NTUC Income recalibrates underwriting process for seniors

by | September 27, 2018

This new process found 13-percent less seniors required further medical review at application of life insurance.

NTUC Income has introduced a health underwriting questionnaire targeting seniors (above 50 years old). The questionnaire, which is fundamental to the health underwriting process, has been recalibrated to address seniors’ pain points based on findings from a Nielsen study commissioned by Income last year to understand seniors’ perceptions, attitudes and challenges towards insurance and purchase.

The Nielsen study which interviewed 150 seniors aged 50 to 65 shared that seniors found the standard health underwriting questionnaire was tedious, and the scope of disclosure was excessive, and too broad and vague. The new senior-focused questionnaire differs from the standard health underwriting questionnaire in three main areas.


Senior-focused underwriting features

Firstly, it requests only for health declarations that are most relevant to seniors. Previously, there was no differentiation in underwriting declarations based on age as applicants above 12 years old use a standard questionnaire to provide health information.

With the recalibrated underwriting process, those above 50 years old are not required to declare any pre-existing conditions that are deemed less prevalent for the age group based on underwriting guidelines and experience. Examples of such conditions include gastritis, piles, gallstones, urinary tract infection, and pregnancy complications. As such, seniors are not subjected to unnecessary medical reviews related to these conditions, making the application process more user-friendly.

Secondly, the senior-focused questionnaire streamlines declaration of key medical conditions to minimise excessive request for information. Key medical conditions are typically those that top applicants’ recall, such as diabetes, heart attack, stroke or cancer, and require additional medical review. Unlike the standard health underwriting questionnaire, applicants who use the senior-focused one no longer need to run through the entire list of statements to indicate key medical conditions that are relevant to them. Instead, applicants are served upfront a health declaration statement related to key medical conditions, which helps to better manage their expectations on further medical review required.

Most significantly, seniors are required to make a health declaration only if they are actively managing a medical condition for the past five years and meet any of the defined severity criteria below, regardless of when they were diagnosed.

(a) Medical leave and/or on medication for two consecutive weeks and beyond;
(b) Hospitalisation;
(c) Regular follow-up with a medical practitioner;
(d) On regular medications;
(e) Use of assistance device or help from another person to carry out daily activities.

As a result, the recalibrated underwriting process for seniors removes the ambiguity of having to declare medical conditions, which took place a long time ago, especially when they were one-time occurrences.

Andrew Yeo, Income’s general manager for Life & Health Insurance, said, “A longer life expectancy in Singapore comes with health and aged-care issues. According to the 2017 Protection Gap Study by the Life Insurance Association Singapore, Singaporeans spent an average of eight years, out of 82, in ill-health. This means, more people are living longer but in poorer health. Thus, there is a growing need for Income to meet the protection and financial needs of our growing silver population with relevant insurance products and services. This senior-focused health questionnaire marks our continuous effort to set practical benchmarks to suit older customers so as to improve their accessibility to insurance.”

He added: “The Nielsen study showed that senior applicants are primarily put off by onerous underwriting requirements characterised by lengthy and complex health declarations and failure to qualify after complying with the process. With the senior-focused questionnaire, it is our intent to offer seniors a better medical underwriting experience, and in turn, improve their protection gap so that they enjoy better peace of mind in their golden years. This is particularly pertinent since the study revealed that 95 percent of the seniors interviewed regarded insurance as an important safeguard against health issues that come with ageing.”


Seniors react positively to recalibrated underwriting process

According to the Nielsen study, 93 percent of the respondents agreed that it was easier to declare their health conditions via the senior-focused questionnaire given the specified time frame. Majority were also clearer about the extent of information to provide and were less concerned about providing medical proof given the reduced scope of information required.

The study also found respondents to be more confident about applying for insurance via the senior-focused questionnaire, with 86 percent of them indicated that they were less worried about application and claims rejection. They were also more assured that their one-off medical conditions or those under-controlled had a lower chance of affecting their applications, and were confident to be accepted.

Most significantly, 13 percent less respondents required further medical review when they made health declarations using the senior-focused questionnaire compared to the standard one. This implies that more seniors can expect to qualify for life insurance that require full medical underwriting.

The recalibrated health underwriting process and senior-focused questionnaire was rolled out earlier this month with 14 existing Income life insurance plans that require full medical underwriting.

This initiative follows closely the introduction of Income’s suite of insurance offerings that cater specially to seniors. Silver Protect, for example, offers seniors protection against early and advanced stage cancer even when they have pre-existing medical conditions as long as they are non-cancer-related. It also offers the oldest entry age in the market at age 74. Silver Secure, on the other hand, protects seniors against old-age chronic diseases that require long-term care such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis with fractures, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic complications, etc. With SilverCare, Income also protects seniors against death and permanent disability due to an accident, covering also medical, home care, rehabilitation and caregiver training expenses.





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