Insurance is a big deal when selecting a super fund or a MySuper product because many of them use their buying power to obtain insurance at wholesale
group rates that can often be cheaper than if you purchased the same insurance cover yourself at the regular rates you'd have to pay as a private individual.
Buying insurance through your super fund has other advantages, too.
Because the premium prices - the amount you pay for your insurance, sometimes called the insurance fee - are taken out of your pre-tax super contributions, it is effectively paid through your employer so you don't have to send the insurance company a cheque each month from your take-home pay.
Super funds and MySuper products can offer these insurance deals because they group their members together into very large, combined wholesale insurance policies.
This enables them to buy insurance at cheaper rates because large groups of super fund members are insured under a single insurance policy held in the name of the super fund's trustees.
Even better, insurance you buy through your super fund is free of any sales commissions, although some super funds might charge you insurance administration fees.
These super fund group insurance policies can also be simpler than regular insurance because they are usually based solely on the member's age or other overall characteristics of the group.
Some super funds may, however, split members into higher-risk or lower-risk occupational groups, for example, trades workers versus executive managers, heavy blue-collar versus light manual, and white-collar versus professional.
By choosing the right occupational risk grouping, super funds are able to offer insurance at the lowest premium prices.
Life insurance you buy through your super fund usually comes in three main types:
1. Death only
This pays your nominated beneficiary a set amount upon your death.
2. Death and total and permanent disability (death/TPD)
This is the most common type of insurance you can get through your superannuation. It includes death-only insurance, but you may also be able to claim against your insurance policy if you are catastrophically injured or cannot work again because of a disability, subject to the policy's terms and conditions. If you make a TPD claim, upon your death your insurance cover reduces to the balance of the overall insured amount not already paid.
3. Income protection (IP)
This is sometimes also called salary continuance insurance, sickness and accident insurance or temporary disability insurance. If you cannot work because of injury or temporary disability, you may be able to claim part of your lost salary while you recover. Some funds may also offer home and contents insurance and health insurance, though this is usually done through the fund obtaining a special deal with an insurance company, so you get the insurance at a discount. While not many super funds currently offer these arrangements, they are gradually becoming more common.
One thing to remember when buying insurance through your MySuper product or super fund is that because the trustees hold the policy rather than you, if you or your estate ever have to make a claim, the trustees are obliged to check that the person making the claim is doing so legitimately, that is, it has to be paid to a dependant.
Trustees have to make these judgments - it's part of their job - but, unfortunately, this can sometimes slow down the payment process.
To minimise the chance of this happening, many super funds have introduced binding beneficiary nominations. These guide the fund into paying the insurance benefit to a specific dependant person nominated by the deceased super fund member.
However, if you want your super death benefits to be paid to someone else, you should nominate your estate as your binding beneficiary and be sure your will explains that you want them to receive this money.
Automatic acceptance limits (AALs) Super funds that offer large choices of insurance usually have pre-set maximums for how much insurance members can buy without needing to undergo a medical assessment.
These maximum amounts are referred to as automatic acceptance limits (AALs).
For example, your fund may have an AAL of $500,000, which means you can get $500,000 in insurance cover without having to answer more detailed questions or submit to a medical examination - a process called underwriting.
The premium rates for cover above the AAL are nearly always the same as for below-AAL cover, so in many ways the AAL in itself is not really a big deal.
Still, in order to access more insurance cover than stipulated by the AAL, you may have to undergo a medical assessment. The problem is that doing this could raise the risk of you being refused insurance cover if a major medical problem is found.
However, where AALs are a big issue is when companies transfer their super into a new super fund. This is because sometimes the AALs are based on a predetermined proportion - say 75% - of all the company's employees taking up the insurance offer.
This means if not enough employees take up the offer, then the AALs may not apply as generously as first thought, and all members may even need to undertake medical assessments.
This could lead to the premiums going up. Claims experience While all insurance policies may appear similar, figures published by the superannuation regulator, APRA, have shown that there are large differences between insurers regarding how quickly they pay claims.
For example, it takes on average one month for insurers to process death claims, six months to process TPD claims and two months to process income protection claims. However, some insurers have been found to take much longer.
Group insurance through your MySuper product or super fund can save you money, but the insurance is only very rarely transferable to other super funds.
This means if you are thinking of changing super funds and you want insurance as part of your new super fund, you must first check if the new super fund's insurance is as good as the insurance of your current super fund.
So, if under super choice you are tempted to change super funds and you have insurance through your current super fund, please first check the insurance arrangements of the new fund before doing anything.
In fact, if you are over age 40 and have insurance through your super fund, you should be 100% certain that the new fund will accept you for insurance. If you have the slightest doubt, then get a written promise from the new fund that it will offer you a policy.
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