We know that many advisers have been fielding enquiries from concerned clients on COVID-19.
To provide you with answers to your questions or to help you respond to some of the commonly asked questions you may receive from your clients, we’ve prepared FAQs on the topic.
We’ve also outlined some of the support we’re offering you and your clients at this time.
Existing business support
Are existing clients covered for COVID-19 related illness?
There are no specific exclusions for COVID-19 in any of our policies.
Do any of your policies have exclusions for pandemics?
There are no specific exclusions for pandemics in any of our policies.
Do you offer premium relief for clients impacted by COVID-19?
MLC Life Insurance has existing financial hardship provisions and options to support clients and this will be extended to those impacted by COVID-19 and who are concerned about their ability to pay their life insurance premiums.
What are you doing to reduce policy cancellations?
We strongly encourage customers to talk to their financial adviser about other options that may assist during this time. Some areas for consideration are:
- Changing the premium payment frequency from yearly, half-yearly to monthly.
- Reviewing the sums insured and/or benefit structures to ensure your client’s cover continues to align to their current needs.
In the event one of my clients calls MLC Life Insurance to cancel their policy, what is your process in doing so?
Although a customer can cancel without adviser advice, we always encourage customers to talk to their financial adviser about other options that may assist during this time.
If after consultation with their adviser, a customer would still like to cancel their policy, we can take their cancellation request over the phone and liaise with you with respect to cancelling the policy.
What collateral can you provide to highlight the reasons customers should retain insurance during these types of events – potentially encouraging them to review current levels of cover?
Customers are encouraged to visit the COVID-19 Support Hub to obtain more information
Do you allow digital signatures for new business for claims or alterations?
We can accept digital signatures via the following means:
- Using digital signature technology such as DocuSign
- Applying an image of the customer’s signature
- Scanned copy of the customer’s ‘wet ink’ signature.
These forms of signature can be accepted across our New Business, Underwriting and Inforce requests for Retail Insurance policies.
For documents that require witnessing such as Beneficiary Nomination form, Memorandum of Transfers, Power of Attorney requests, Statutory Declarations and Certified ID however, we are unable support digital forms of signature.
Are there any other processes you have in place to support remote working / digital advice?
We have educational and training support in place via our Distribution Team and this continues to be offered via Zoom technology in the current environment. To access this support, reach out to your local MLC Life Insurance Distribution Representative.
Do you offer tele-interviews?
Tele-interviews have been temporarily switched off during the technology upgrade change over period and will recommence on Monday 1 June 2020.
Where can I find out more about the tools and resources available to advisers on COVID-19?
For further information, contact your local MLC Life Insurance Distribution Representative, or call 13 65 22, 8.30am – 6pm (Melbourne/Sydney time), Monday to Friday.
How has your underwriting changed in line with COVID-19?
No exclusion will automatically apply relating to COVID-19.
Customers who apply for insurance cover will be asked additional questions (refer to question 13 for details).
If a customer has plans to travel in the next 6 months (trip booked and not cancelled) we will exclude both COVID-19 and travel outside Australia. If the customer subsequently confirms this travel has been cancelled we will remove the exclusions.
Do you offer tele-underwriting?
Tele-underwriting and phone based pre-assessment operations have been suspended in line with the technology upgrade change over period. The recommencement date for these services is Monday 1 June 2020.
What additional underwriting questions are being asked in light of COVID-19 – especially of health and medical professionals?
These are subject to change but as at 15 April 2020, we ask customers about their exposure to, or diagnosis of Coronavirus. We also ask about any symptoms the customer may be experiencing.
- We ask a variety of questions depending on whether the client is self-employed, employed or a contractor.
- These questions relate to any potential changes in employment, working hours, income etc. as a result of COVID-19.
- We ask clients about their recent travel and future travel, particularly to any high risk areas.
Other than the above questions, MLC Life Insurance will not ask any additional questions from health or medical professionals.
Are health workers able to be offered cover? If so, with what conditions? (ie a COVID-19 exclusion, declined cover, premium loading, or extended waiting periods)?
MLC Life Insurance has recently reaffirmed its support for healthcare workers at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic by signing an industry-wide commitment that ensures new customers (who are healthcare workers) are not prevented from obtaining life insurance cover purely through exposure, or potential exposure, to Coronavirus.
All existing customers, including frontline healthcare workers, continue to be covered as normal. There are no exclusions for COVID-19 in any MLC Life Insurance policies that would impact on how claims are assessed.
For more information, visit https://www.mlcinsurance.com.au/about-us/media/mlc-life-insurance-commitment-to-frontline-healthcare-workers
Will any underwriting changes also apply to alterations to existing policies?
Yes. The additional underwriting questions will be requested for, but not limited to, any increases, reinstatements, or alterations (including reinstatement and non-smoker requests).
Are there any instances where a client may be declined cover? For example, due to overseas travel?
