What COVID-19 Means for the Health Insurance and Life Insurance Sector

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had the world come to almost a complete standstill and to-date continues to bring disruptions. As a global community, we find ourselves at grips with the novel condition that holds our socioeconomic lives at ransom. Industries have evolved their business practices to protect and manage the risks brought on by the pandemic, but how has the health and life insurance sector responded to the COVID-19 crisis?

Comparable to the rest of the world, our beloved Botswana continues to experience the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, however, the greatest and most pressing concern remains our health. There has therefore been increased pressure on our health industry as whole; from its logistics and supply chains to its very core being its human resources and facilities.

As a result of COVID-19, there has been a hypervigilance in the health industry as a whole. One look at what is transpiring across our borders paints a grim picture. It is quite evident with the rising number of cases, which we are currently enduring, that we may stretch our already strained health facilities and personnel to their upmost capacity.

For instance, the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital this year in February, reported to be struggling to cope with a recorded spike in positive COVID-19 patients. Due to the mental and social COVID-19 often places on frontline Health Care Workers (HCW), the hospital continued to provide psychosocial support to all overwhelmed citizens through their on-site wellness center. The health insurance sector has therefore had to escalate its efforts to meet the growing demand for its products.

The health insurance industry has thus experienced more claims than usual, with the ultimate result of transferring back the cost to the client. If one considers the novel strain of the virus and its quick transmissibility, this may likely translate to more people needing access to hospital resources, possibly more than health insurers will be able to pay for.

Insurance companies are adapting to the uncertain and odd future by remaining consistent and as supportive as possible by aiding trust and dependence towards consumers. Technological solutions have therefore been developed to enable Agents to be of service to their customers without having to physically meet. Underwriting services have also moved to online and telephonic platforms as an alternative way of communicating and reaching clients.

Employees have also started adopting novel ways of working - having to provide services from their homes. Botswana Life in particular, has introduced Telemarketing Agents allowing customers to be directly contacted via telephone by Brokers and Agents. The interactive self-service Customer Portal has also come in handy, designed to offer customers ease and convenience in all their insurance and financial service needs. The benefits of the Portal continue to grow as we tailor our solutions to meet the needs of our customers.

COVID-19 has further highlighted the need for insurers to streamline, improve and digitise operations and claims functions. Insurers are more than ever recognising the relationship between customer experience and digital strategy, transformation approach and operational improvement. The pandemic might have proven to be a much-needed catalyst for innovation in the insurance sector, unlocking greater levels of customer experience.

During these times of great uncertainty, interest in the insurance sector has seen some modest growth, particularly in Risk Products. There is a growing awareness of mortality; Batswana are therefore prioritising leaving an inheritance and legacy for their beneficiaries and securing their families’ financial future. However, because of the impact COVID-19 has had on the economy, job losses and strained incomes have often shown to be barriers in Batswana’s desire to invest in these.

It is important to note that insurance cover is vital, particularly during this pandemic where the uncertainty of the future is perceivably heightened. That is what insurance is here for - to protect one against the uncertainties.

The scientific world has made significant strides against the COVID-19 virus with some countries having started rolling out the vaccine. Botswana having just received the first batch of 30,000 SII COVISHIELD vaccines, while awaiting another batch towards the end of March. There is therefore still much to look forward to.

Consequently, as individuals, it remains imperative to continue to follow health protocols while continuing to develop an understanding of the importance of the life and health insurance sector during this time period.