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FSC clarifies pandemic exclusions in life covers

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The life industry has provided further clarification on pandemic exclusions after an original statement was withdrawn last week.

The new statement maintains that as at March 11 no existing life insurance policies have exclusions that would prevent the policy paying out a death claim related to coronavirus if government travel advice had been followed.

“No one should be concerned about their existing life cover and you can ask your life insurance company or superannuation trustee what you are covered for,” Financial Services Council (FSC) CEO Sally Loane said in the new statement on behalf of the industry.

But start dates for new life covers may be deferred depending on policyholders’ recent or planned travel. The delays may also apply to policyholders planning to reinstate or increase their covers.

The statement says policyholders should ask their “life insurance company or superannuation trustee when [the] new cover will start and whether there are any exclusions”.

In the original statement, the FSC did not mention that start dates for policies may hinge on policyholders’ recent or planned travel.

It’s understood the withdrawal of the original statement was ordered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), but the regulator has declined to confirm that it intervened.

A spokesman for ASIC told that “generally life insurance policies do not have a pandemic exclusion.”

“However, we have identified some group life insurance policies that either have a pandemic exclusion that operates in the first month or so of starting a new policy or increasing cover, or they allow an insurer to activate a pandemic exclusion with notice to the super fund.”

The spokesman says some income protection policies have general pandemic exclusions, adding: “The key message is, if you have questions about your cover you should contact your insurer or your super fund or a financial adviser.”