Broking boss on 'not at all surprising' surge in particular set of insurance claims

Millennial mum knows what it's like

Broking boss on 'not at all surprising' surge in particular set of insurance claims

Insurance News

By Terry Gangcuangco

A whopping 225% – that’s by how much mental health claims lodged with nib New Zealand leapt during the two-year span between January 2019 and December 2021. For Julia Vahry (pictured), a former police officer who owns and runs health and life brokerage Vahry Insurance, the statistic doesn’t come as a surprise.

“The last two years of our COVID world have been exceptionally tough for people,” the managing director told Insurance Business. “It has been an emotional rollercoaster with politics, health decisions, business decisions, career decisions, family decisions.

“The majority of decisions weren’t even allowed to be on our own volition; they were made for us. Who knew that when we eventually were allowed to have freedom, we would require a pass on our phone – and those that didn’t, a large number of them lost their jobs, their businesses, their careers, and identities.”

Vahry was in part referring to the vaccination mandates for certain sectors and business types.

She went on to state: “I understand why there was so much stress. There was so much information and so many channels of information, and with such a politically fuelled environment it was very difficult for people to make decisions, especially because no-one had experienced something like this before.

“Most people I engage with believe that our Omicron environment now is more challenging than lockdowns, especially with disruptions with household isolations. We have had to learn to be adaptable constantly and that nothing is guaranteed. Humans need a level of certainty, and we just haven’t had any for such a long time.”

“I am not at all surprised with the nib statistics,” said Vahry.

Perhaps what’s even less surprising is the fact that women dominated the claims figures. According to nib NZ’s data, women accounted for 67% of the health insurer’s psychiatric claims during the period. Additionally, 61% of claimants fell into the so-called “millennial” age group. This generation spans those born between 1981 and 1996. 

“I know we have all felt anxiety, some of us for the very first time, and reintegrating back into ‘normal’ life has been challenging for a lot of people learning to be social again,” the cop-turned-broker told Insurance Business. “Interestingly, my last two significant trauma claims for cancer have been for women in the last two months, both under 36 years which I haven’t experienced before.

“Traditionally, women have been in that ‘homemaker’ role especially while children are young. A lot of women re-entering the workplace still are juggling children, careers, businesses, finances, big mortgages. Many Western families with two working parents have historically been relying on grandparents to help out with children pre-lockdown; however, this all came to a sudden stop.”

A millennial mum to young kids herself, Vahry stressed: “During that lockdown period, parents became the jack of all trades, requiring them to wear all ‘hats’ and adapt under very unpredictable circumstances. Statistically, women have higher claims with disability insurance such as income protection – so, again, [the above] results are not unexpected.”

During the 2019-2021 period, said nib NZ, the number of its members choosing policies with mental health coverage increased by 65%.

“We made it our priority to increase our mental health cover last year,” highlighted nib New Zealand chief executive Rob Hennin, “offering our members support from registered psychologists and psychiatrists with no waiting periods, excess, or exclusions for pre-existing conditions.”

Vahry, meanwhile, believes in the power of “real human connections” and emphasized the importance of face-to-face interaction while not discounting what technology has done during the pandemic.

“Technology certainly has its place and helped us significantly during the lockdown periods,” declared the Vahry Insurance boss, who was recently tapped to serve as kids’ fishing ambassador for the Tongariro National Trout Centre. “It certainly transformed my own business into a digital one… [but] kicking the computers and phones to touch for a bit is really needed.

“We are proud that we are encouraging families to get back outside and create wonderful memories with our partnership with the Tongariro National Trout Centre. “Our aim is to get whānau and friends back outside and bonding together once again. We don’t remember those times in front of screens, but we do shape our childhood memories on those real-life ones.”

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