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Cancer claims shoot up as COVID focus takes eye off other deadly diseases

Cancer-related disability and critical illness insurance claims have shot up as the focus on COVID-19 saw less attention being paid to other deadly diseases, a trend which is worrying insures. The Liberty group, says their latest statistics reflects a similar international trend.

COVID-19 related deaths pushed claims to record highs in 2020, but insurers say 2021 was even worse. The third wave, driven by the Delta variant, was the deadliest of them all, and what had seemed like unprecedented claims for Liberty in 2020 almost doubled in 2021.

News24 reports that the Standard Bank-owned insurer has just released its claims statistics. In 2020, it paid R6.34bn in claims. In 2021, this shot up to R10.12bn – meaning it was paying roughly R46m in claims every working day.

“The Delta wave saw death and funeral claims go up drastically, until around August-September,” said Liberty’s head of claims, Tumi Mothoagae.

Even after that, he said, the claims volumes never returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, after the third wave, the company started receiving more disability, critical illness and income protection claims.

Under the fourth and the current fifth wave, while COVID-19 still preoccupied the minds of Liberty’s actuaries and medical staff, the critical illness claims that started rolling in worried them more.

Liberty’s chief medical officer, Dr Dominique Stott, said there were more disability and critical illness claims resulting from cancer – a trend noted internationally as well. People were skipping their regular check-ups and missing their mammograms, and blood tests for prostate cancer.

“So, now we are seeing more serious cancers presenting as claims. It’s stages 2, 3 and 4 instead of stage 1,” said Stott.

In 2021, after COVID-19, which accounted for 21.2% paid in Liberty claims, cancer was a close second, accounting for 20.7% of all claims. More than half of the R10.12bn the insurer paid went towards four critical illness claims: cancer, cardiovascular disorders, respiratory diseases and strokes.

Stott said because COVID was front of mind for the past two years, SA took its eye off these other deadly diseases. In total, R6.65bn went towards other leading causes of claims and R3.47bn went to COVID-19 claims.


News24 article – As Covid-19 claims break records, it's late diagnosis of serious cancers worrying Liberty (Open access)


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SA life insurers: Doubling in death claims since COVID-19 started


Discovery analysis: COVID-19 death claims exceed all others combined


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