We are currently experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event – a worldwide pandemic whose consequences cannot be foreseen. Whereas an epidemic is limited in terms of time and geographic scope – and is also covered by Helvetia for its Swiss business customers – pandemics are usually very difficult to insure because they are almost impossible to calculate and can entail enormous consequences. Key mechanisms for insurance companies, such as collective compensation, do not work in this case because it is no longer just individual companies that are affected but almost all companies. In a pandemic, government support is required, such as the decisions taken by the Federal Council on 20 March.
The exclusion of a pandemic from Helvetia’s epidemic insurance is well considered. Exclusions are an important instrument for insurance companies that protect them against major risks that would threaten their existence. This is in the interest of all premium payers, on the one hand, and also in that of the target group, on the other, as only in this way is the premium due for the target group. This fine-tuned system must not simply be overturned, even in an exceptional situation.
Only around 1% of Helvetia’s 150,000 corporate customers in Switzerland have taken out this product. However, Helvetia bears a responsibility to all its customers. A clear pandemic exclusion clause is thus stipulated in its Standard Terms of Insurance (STI). This is about implementing a contractual agreement that does not provide insurance in pandemics.
Helvetia is constantly reviewing how it can support those of its customers affected by this exceptional situation. For example, it has suspended reminder and legal reminder processes, granted corporate customers a deferral on premiums and is making claim payments with immediate effect. Together with Coop Rechtsschutz, Helvetia’s advisors are also assisting with requests for government support.
Epidemic cover under Helvetia’s business interruption insurance insures losses that arise if an insured business suffers from a local outbreak of a disease or epidemic or a hygiene problem and must therefore reduce or suspend its operations. This existential insurance for the industries in question must also be affordable, which is one reason for the exclusion of a pandemic. The focus is on the risks of a single business and on local spread. Examples of this include a norovirus outbreak in a retirement home or an outbreak of salmonella in sold food.
Epidemic insurance is possible for only a few sectors:
Helvetia has taken a large number of steps to support its 150,000 or so corporate customers:
For these cases, the federal government has already set up an aid fund, which will compensate some of the losses incurred due to short-time work compensation and provide other additional support. Helvetia’s advisors can assist with the claim applications.