The now infamous coronavirus is spreading throughout the world at an alarming rate. China continues to bear the brunt of the virus with thousands of reported infected and the death toll that is climbing by the hour. Of course, China is notorious for twisting the truth and the true numbers are likely much higher than those that have been reported thus far. Given the sheer number of infected chinese citizens, the government is looking to make health insurance more affordable so more people can get the treatment that they need.
China is attempting to shift from their traditional insurance landscape that focuses on products that are basically investment schemes and healthcare policies that only covers a fifth of the total population. That leaves millions of people without coverage who are all at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
In the past, chinese insurers specifically catered their insurance products to help large-margin investments. Naturally, that move put insurance coverage out of reach for most of the chinese populace. That is a huge problem now that so many Chinese citizens are at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
China’s Banking and Insurance Regulator (CBIR) recently amended the actuary rules for health insurance, life insurance, accident insurance and annuity insurance. This move lowered premiums across the country by anywhere from three to five percent. The government clearly hopes this move will encourage more of its citizens to invest in a policy.
Three of the major insurers in China—China Life, China Pacific Insurance, Ping An Insurance Group and Zhong An Online P&C Insurance Co.— have all amended their existing healthcare policies to include some form of coverage for any of their customers who have contracted the virus. According to the New York Times, at least half a dozen other chinese insurers are in the middle of getting policies that cover the virus approved.
Sam Radwan, president of consultant ENHANCE International, which advises China’s top insurers, spoke with the New York Times about these recent changes to the chinese insurance industry.
“There is no doubt that awareness for insurance will significantly increase in the near future,” said Radwan. “Customers will be more understanding of the need to buy these products as opposed to in the past when my clients had a very difficult time convincing customers to buy these products and the net result was acquisition costs were very high.”
The coronavirus continues to plague China while the rest of the world is fearful that they will be the next country facing this epidemic. So far, other countries (including the United States) have had reports of the virus here or there but they’ve been able to quarantine those who have been affected in order to avoid the type of mass outbreak that China is currently dealing with.
This effort by the chinese government to make health insurance more accessible to their people could save a lot of lives if it works, but it might be too little too late. The world will be watching closely.