Are Some Insurers Better at Claims Than Others?

When I was fresh in the insurance industry some 15 years ago (oof), I was taught a somewhat catchy phrase – “NTUC stands for No Trouble Until Claim”. The context was that NTUC Income (rebranded as Income Insurance in 2022) had particularly competitive policies back in those days, and when you can’t compete in product attractiveness, you come up with creative slogans to sway your prospective client’s decision.

There are actually some statistics we can look at to get a sensing whether this is true.


Are some insurers better at claims than others??

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Claims Processing Duration Statistics From MOH

Ministry of Health (MOH) has been publishing statistics on how long insurers take to process Integrated Shield Plan (IP) claims. The below table shows the number of days it takes to process claims with positive payouts:

As you can see, Income Insurance does really well with a median claim duration of 0, meaning claims are processed within the same day of claim. At the 75th percentile, claims that took longer were processed after 1 day. This score is comparable and even better than other insurers on the list.

Digging through old screenshots I have, I realise that MOH used to provide more detailed statistics:

Take note that these are “claims with positive payouts”, so it is quite clear that Income’s IP policyholders’ claims are not only processed quickly, but also experience a high proportion of claims being paid out.

Life insurance industry in Singapore is highly regulated

All this is not to say that Income is the best and you should definitely pick it as your insurer of choice nor is it to suggest that other insurers are lousy. In some quarters, things may slip, resulting in slightly longer claims processing. For instance, GE did pretty badly relative to the other insurers in Q4 2015, but they recovered in Q1 2016, and as you can see in Q4 2023’s stats has one of the best statistics. This might also explain Raffles Health Insurance’s 75th percentile score of 15 days, and we will need more data to conclude whether it is a continual problem.

My point is that insurers in Singapore will pay out if a claim is legitimate and falls within the terms of the policy contract. We have a highly regulated life insurance industry and insurers that try to give you “trouble” at the point of claim is just not something that exists here as far as I can tell… at least for the life insurance industry. I don’t really have enough experience to tell, but the general insurance industry might be a bit messier which explains why certain insurers with general insurance arms get a bad rep for claims.

At the same time, there will always be some claims that fall outside the policy wording that insurers reject, and it is not surprising to hear unhappy accounts of such incidents. This shouldn’t be something that should colour the reliability of an insurer or insurance as a whole. It is just the company protecting the interests of stakeholders, and beyond shareholders these can also include other policy owners within the risk-sharing pool whose premiums may escalate if too many invalid claims are paid out.

Take claims of “reputation” and “brand” with a pinch of salt

Personally, I wouldn’t take claims of an insurer being reputable too seriously. These statements tend to originate from tied agents (agents representing a single insurer) who have little choice but to speak well of their captive company.

Instead, look at things like suitability and premium before committing to any policy or deciding to go with one insurer over another. And yes, please do a Google search on the product you are buying so you avoid falling into common pitfalls like buying an investment-linked policy or savings plan when there are likely better alternatives.

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