Old Mutual defends R4b free cover for health workers after EFF’s criticism

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Old Mutual has defended its free funeral cover for South Africa’s healthcare workers after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) criticised it as “disingenuous and aimed at maximising public relations.”

The insurer announced the cover, which it said is worth R4 billion, last week as part of its contribution to the nationwide COVID-19 response.

It said at the time, “[It] includes a R10,000 sum which becomes payable in the event of death of qualifying healthcare workers, and is intended to provide relief to families who may have to deal with the tragic loss of a loved one during this period. The cover has no exclusions, and will include death related to any cause.”

‘Healthcare workers at higher risk’

However, he EFF said in a statement on Monday that “not even 90 percent of the R4 billion would have been used” by the time the free cover ends in December.

The party said available evidence points towards most healthcare workers recovering in the event they contract the virus.

“We should not wait for healthcare workers to die before showing our appreciation for the self-sacrifice they demonstrate. All contributions should aim to prevent them from death itself or show our appreciation to them whilst they are alive,” it added.

In an emailed response to Current Affairs ZA, Old Mutual however said global figures show that healthcare workers are amongst those highly at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Cover ‘one of many initiatives’

Spokesperson Tabby Tsengiwe said, “Whilst we do not anticipate that all 430,000 healthcare workers will die as a result of COVID-19, as an insurer, we have taken a decision to provide adequate cover nonetheless to support them and their families, and without any exclusion to the cause of death.” 

Old Mutual also said the cover is one of its many initiatives to help combat COVID-19, including a R5 million support for national initiatives to access personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential service workers such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers.

It said it had also pledged R50 million towards relief efforts that address immediate educational needs, hygiene awareness and nutritional support. 

Old Mutual Insure has pledged R40 million towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and service provider support during this period, the company said. 

Old Mutual staff have also contributed more than R2 million to the Solidarity Fund through the company’s Staff Payroll Giving Programme, Tsengiwe added.

The insurer listed other initiatives such as provision of ongoing customer relief, premium payment holidays and interest-free loans to its SME customers and a decision by its executives to take a pay cut for the remainder of this year to contribute to the Solidarity Fund.

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