Yes, cover will be declined if the client:
- Has a current COVID-19 infection;
- Is in self-isolation (that is they have either tested positive or are exhibiting symptoms);
- Is in quarantine (that is they are at risk of having COVID-19 but are not infected or showing symptoms. Usually this is due to travel); and/or
- Is applying for IP or Business Expenses and they have had a drop in income, hours, have been, or have notified that they will be, stood down, placed on unpaid leave or made redundant.
Claims and hypotheticals
We appreciate that many advisers have been fielding claims enquiries and hypotheticals from concerned clients on COVID-19. Below are some Q&A scenarios you may find helpful.
Are there any claims handling changes to assist clients that submit a COVID-19 related claim?
No changes. We’ll continue to assess claims according to the terms of the relevant policy. Our claims team will continue to assess claims efficiently and fairly during this time. Importantly, for customers who have difficulty in accessing medical information in support of their claim, we are happy to discuss alternatives to ensure they continue to receive their benefit.
Can clients make a claim on their retail income protection policy if they are self-isolating and have no COVID symptoms?
No. To make a claim for IP, your client will need to show that they’re unable to work (in accordance with the policy definition) due to sickness or injury.
Do you offer a tele-claims service (ie lodgement of claims over the telephone)?
Yes we do have a tele-claims service and we can start the claim process over the telephone. Both advisers and customers are able to contact our Claims Customer Contact Team and lodge their claims over the phone without the need to complete long and arduous claim forms.
“My client has recently lost their job following government restrictions due to Covid19, are they covered under their policy?”
Retail advice products do not provide cover for unemployment, in particular Income Protection covers individuals for Disablement arising from Sickness or Injury.
There are however circumstances where premiums may be waived and they include the following:
*Should the client have purchased the additional Premium Waiver Insurance (available under Lump Sum Insurance (with or without IP). In this instance an Involuntary Unemployment benefit exists which allows for a waiver of all premiums under the policy
*Should the client have in place MLC Protection First Income Protection Gold Insurance, this coverage also allows for the waiver of Income Protection premiums in the event of their Involuntary Unemployment.
“My client has recently been asked to quarantine for 14 days, but is able to perform their role, are they covered under their policy for this?”
In short, the answer to this is No. If however, following the 14 days of quarantine they are found to be COVID-19 positive then the situation may change where there may be the possibility of an Income Protection claim (depending on waiting period and length of Disability).
“My client is experiencing symptoms of Covid19, but technically is able to perform their role. Will they be covered if they no longer work due to diagnosis of Covid19?”
As is the case with all Income Protection claims, medical certification of one’s inability to work is based on doctor’s advice. Should one be certified unable to return to work due symptoms associated with COVID-19 then MLC would consider a claim if the period of Disability extended beyond the related waiting period.
MLC Life Insurance does not exclude individuals from claiming due to COVID-19 or any other pandemic.
“My client has been diagnosed with Covid19, can they claim under Critical Illness?”
For the overwhelming majority of individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, their symptoms have been mild. If however, your client’s condition is of a severe form which requires a stay in ICU, MLC Life Insurance offers a Critical Illness benefit for ICU (involving mechanical intubation) stays of 7 days.
In addition, MLC Life Critical Illness with Extra Benefits Option offers a partial payment for ICU (involving mechanical intubation) stays of 5 days.
“My client works in health care, if she comes into contact with a patient who is then diagnosed with Covid19 and/or her workplace quarantines her as a result, does her policy cover her or is she only covered if she contracts the virus?”
Those that may have been exposed will require 14 days of quarantine. Following the quarantine period, if they are given the all clear, they are able to return to work. Depending on the waiting period the client has on their policy, it is unlikely a short period of self-quarantine would result in a claimable event.
“My client works in aged care. If her workplace terminates her contract because of her exposure to the virus, does she have an unemployment benefit option?”
This will depend on the nature of the policy that the client has.
If your client has purchased the additional Premium Waiver Insurance (available under Lump Sum Insurance (with or without IP)). In this instance an Involuntary Unemployment benefit exists allowing for a waiver of all premiums under the policy.
If your client has MLC Protection First Income Protection Gold Insurance in place, this coverage also allows for the waiver of Income Protection premiums in the event of their Involuntary Unemployment.
“My client is a doctor and has a 90 day waiting period on his existing policy. He is keen to understand how he would be treated if diagnosed with Covid19?”
The Income Protection insurance your client has, has no specific exclusions for pandemics so as with any claim, they would simply need to meet the eligibility criteria for the particular insurance benefits.
Given they have a 90 day wait period under this policy, in the event that they are exposed and need to be self-isolated for a 14+ days and then subsequently diagnosed, then the insurer would be in a position to assess a claim (as the Insurer would for any other health condition). Given this sequence of events the start of their 90 day waiting period would be from the 1st day of isolation. Benefits then become payable immediately after their waiting period ends.
If there is no diagnosis (injury/illness) that prevents them from working, there is no claim.
For multiple quarantine/isolation periods during their 90 day waiting period where they could be asked to self-isolate more than once – then they are eventually diagnosed, we will view this on a case by case basis in regards to the start date/first day of the 90 day waiting period.