Funeral cover ‘falls short’

THULANI MAGAZI

Site C resident Sylvia Mfundeni is having sleepless nights after a leading life insurance company, 1Life, failed to pay out a R10 000 cover towards her late sister’s funeral, Ntombekhaya.

A teary Ms Mfundeni guzzled down two glasses of water as she spoke of her nightmare and the endless battle with the life insurance giant.

The 57-year-old has been battling with the company for more than a month already, however, she has made no inroads.

The ongoing battle has also compromised her health.

She is now under constant threat from people who assisted her to conduct the funeral as they want to be repaid.

Battling to control her tears, Ms Mfundeni said her 39-year-old sister died on Monday February 8.

She immediately made contract with the insurer and was told to fax the deceased’s particulars, including a death certificate. Because the certificate was not yet available, she said she only managed to fax the documents two days later, on Wednesday February 10.

When she thought all was well, she said she was once again asked to get the notice of death, which she dropped at the company’s office in Goodwood.

However, she said she was told that the document needed to be stamped by the undertaker.

She was advised to fax it rather than going back to the offices. In the meantime, the funeral arrangements continued in earnest with the funeral scheduled for Saturday February 20.

Ms Mfundeni said they were forced to abandon all their plans when the company failed to pay out, despite a promise made earlier to pay the money.

Instead, she said the company deposited R1 000 into her bank account on Thursday evening, February 18, forcing the family to reschedule the funeral for Saturday February 27.

“When I phoned they told me it was sufficient,” said Ms Mfundeni. She said she could not understand because her sister was up to date with her premiums.

Ms Mfundeni said she decided to visit the offices and met with one of the managers. She said the manager promised to “look into the matter” and promised to pay the money on Tuesday March 1, at the latest.

“I had to borrow money from people. I managed to get R6 000,” she said.

With the help of a local taxi driver, she said they managed to take the body to the Eastern Cape town of Xhora.

She said she promised to pay the taxi driver once the money had been paid by the company. “Andisalali ebusuku ngu noteksi, ufuna imali yakhe (I no longer sleep in the night because of the taxi driver. He wants his money),” she said.

“Other people in my community who also helped are looking for their monies. I can’t even eat,” she said.

Ms Mfundeni said she also tried to get help from the community to pay the money, but that has been her worst nightmare. “I have been called names in the community,” she said.

Deputy Ombudsman for Long Term Insurance, Jennifer Preiss, said there were two ways they could assist Ms Mfundeni.

She said Ms Mfundeni could either go to a local advice office for help or directly liaise with their office. They would then investigate the matter. She said help is available in all languages.

“The advice office can write to us on her behalf or she can phone us directly. That conversation will be reduced to writing and be sent to the insurer. We will then contact her once we have received the feedback,” said Mr Preiss.

Ms Preiss added that they handled up to 5 000 cases of funeral claim disputes a year, which is 35% of their workload. She said they would only act once the complaint had been formally laid.

In a letter sent to Vukani yesterday, Wednesday March 16, dated Tuesday March 15 – a day after Ms Mfundeni spoke to Vukani – 1Lifesaid an amount of R1 000 had been paid to her. The company expressed its condolences to the family.

The company said while the late Ntombekhaya’s policy kicked off in April, premiums for July and August were not received. They were again received from September to February, making a total of six premiums. The statement also indicated that the company has a six months waiting period for natural death and if a policy holder dies during the fifth and the sixth month of “continuously payments, a benefit of R1 000 is payable.”

“The late Ms Mfundeni passed away on the 8th of February 2016 due to natural causes. February 2016 was the sixth month that a continous payment was received. The product rules requirement is seven continous payments,” said the statement, adding that the payment was according to terms and conditions of the product.