The Microinsurance Revolution

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Six years ago David Patient felt his immune system slipping. He had been H.I.V.-positive for a long time, but now he made two decisions: He started on antiretroviral medicines to protect himself, and he began trying to buy life insurance to provide for his partner.

Until then, the idea of life insurance for people with AIDS in South Africa was an oxymoron. Patient was working for one of the biggest insurance companies in South Africa on an AIDS awareness program, but it wouldn’t insure him, and neither would any other company. “Every door slammed,” he said. Then his doctor mentioned a brand-new possibility: AllLife, established to insure only H.I.V.-positive people. (Today the company also insures diabetics.) Patient bought a policy that upon his death will pay his partner a half-million rand, the equivalent of $62,500.

AllLife is not a charity, but a successful insurance company — but one with an odd business model. South Africans can get antiretroviral treatment for free, and AllLife requires the people it insures to make regular medical visits, get the necessary periodic tests and follow treatment protocols. (It can’t, of course, require that they succeed on the treatment.) AllLife has agreements with most medical providers, and can pull data about its clients. Computers track clients’ medical progress and provide reminders to get blood tests or visit the doctor. Staff members call each client once a month, and are available by phone all day, every day.

Source: The New York Times (link opens in a new window)

Health Care