Advanced Underwriting Bulletin on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

According to the World Health Organization, as of March 12, the global spread of COVID-19 is estimated at more than 80,000 in China and close to 125,000 worldwide (1). As expected, it is beginning to have an impact within the Canadian underwriting marketplace as well. With no preventative vaccine and no treatment to cure this particular virus, public health officials worldwide are working to contain the spread or at least mitigate its’ effects. However, there have been challenges in determining the true number of cases and countries are now implementing wider-scale screening in an attempt to understand the current and longer-term mortality impact of this potentially fatal illness.

Canadian insurers are putting out guidelines to adequately address the risk associated with COVID-19. This has resulted in an increased focus on foreign travel, both recent and planned future travel. While there is no single industry guideline, recent travel to endemic areas such as China, South Korea and Italy may result in postponement – deferring consideration of the risk – for a short period upon return to Canada to cover the incubation period following exposure (generally thought to be 14 days), since most cases occur approximately 5 days after exposure. Other insurers prefer to postpone for longer or indefinite periods.

When reviewing an application, make sure to pay particular attention to your client’s recent and planned travel. List the countries visited, particular regions within those countries if applicable, as well as the duration of time spent abroad. This will factor into the underwriting decision. Insurers will strive to maintain a balanced and evidence-based approach to underwriting this particular virus.

Additionally, because COVID-19 is transmitted by contact with an infected person, it is important to remain mindful of paramedical service personnel tasked with completing medical underwriting requirements. Please make sure to confirm your client has not traveled outside of Canada (within 14 days prior to the exam date) and ensure that your client has no flu-related symptoms. If there are indications of both or either, paramedical underwriting exams should be deferred for at least 2 weeks after travel or the onset of symptoms. In the absence of both situations, exams can be arranged without restriction.

For up to date information on COVID-19 underwriting guidelines, continue to check the bulletins issued by each Canadian insurer.

For advisors affiliated with PPI, our Advanced Underwriting team is also here to help answer questions.

  1. World Health Organization, 2020

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