Insurance remains a hard sell, even for the vulnerable

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2017 04:35 PM

MANILA - Fifty-year-old Freddy Pascua has worked for 20 years as a security guard without insurance despite constant risks to his safety, highlighting the challenges facing the industry.

Pascua is uninsured even as companies like Cebuana Lhuillier has tapped its nationwide network of pawnshops to sell microinsurance for as low as P120 a year for security guards, students and public utility drivers.

"Yung take home namin ngayon hindi na mapagkasya tapos kukuha pa ng insurance? Hindi kaya," Pascua, who earns P10,000 a month, told ABS-CBN News.

(My take home pay is not enough, what more if I buy insurance. I can't afford it.)

"Maganda sana ang may insurance pero graduating sa college 'yung isang anak ko, ang dami kong bayarin," he said.

(It will be good to have insurance but my son is graduating from college and I have a lot of things to pay for.)

Pascua, who has guarded malls, banks and subdivision gates said he is required by his agency to pay P700 every year for insurance that covers only work-related death.

The government estimates 26.6 million Filipinos or about a quarter of the population are covered with microinsurance as of the first quarter, 7 years after such products were introduced, said Jose Paulo Roxas, acting Micro Insurance Division Manager of the Insurance Commission.

"The Philippines' penetration rate in terms of microinsurance is not that high," Roxas said.

Unstable demand for insurance is due to account withdrawals, non-payments, and insurance companies' lack of resources to sell their packages to remote areas, he said,

"These are small chunks of insurance premiums so you access to the public has always been the challenge," said PJ Lhuillier Group president and CEO John Lhuillier.

"It's word of mouth that's been our major advantage in terms of why people go back to us," he said.

Insurance companies are seeking lawmakers' help to make microinsurance packages tax-free to make it more affordable for the poor.

Cebuana Lhuillier has also launched an app and a website to help people know that applying and claiming insurances has been made more simple and affordable, said the company's general manager for insurance solutions Jonathan Batangan.