Chart of the Week Jan 8, 2021: Impact of COVID-19 on China’s Insurance Market

Click for enlarged image. | Graphic by Lee Shu En

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely heightened worries amongst the Chinese population regarding the risk of unexpected high medical expenses. This is seen from the growth in health insurance premium during the impact period. This week’s chart compares the year-on-year provincial average insurance premium growth rates for accident, health and property insurances between 2019 and 2020. The COVID-19 impact has given rise to varying patterns of premium income growth across insurance types. 

Highlights

  • The 2020 growth rates differ strikingly from those of 2019 for health and accident insurances, as they are more closely related to the pandemic and mass-scale mobility controls. Less variation is seen in trends of property insurance. 
  • Due to limited marketing channels and overall household demand drop, the growth for accident and property insurances plunged in February 2020, at the peak of the pandemic. However, health insurance premium growth saw its high during the same period under the same adverse shocks, possibly a result of “panic buying”. 
  • The premium growth for accident insurance has seen a rise since the majority of provinces gradually lifted mobility restrictions in April and May. For health insurance, a reverse trend is seen as China’s COVID-19 situation eases.  
  • People resorting to commercial health insurance is partially a consequence of the social counterpart being insufficient to meet their demand for risk reduction. The development of China’s social security system may help to alleviate insurance market irrationality and pave the path for a system that is more robust to external shocks. 

by MAO Ke

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