday option if they experience financial hardship resulting directly from COVID-19.

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La Capitale

Introduction of temporary risk selection rules:

- In life insurance, the maximum coverage increases to $1 million for people ages 18 to 50;

- In CI insurance, the maximum coverage increases to $250,000 for people ages 18 to 50 inclusively;

- In disability insurance, with the Pillar series, the maximum monthly benefit increases to $4,000 for people ages 18 to 45, to $3,000 for people ages 46 to 50, and to $2,000 for people ages 51 and up.

In group insurance, dental care premiums are reduced by 60% in the months of May and June for SME offering this coverage.

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Manulife

Shift to 24/hr electronic transmission service for new business.

Witness signature requirement for insurance applications and change requests suspended.

Grace period for payment of insurance premiums extended until June 30 in some cases. In individual insurance, grace period lengthened to 90 days instead of 30 days in most contracts. Contract remains valid during the grace period.

Non-smokers ages 18 to 50 can now obtain coverage of up to $2 million without samples, and non-smokers ages 51 to 60 can obtain up to $1 million, for all life insurance products.

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RBC Insurance

• For disability insurance, if someone is in self-quarantine, is displaying symptoms, and satisfies the definition of disability, the elimination period would begin the first day of quarantine. Payment would only be made once the elimination period is satisfied.

Temporary changes made to the limits of insured capital of the YourTerm RBC product line:

- Ages 18 to 50: up to and including $1,000,000;

- Ages 51 to 55: up to and including $499,999;

- Ages 56 to 60: up to and including $300,000;

- Ages 61 and over: up to and including $99,999.

New temporary limits for new individual disability insurance applications for individual and business clients, except for the Fundamental Series:

- Up to $8,000 monthly for people ages 18 to 50;

- Up to $2,500 monthly for people ages 51 and over.

For group insurance solutions, payment cannot be made by paper cheque.

Application of premium credits for health insurance and dental care:

- 50% off dental care premium for the months of April and May;

- 10% off global health premium, for the months of April and May.

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SSQ Insurance

All prior authorizations for prescription drugs with an expiry date after March 1, 2020, have been extended until September 1, 2020.

• Individuals who have been positively diagnosed with COVID-19 and who are disabled (unable to perform the main functions of their job, including working from home) are eligible for short-term disability benefits, if salary insurance coverage is included in their policy. In this case, SSQ Insurance will not apply the usual waiting period stipulated in its policies.

• Individuals who have symptoms, but who have not been tested for COVID-19, and who are disabled (unable to perform the main functions of their job, including working from home) are eligible for short-term disability insurance benefits, if salary insurance coverage is included in their policy. In this case, the usual waiting period applies.

• Acceptance of CLHIA's simplified form as the initial medical form for a group short-term disability benefit.

• Underwriting requirements are temporarily waived for the following life insurance applications:

- Individuals between the ages of 16 and 50 for amounts up to $1,000,000 (inclusively);

- Individuals between the ages of 51 and 60 for amounts up to $249,999 (inclusively);

- Individuals between 61 and 70 years of age for amounts up to $99,999 (inclusively).

• Critical Illness Insurance: Underwriting requirements are temporarily not required for ages 18 to 40 and for amounts up to $250,000.

• Temporary suspension of all paramedical exam services at clients’ homes for individual life insurance.

• Clients experiencing financial hardship can temporarily defer their premium payment for a period of 60 days and it will not affect the protection offered under the policy.

• In addition to scanned handwritten signatures, electronic signatures from DocuSign, Adobe Sign and Onespan applications are accepted on individual life insurance documents.

• Access to a psychological assistance service over the telephone offered free of charge to SSQ Insurance clients, as well as referrals to several other support services.

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UV Insurance

Eligibility for short-term disability starts from the first day of COVID-19 quarantine for people who cannot perform the duties from their regular work, even from home; the grace period is eliminated. People with disabling symptoms of COVID-19 can receive benefits starting from the first day of quarantine, for at least 14 days, namely the duration of the quarantine. After that 14-day period, if the insured still cannot work, the situation will be evaluated according to the terms of the contract.

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Paramedical Tests

In addition, several life insurance companies chose to temporarily suspend medical tests and requirements, including collecting fluid samples, measuring vital signs and conducting paramedical exams. These insurers include Equitable Life, BMO Insurance, Canada Life, Empire Life, Sun Life Financial, La Capitale, Manulife and RBC Insurance.

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