Point of view: Liberty pays R6.7 billion in insurance claims in 2023

The insurer is encouraging clients to remain insured, amid prevailing tough economic conditions. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

The insurer is encouraging clients to remain insured, amid prevailing tough economic conditions. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Published May 25, 2024


LIBERTY, a life insurer, has announced that in 2023 it paid out R6.72 billion in valid claims to individual clients, their families, and beneficiaries.

According to the group, this amounts to R25.85 million every working day. “Although this is 3.72% lower than in 2022, these statistics still mirror concerning trends in health and lifestyle risks facing South Africans,” it said.

Liberty said the top claim conditions in 2023 were spread across cancer, cardiac and cardiovascular diseases and disorders, respiratory disorders, strokes, and traumatic injuries.

“Cancer remains the leading cause of claims, accounting for approximately 32.3% of all our claims," the group said.

The insurer said that in 2023, under its lifestyle protection pillar of benefits which covers the risk of a critical illness diagnosis, it saw a 10.8% increase in total claims paid compared to 2022.

“The total paid in 2023 amounted to some R1.01 billion. Considering lifestyle protection claims alone, women had a higher proportion of claims attributed to cancer compared to men, with 37.3% of female claims attributable, compared to 29.8% for men,” it said.

The group said cardiovascular disorders made up 23.4% of all lifestyle protection claims, followed by respiratory disorders at 7.3%, strokes at 5.6%, and traumatic injuries at 4.5%.

“Overall, the insurer saw an increase in cancer and cardiovascular claims but a decrease in respiratory disorders, which may be considered a slight return to pre-pandemic norms, specifically in critical illness claims. The rise in critical illness-related claims aligns with research showing the global healthcare challenge of an increase in non-communicable diseases over the last 20 years,” it said.

Liberty head of comprehensive life solutions Mark Barberini said a claim meant that there was a vulnerable moment in the life of a client or one of their family members.

“While we deliver on our promise to pay every valid claim, we are also aware of the effects of the increase in lifestyle diseases such as cancer, proving the very essence of insurance, which is to provide some financial safety in difficult moments.”

Barberini said people in the current economic environment were looking for ways to streamline their finances when their budget gets stretched. However, he encouraged South Africans to speak to their financial advisers and try to find the best way to remain insured to protect against further setbacks.

“An unexpected diagnosis can have a huge knock-on effect on your finances, exacerbated if you no longer have the necessary cover in place,” he said.

According to Tom Crotty, Liberty’s head of risk technical marketing, the claims point to people living through and surviving critical illness diagnoses.

By far, the most prevalent form of cancer was breast cancer, which accounted for 25.6% of all claims and 54.2% of all cancer-related claims for women. Considering cancer claims for men, 34.7% of all cancer claims were related to prostate cancer, Liberty said.

“Interestingly, breast cancer in South African women remains higher than the global average, and breast cancer survival rates in South Africa are relatively low compared to countries like the US and the UK,” the group said.

“People are surviving challenging, life-changing critical illnesses, which require lifestyle adjustments that can cost hundreds of thousands during their recovery phase,” said Crotty.

Meanwhile, Liberty said it paid out 93.8% of all claims from its clients during the year.

“This means in total, 6.2% of claims were not paid because they did not meet the required criteria. Importantly, thanks to the knowledge and support of our partnered financial advisers at the time the policy was taken up, we have seen our declines for non-disclosure remain low.

“The total declines for non-disclosure of key client details made up 0.3% of all claims. Other factors that could lead to a claim being repudiated include exclusions or conditions not covered in the policy,” it said.

The group said its accredited financial advisers were there to guide the client from the inception of the policy.

“Our claims management teams are continuously streamlining the claims process internally to deliver a superior experience for our clients,” it said.