Insurance in Super
Insurance in superannuation provides a valuable safety net of death and disability cover for most Australians.
Why is insurance in super is important?
Insurance in superannuation delivers enormous benefits for the Australian community and is an integral aspect of our superannuation system.
While there are some exceptions for younger members and smaller accounts, insurance in superannuation is typically provided automatically when a member joins a fund. Members may reduce or cancel their cover at any time. Members can also apply to increase their cover to meet their individual needs.
Responding to a changing environment
There have been many recent legislative and regulatory changes that affect how insurance is provided to super fund members.
In addition to adjusting to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (and the associated Early Release of Superannuation program), since 2019, super funds have:
- Implemented the Protecting Your Superannuation Package (PYSP) and Putting Members’ Interest First reforms (PMIF),
- Undertaken the first annual member outcomes assessments required by APRA
- Prepared for implementation of the Design and Distribution Obligations (DDO)
- Updated internal dispute resolution requirements.
- Changed claims handling processes and communications
Each of these changes include significant insurance elements.
The PYSP and PMIF reforms required trustees to cease insurance cover on inactive accounts, prevented superannuation funds from automatically providing insurance to members with a low balance, and mandated that they don't provide cover to members under 25 years old.
From March 2021, ASIC has also required funds to:
- Understand why members withdraw claims
- Make pre-assessment of claims easier for members
- Ensure insurers are being fair and reasonable with members
- Have better member communications during the claims process
Insurance in Super Code elements replaced by guidance
These legislative and regulatory changes were preceded by the Insurance in Superannuation Voluntary Code of Practice developed by the superannuation industry. In development from 2016, the Code commenced on 1 July 2018, and was subscribed to by most APRA regulated superannuation funds.
The Code included provisions intended to improve standards when providing insurance to members of superannuation funds. The Code-owners were AIST, ASFA and the AIST. Many of the provisions in the Code were subsequently recommended by the Productivity Commission and the Financial Services Royal Commission, and adapted and adopted in the PYS and PMIF reforms that made big changes to insurance in super law.
In July 2021, the Code-owners replaced the Code with guidance notes on claims handling and vulnerable members. These followed extensive consultation with AIST member funds and other stakeholders, and were matters not covered by other legislation or regulations.
Many of the elements of the Code have been implemented by several funds to improve their member experience.
More changes are expected
APRA’s updated Prudential Standard SPS 250 on insurance in superannuation is also expected (later in 2021) to require trustees to have a strategy to prevent insurance premiums from eroding the retirement income of beneficiaries.
The Productivity Commission enquiry into superannuation recommended an independent review of insurance in super, especially TPD insurance. However, the Government has given no indication if or when this might take place.