By Petrie Marx, 23 June 2022
While these numbers are a testament to the havoc COVID-19 wrought on society, the pandemic is not the sole driver of the increases.
Petrie Marx, Product Actuary at Sanlam Individual Life, says, “It’ll take time to fully appreciate what COVID-19 did – and did not – impact directly. For example, deaths resulting from cancer and heart conditions increased somewhat between 2020 and 2021. This may be related to the indirect effects of COVID-19, which saw lower levels of routine health checks during hard lockdown, or it may be caused by another factor. This is a trend we will have to watch closely.”
The largest single death claim was R36.1 million, with a total of R7.2 billion paid for death claims in 2021. Most death claim payouts were linked to ‘diseases of the respiratory system’ for men and women. This includes R2.6 billion for confirmed COVID-19 claims and highlights the devastating impact of the pandemic.
While 68% of death and funeral claims were paid to men, the disproportionate statistic may not be all that unusual. Marx says one should consider the fact that men typically tend to pass away earlier than women and that they may have taken out more life cover in the past. However, it is well documented that COVID-19 had a more devastating effect on men. Despite this, men still have lower vaccination rates.
Last year, 61% of severe illness claims were from people under 55 years, with cancer making up the bulk of the total claims in this category (53%). In women, 65% of all cancer claims were for breast cancer, while 25% of cancer claims from men were for prostate cancer. Combined, heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) accounted for 32% of severe illness claims by men and 14% by women.
As seen in previous years, these remain the main causes of severe illness claims for men and women in 2021. However, claims were also received for less common causes of severe illness, such as a 49-year-old male mill worker who experienced grade-2 burn wounds and a 33-year-old woman who suffered a stillbirth.
Leading causes of disability claims related to bones, back, joints and connective tissue (19%), diseases of the nervous system and sensory organs (19%), and cancer (14%). 63% of disability claims were from clients under 55 years – a stark reminder that we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best at any age. This included a 34-year-old architect who discovered just how important the Accidental Temporary Incapacity feature was under his disability cover after he was involved in a motorbike accident and booked off for three months. The payout of R152,000 helped him to manage while he recovered.
COVID-19 accounted for 19% of income protection claims. A further R58 million was paid under the sickness benefit for professionals who were booked off work due to COVID-19 – almost double the amount paid in 2020. In women, COVID-19 accounted for 47% of sickness claims, followed by conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the puerperium (10%) and musculoskeletal conditions (7%). The main causes of sickness claims for men were COVID-19 (61%), accidents (8%) and musculoskeletal conditions (7%).
Professionals in the medical field account for the vast majority (74%) of COVID-19 claims under the Sickness and Temporary Disability benefit, highlighting the risks faced by our heroic frontline workers during the pandemic.
Marx concludes, “When the unexpected happens, it is empowering to have sufficient cover in place. This helps you to live confidently, knowing that you and your loved ones have the protection you need. At Sanlam, we don’t just deal with claims, we honour our commitment by finding reasons to pay so that we can help our clients when they are at their most vulnerable. Our
2021 claim statistics are testament to this.”