Swiss Re releases first rehab services report for six years | Insurance Business Australia
In November, for the first time in six years, Swiss Re published a report that examined rehabilitation services across Australia’s life insurance industry. Rehabilitation Watch 2022 is the global reinsurer’s market survey covering benefits, costs and trends in the rehabilitation services sector.
When the report first came out in 2014, it was the only industry-wide survey collating data on the use of rehabilitation services in supporting customer recovery and health outcomes.
According to Lucy Hartley (pictured above), claims service manager for Swiss Re Life & Health Australia & New Zealand, insurance brokers of all kinds have a role to play promoting the benefits of early intervention to their customers.
Brokers’ rising importance in the their customers’ wellbeing
“Brokers can help build a more resilient community,” said Hartley. “By promoting the benefits of early intervention and preventative services offered by [life and health] insurers, customers can be encouraged to develop healthier lifestyles, monitor their health and learn techniques to cope with everyday stressors.”
As trusted advisers to businesses, she said, brokers are an important supporter of “cross-jurisdictional absence management.”
According to Gartner, absence management is how an employer can use policies, procedures or programs to reduce employee absenteeism and maximize employee productivity.
One challenge identified in the report is the number of late notified claims.
“The industry, however, continues to battle the issue of late notified claims,” said the report. “Particularly in the group insurance channel.”
Hartley suggested that brokers could play a role bringing this number down.
“They [brokers] are also involved soon after a customer’s injury/illness, which places them in an optimal position to encourage early notification of claim,” said Hartley. “Brokers can make recommendations for employers to address via process changes, training, or the innovation of new rehabilitation interventions.”
By offering and funding rehabilitation services in the waiting period, said the report, participants are maximising recovery and return to work opportunities.
The industry battle with late claims
Late notified claims – particularly in the group insurance channel – is a continued trend seen by the industry. There is an opportunity for insurers to partner with funds and other jurisdictions (such as workers’ compensation) and strengthen relationships with employers, to facilitate early intervention and seamless return to work support
Hartley said the survey highlighted this industry focus on intervening early.
“Five insurers offer preventative rehabilitation services to policyholders, for example wellbeing programs, second opinion services and mental health support,” said Hartley. “All insurers offer rehabilitation in the waiting period.”
She said some are working with employers to offer co-designed absence management programs.
When a life or health insurance claim starts, Hartley said insurers agree that direct verbal contact with customers is best practice for assessment and ongoing management of the claim.
“Brokers supporting this will lead to stronger buy-in and engagement at the appropriate time,” she said.
The survey also found that the industry has evolved over the last six years.
“External rehabilitation providers servicing the industry have deepened their understanding of life insurance products and innovated programs to improve customer function and wellbeing, with tailoring of condition-specific programs aligned to the leading causes of claim,” said Hartley. “The partnering of in-house and external rehabilitation expertise has seen the emergence of timely, cost-effective interventions.”
The number of in-house rehabilitation consultants in the life industry has remained stable since 2016, she said, despite increases in claim volumes and complexity. Hartley said improved data and analytics have helped these teams to effectively screen claims and target efforts on those customers most likely to benefit from rehabilitation intervention.
“As insurers continue to invest in claims automation and data analytics, rehabilitation teams can work ‘smarter’ across portfolios, ensuring the customers who would most benefit from tailored support receive the right service at the right time,” she said.
Outsourcing that brings collaboration not job cuts
At a time when outsourcing is often used to cut staff, Hartley said that outsourcing in her sector is about collaboration and reducing costs. “The partnering of in-house and external rehabilitation expertise has seen the emergence of timely, cost-effective interventions,” she said.
Hartley said the number of in-house rehabilitation consultants in the life industry has remained stable since the last survey in 2016.
“Concurrently, external rehabilitation providers servicing the industry have deepened their understanding of life insurance products and innovated programs to improve customer function and wellbeing, with tailoring of condition-specific programs aligned to the leading causes of claim,” she said.
Hartley said the report underlines the “clear benefits of rehabilitation” to the customer, the insurer, and the wider community through workforce participation.
“Over the past five years, we have seen the emergence of preventative programs and tailored condition-specific programs targeting the main causes of claim,” she said. “With improved focus on technology and data, rehabilitation services will continue to evolve, responding to environmental and regulatory changes that impact the industry.”
Is there a growing role for brokers to play in the wellbeing of their customers? Please comment below.