Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Insurance companies to suffer loss

DAMAGE Those organizations which do not offer life insurance may see travel premiums drop by up to 50 percent because of severe acute respiratory syndrome

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's non-life insurance companies may suffer a 50 percent drop in travel-insurance premiums due to the recent outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), an industry leader said yesterday.

"The industry may lose NT$200 million to NT$300 million in travel insurance premiums this year since people have gradually stopped making sight seeing trips domestically or abroad," said Frank Huang (王事展), chairman of the Non-Life Insurance Association of the ROC (產險公會).

Huang, who is also president of the Union Insurance Co (友聯產保), added that the industry may see greater losses if the nation's aviation and travel industries do not recover soon.

He is urging the Ministry of Finance to allow non-life insurers to offer SARS travel insurance coverage. He made the request while attending a breakfast meeting chaired by Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday morning.

In response, Vice Minister of Finance Susan Chang (張秀蓮) told reporters after the meeting that the ministry needs to look into the proposal before potentially granting its approval in two weeks time.

If it meets with ministry approval, the Union Insurance plans to take the lead and offer SARS-related benefits within its travel insurance coverage, Huang said.

According to Huang, insured parties will then be compensated with an extra NT$200,000 subsidy if they contract the disease during sighting trips overseas and are hospitalized for over 20 days. If the insurance holder passes away within 60 days, a NT$1.8 million settlement will be paid.

"We hope the move will help bring back travelers," Huang said.

Although non-life insurers are indirectly suffering from the disease's negative impact on tourism, the nation's life insurers, however, are bracing for a surge in new health-insurance buyers.

Taiwan Life Insurance Co (台灣人壽), on Monday, repackaged its traditional health insurance products and launched a new one-year insurance specially designed to cover medical risks triggered by SARS.

In addition to medical compensation, Taiwan Life will offer an extra NT$20,000 subsidy to the insured if they are discharged from the hospital after recovering from the disease.

"On the first day, we've signed contracts with some 40 buyers from two company clients and had numerous calls from interested buyers," the company's public relations manager, Belle Lin (林幼琳), said yesterday.

Taiwan Life aims to attract over 200,000 buyers to purchase its one-year SARS-related insurance plan within the next two months, its president Frank Ling (凌氤寶) said yesterday.

To help their clients better cope with the disease, other life insurers are also expanding health insurance coverage. For example, ING Antai Life Insurance Co (安泰人壽) will give an extra NT$5,000 consolation payment to any client who gets the disease, and an additional NT$5,000 for caregivers in the family.

The nation's two biggest life insurers -- Cathay Life Insurance Co (國泰人壽) and Shin Kong Life Insurance Co (新光人壽) -- yesterday said they have seen minor growth in health-insurance buyers over the past two weeks as the disease rages on.

As for the claim losses incurred by the disease, both companies said that it's still too early to tell now.

Shin Kong, however, said that the company has only received applications from three insurance clients to claim SARS-related medical compensation, which amounted to a total of NT$60,000.

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