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The Association of British Insurers on Wednesday stressed that forcing insurers to pay for COVID-19 related claims that aren’t covered in contracts would be “a shortcut to insolvency.”
The ABI’s comments were in response to an earlier statement from the U.K.-based risk management association Airmic Ltd. urging insurers to change their approach to pandemic-related claims or risk losing their reputation and policyholders.
“The harsh market is already straining relations with many corporate clients, and insurers’ rigid interpretation of wording regarding the pandemic could accelerate this deterioration,” Airmic said in its statement Tuesday.
Insurers have a choice, Airmic said. “They can either interpret ambiguous contract wordings with their balance sheet in mind, or they can act as partners to long-standing customers who seek business protection.”
In response, an ABI spokesperson said that insurers understand that it is a very worrying and uncertain time for all businesses.
“Each claim will be examined on its merits by the insurer according to all the policy wording,” the ABI spokesperson said.
While most business insurance doesn’t cover pandemics, overall U.K. insurers estimate they will pay out over £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) in COVID-19 related claims. This includes an estimated £900 million in business interruption claims to firms with pandemic coverage, the ABI spokesperson said.
Airmic’s statement, which followed consultation with its members, called for a commitment by insurers to avoid COVID-19 exclusions on directors and officers policies and development of business interruption coverages that are “fit for modern business risk profiles.”
Insurers should also avoid “last-minute, poorly communicated” changes in underwriting policy, including limits and exclusions, and be willing to look “favorably” on grey area claims, Airmic said.
Both the ABI and Airmic said they would support a public-private approach to cover future pandemic risks.
“Given the sheer scale of economic impact, extensive pandemic insurance cover can only happen with some form of government support,” the ABI spokesman said.
More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.
(Reuters) — Reinsurer Swiss Re swung into a net loss in the first quarter as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak began to bite, it said on Thursday.