Help with financial difficulty of long-COVID could be available through superannuation policies
Australia's mandatory coronavirus isolation rules are to be scrapped from October 14 and pandemic leave support payments will also soon end for a range of workers.
The Australian Medical Association and other experts have criticised the decision to end the measures, saying the decision is premature. They argue that the pandemic isn’t over yet, and the flow-on effects of the virus are yet to be fully realised - particularly when it comes to long-Covid.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned countries that long-Covid is devastating the lives of tens of millions of people worldwide and countries need to ramp up research and access to care to minimise the suffering of the populations.
The physical symptoms of long Covid persist beyond 12 weeks from initial onset and include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory and concentration, and joint and muscle pain. And initial modelling suggests that women are twice as likely to experience long-Covid than men.
Often long-Covid can hamper a person’s ability to work, which in turn, can cause financial insecurity. New research from Beyond Blue, confirms the relationship between mental health and financial wellbeing, outlining that people experiencing financial challenges are twice as likely to experience mental health issues than those whose finances are secure. During lockdowns, services such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue, and other mental health support services, experienced a record number of calls from people under stress who were not coping. Beyond Blue described the situation as a ‘triple whammy’ for people already struggling, referring to concerns about work and finances, the virus itself, and the vaccine.
Long-Covid clinics are now being set up nationally in major cities and regional areas to diagnose and manage symptoms. But who is ensuring these patients are financially secure during their illness, and who’s looking after their mental health? And how are they paying the bills?
More and more, in my role as personal insurance advocate, I am approached by people with long-Covid who’re looking for support, often to help them to pay their day to day living expenses or to pay for mental health treatments. However, given people are possibly waiting months to see psychologists and psychiatrists, often resulting in hefty out-of-pocket fees, this creates further challenges for people living under financial pressures.
One potential solution for some of these people with long-Covid lies within their current superannuation fund. According to APRA more than 70 per cent of Australians hold life insurance inside their superannuation fund but of those people, it’s estimated 40 per cent have it without realising it.
Personal insurance provides financial security to the policy holder and their family for events such as a serious injury or illness - including long-Covid. It may have been purchased as an add-on or often it’s automatically included to members in a basic level of cover. Given the current low awareness of personal insurance, a large majority of people with long-Covid are not considering it as an option for help.
The superannuation and insurance industry needs to do better at educating members, particularly those with long-Covid, that a personal insurance policy may be linked to their superannuation and may be an avenue to help them manage financial difficulties caused by the illness. I would urge every working Australian to check for personal insurance within their current superannuation fund.
While long-Covid clinics can help people with physical treatments and recovery, personal insurance policies associated with their super, could be providing the financial assistance they need to maintain good mental health and allow them the time to fully recover.