Discovery reveals new claims data trends – including the leading causes of death

Discovery Life has published its claims data for the 2020 calendar year, with the Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacting the group’s South African members.

A tragic second and third wave, as well as the long-term health impact of long Covid, have driven higher-than-usual claims attributed to the pandemic, said Riaan van Reenen, Discovery Life’s chief executive.

“Although Covid-19 impacted claims in 2020 materially, the impact of the second and third waves primarily impacted the 2021 claims experience,” he said.

The data shows Covid-19 has dramatically impacted Discovery Life’s death claims experience, with it now overtaking cancer, heart and artery disease as the primary cause of death amongst Discovery Life clients.

“If we inspect the highest claims category per year for the past 10 years, we find that Covid-19 has emerged as the leading cause of death – overtaking cancer and artery claims, which in previous years were the main causes of death,” van Reenen said.

“Further, deaths emanating from Covid-19 in 2021 have been almost 50% higher than all other causes of death combined.”

He noted that heart and artery diseases caused an average of 27% of deaths each year over the previous nine years, compared to 57% of all deaths being attributed to Covid-19 for 2021 up to August.

Van Reenen added that Discovery Life has already paid out nearly R3 billion to clients in Covid-19 related claims up to 30 June 2021. Based on its projections, it expects a total of R6.2 billion in Covid-19-related claims to be paid out between individual and group risk insurance policies by June 2022.

“Coivd-19 is likely to become an endemic disease in the near future with a continued impact on society in the years to come,” he said.

A healthy lifestyle is a key factor

As the pandemic continues and more data becomes available on the link between health behaviours and Covid-19 risk, it’s becoming more evident that a healthy lifestyle can reduce an individual’s risk of severe complications from Covid-19, said Discovery Life’s chief medical officer Dr Maritha van der Walt.

“Our data and analysis show that in 2020, clients on Gold and Diamond status exhibited 73% lower mortality rates than clients without Vitality and those on a Blue status,” she said.

This was echoed by deputy chief executive Gareth Friedlander, who said that healthy behaviours are proven to lower a client’s risk.

A healthier client exhibits lower mortality, morbidity, and lapse rates, and when our clients lead a healthy life, it allows us to derive insurance savings over a more extended period.

“We are pleased to announce that 80% of Discovery Life’s clients aged older than 60 have been vaccinated, with the rate for our book overall at 71% having received at least one vaccine.”

Covid-19 increases clients’ mortality and morbidity risk by as much as 10 times the base mortality rate, he said.


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