MANILA, Philippines — The insurance industry raised its total COVID payouts to P20 billion after releasing P3 billion in benefits to policyholders who contracted the  virus in the first quarter.

The Insurance Commission (IC) reported yesterday that insurers issued a total of P19.64 billion in COVID benefits between March 2020 and March 2022.

IC Commissioner Dennis Funa said life insurers gave out the bulk of the payouts at P10.84 billion, followed by health maintenance organizations (HMOs) with P7.39 billion.

Mutual benefit associations (MBAs) and non-life firms paid out P882 million and P527 million in COVID-related benefits, respectively.

By period, the industry issued its largest volume of COVID claims in 2021 at P12.82 billion.

In the first quarter, Funa said insurers released a combined P2.93 billion in COVID benefits to their clients.

Mirroring the trend throughout the pandemic, life insurers made up the lion’s share of the amount at P1.79 billion.

During the period, Funa said HMOs, non-life providers and MBAs disbursed P948 million, P145 million and P49.4 million for COVID claims, respectively.

By type, more than half of the first quarter payouts at P1.65 billion were issued for policyholders who died from the virus, while P594.8 million was registered as out-patient benefits and P410.7 million was credited as in-patient claims.

In terms of volume, Funa said out-patient benefits comprised 83 percent at 171,823, while other claims like emergency care reached 13,020 and medical reimbursements hit 6,518.

COVID  payouts rose to   P1.2 billion in January due to the more than 700,000 cases during the month. As infection rates dropped, virus-related claims also declined to P1 billion in February and P700 million in March.

Funa said the industry would sustain its COVID programs for as long as clients need them. He pointed out that the volume of benefits may be trending down, but the impact they make remain crucial to pandemic response.

“Despite these large payouts for COVID-related claims, the life and non-life insurance, HMO and MBA industries remain resilient,” Funa said.

Insurance penetration, or the share of insurance to economic output, has risen to a record 2.03 percent as of the third quarter of 2021, as Filipinos started buying investment policies to prepare for future emergencies like the pandemic.

By: Elijah Felice Rosales – The Philippine Star