On Monday, Sun Life Assurance Company announced that for the first time it would now offer people living with HIV life insurance. With coverage exceeding the $3 million mark – more than Manulife’s $2 million offering announced in April – the product clearly is a source of pride for the company, as President of Sun Life Financial Kevin Dougherty reveals. “This is a reflection of the great progress that has been made in the war against HIV.”
It’s been an eventful few days for the insurance giant, as it announced wholesale changes to its product lineup and underwriting process. The majority of applicants will no longer be required to provide blood, saliva or urine samples to receive critical illness or life insurance coverage. The firm says that over three-quarters of Sun Life's critical illness insurance clients and half of its life insurance clients will benefit from these changes. According to Dougherty, the simplified underwriting process is a clear response to the changing health of Canadians.
“In the year 2000, heart disease accounted for 25.3% of deaths in Canada,” he says. “By 2011, it accounted for 19.7%. We see this trend continuing, so we felt requiring ECGs wasn’t necessary in all cases.”
A welcome development for sure, but while Canadians’ hearts appear to be in better shape, the opposite is true when it comes to another potentially deadly disease.
“In 2000, 4.2% of Canadians had diabetes,” says Dougherty. “In 2015, 9.3% have diabetes, with another 22.1% in the pre-diabetic category. When we require tests for applicants, we will do an A1C test which screens for diabetes or pre-diabetes. We share that with the applicants so they can talk to their doctors.”
With the underwriting process being streamlined, Sun Life is redirecting much of its efforts towards its new product range. The new tax exemption rules will come into effect on January 1, 2017, so most of its competitors are in a period of transition. For Dougherty, however, the moves being taken at Sun Life go much further than simply being compliant under the new legislation.
One such change is a new option for participating life insurance policies aimed at those approaching retirement.
“Typically, the earliest paid-up option had been 20 years,” says Dougherty. “So if you bought some par insurance at 55 you still would be paying it long past retirement. Now there is an option of being paid up in eight or ten years. We think that will be very attractive to people in the retirement corridor.”
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