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China is nudging insurers to work on cheaper medical cover linked to the coronavirus and is assuring them of fast-track approval for these new products.

The move will mark a shift in the Chinese insurance market where the bulk of existing products are essentially investment schemes and pure healthcare coverage accounts for only about a fifth of the total life insurance premium.

According to their websites, China Life (601628.SS), China Pacific Insurance (2601.HK), Ping An Insurance Group (601318.SS) and Zhong An Online P&C Insurance Co (6060.HK), among others, have included coverage for the virus in their existing medical insurance products.

At least half a dozen more are in the process of requesting approval for products with coronavirus coverage in the coming weeks, said the people, declining to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

The scramble comes as the Chinese province of Hubei, at the epicentre of the outbreak, reported a record surge in the death toll on Thursday.

However, the global health experts warned that the epidemic could get far worse before it is brought under control.

China’s Banking and Insurance Regulator (CBIRC) have adjusted actuary rules for healthcare, accident and life insurance as well as annuity insurance, which will help lower premiums for such insurance by 3 per cent to 5 per cent.

The sources said the lower premiums and push for cheaper, basic medical cover, were largely prompted by the need to deal with treatment for those who may get infected by the coronavirus.

CBIRC did not respond to Reuters request for comment.

(Reuters/NAN)

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