February 19, 2018
by Erica Lee
Tuicakau Nawaiciono, a 57-year-old retired civil servant, believes that more Fijians should think about taking out insurance for their family’s well-being and protection.
Having benefited from two health insurance policies in her life time, the ardent supporter of health insurance, says that insurance is something that many people think they don’t need but regret not having it when they need it the most.
“I had a very active career up until the age of 49 when I had to retire early due to my failing kidneys. I was sent to Australia to have one kidney removed and that medical trip was paid for under an insurance policy that was provided as part of my employment in the civil service,” she said.
Today, wheelchair bound and unable to do many of the day to day tasks that she used to perform with ease, Tuicakau is grateful for having a microinsurance policy that has helped her with her medical expenses, since purchasing the product in August 2016.
Explaining how she became aware of the insurance, Tuicakau said that after being discharged from the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital in Suva in 2016, she was told of a type of micro insurance that lets customers pay for the cover through deductions from their mobile phone talktime.
“I was skeptical about the product when I first heard about it, insurance deducted from an individual’s talktime seemed unbelievable to me so I didn’t give it further thought. Then a few months later, I received a call from BIMA’s call centre and was asked if I would like to buy insurance and so I decided to finally give it a go,” she said.
“Having had insurance as a civil servant, I was aware of the benefits that insurance brings and I was amazed at how cheap the cost, known as ’premium’ was,” she added.
During the enrollment verification process, that took place over the phone, Tuicakau told BIMA of her health condition and BIMA decided to put her on a three-month trial basis for insurance coverage. Within that period, her health was fine apart from a few visits to the doctor.
However, a couple of months after being given approval to be fully covered for ‘Cash-in-hospital’ and ‘Life’ insurance, Tuicakau said that her condition worsened causing her severe body pains and leaving her wheelchair bound.
In May 2017, Tuicake became BIMA’s first claimant under it’s ’Cash-in-hospital’ insurance product. She had been admitted at the CWM Hospital in Suva for 24 nights, suffering from chronic back pain. Upon discharge, she lodged a claim at the BIMA office and after only five days, received a FJD $2,208 payout.
“Cash-in-hospital” is a simple and affordable insurance cover that Digicel subscribers can pay for using their mobile credit. It provides up to FJD $96 per night in financial support (depending on the level of cover selected) to registered customers after two nights or more, spent in a hospital. Members only need to provide their hospital discharge forms to receive their claims payouts. The payout amount helps to pay for any kind of expenses incurred before, during or after hospitalisation. The daily benefits that are paid are linked to the total “sum assured”, that is the level of cover selected, in an individual’s insurance policy.
For many low-income earning families in Fiji who receive wages daily or weekly, missing work for several days can mean a big loss in income. The financial support that this insurance provides can be a great relief for families when they need it the most, providing a safety net that can be used to cover the cost of medication or cover lost wages.
“I am glad that I kept paying my FJD $21.60 a month as it meant that I was able to receive financial support from BIMA when I needed it. The money helped me pay for my medication, health reviews and transportation to the CWM Hospital – it costs me FJD $25 to take a taxi from my home in Nausori to the hospital in Suva,” she said.
Tuicakau added that although during her recent three-week hospitalisation she was told that she might not get better, she was comforted by the fact that she was covered by BIMA’s Health and Life insurance.
“I am also thankful that my cousin, who is my nominated beneficiary and who has been looking after me for the last nine years, will receive some financial support should the worst happen to me,” she said.
BIMA, a world-leading mobile micro-insurance provider, focuses on offering mobile financial services to financially underserved communities. It has over 24 million subscribers in 14 countries. BIMA works with traditional insurance companies and mobile network operators. It uses technology based solutions to bridge the two sectors and provides further support on distribution, product development, administration and daily management. BIMA enables low cost insurance to be easily purchased by people, including those on a low income. Its insurance products are cheaper, more convenient and simpler to use than traditional insurance and many typical micro-insurance products, which makes them appealing to low-income customers.
In the Pacific, BIMA’s presence was previously limited to Papua New Guinea (PNG). Seeing the success of BIMA in PNG, the United Nations – Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) provided a grant to the company to help expand its reach to other countries which now include: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. BIMA’s office in Fiji operates a call centre and plans to use this to reach other target countries.
“PFIP’s grant assistance has been critical to accelerating our growth in the region and the viability of our operations in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The funding acted as a catalyst to enable BIMA to move faster and extend its reach to more Pacific Islanders,” said BIMA Country Manager, Angelo Polimeno.
BIMA aims to reach 91,420 previously uninsured people in the Pacific within two years. At the end of 2017, the company had sold over 57,000 policies (Cash-in-hospital / Life) to around 29,000 people in Fiji in just over a year. So far BIMA has also received over 90 claims and paid out FJ $45,717.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over 1.78 million low-income Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supporting policy and regulatory initiatives, and empowering consumers.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji based in Suva and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund and the UNDP and receives funding from the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.