July 8, 2020 / 8:31 PM / a month ago

Chubb wants U.S. to offer businesses pandemic cover, with insurers taking some risk

July 8 (Reuters) - Chubb Ltd said on Wednesday it is lobbying the U.S. government to insure businesses for losses in future pandemics, while giving the insurance industry a small portion of the business, jumping into a debate over how to insure such disasters.

The U.S. insurance industry has been largely denying claims for losses caused by coronavirus-driven lockdowns from businesses-interruption policies, saying that pandemics are excluded.

The denials have led to lawsuits, political pressure and criticism from customers, prompting the industry to start lobbying the government for a plan to cover future pandemics.

As one of the largest U.S. providers of business interruption insurance, Chubb’s views are likely to significantly influence ongoing debate over policy.

Unlike some in the industry that want the risk to be borne entirely by the government, Chubb wants the industry to play a role in any government-backed insurance plan, Chief Executive Evan Greenberg told Reuters.

"We believe the industry does have wherewithal to take risk here," Greenberg said. He said Chubb is talking to lawmakers, brokers and other insurers about its plan.

Under Chubb’s plan, the government would offer up to $750 billion in coverage for small businesses with up to 500 employees. Of that, the industry would pay for 6% of claims, or up to $15 billion, during the program's first year, growing annually to 12% by year 20. COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, would be excluded.

Small businesses would receive a pre-determined payment based on payroll expenses, which the policy would cover for up to three months.

Chubb's small-business proposal would require all business insurers to participate. Businesses would pay premiums only for the insurers' share of coverage, not the government's, making premiums "very affordable," Greenberg said.

The proposal also includes a program for businesses with more than 500 employees, which would be voluntary for insurers and provide a total of up to $400 billion in coverage through a government reinsurance entity.

Insurers would share up to $15 billion during the program's first year, rising to $40 billion during its 10th. Payouts to businesses would be limited to $50 million per policy. (Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn Editing by Paritosh Bansal and Leslie Adler)

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