Rosa Vintimilla, president of Roviza, S.A., one of Cuenca´s largest and oldest insurance agencies, says that misunderstandings among both foreign residents and citizens keep many Ecuadorians uninsured.
“One thing I hear is that good, reliable insurance is not available and this is simply not true,” she says. "There are many companies, including companies from the U.S. and Europe, offering the same kind of coverage you will find in other parts of the world.”
Another issue that keeps people from buying insurance, she claims, is the word-of-mouth advice that insurance in Ecuador does not pay claims. “I hear this all the time and it´s often professionals, like lawyers and doctors, saying it. If you have a legitimate claim and are insured by a good company and represented by a good agent, your claim will be paid.”
Vintimilla says that policy holders need to understand the terms and conditions of their policies. “This is the same anywhere in the world. Policy holders need to know what is covered and what is not and they need to understand the limits of coverage.”
Wilson Esteban, financial consultant and former business professor from Quito, agrees and says that ignorance of the “fine print” is the root of many of the stories of dissatisfied customers. “Many people are poorly educated about what they are buying, sometimes the fault of the agent, but often because customers don´t ask questions and don´t read the policies.”
“Insurance is not as common in Ecuador and Latin America as it is in North America," says Esteban. "This is partly because of a lack of information with the general public, but mostly because of poverty – the fact that many people cannot afford it.”
In the case of home insurance, Esteban says that there are less policies written because more property is owned out-right. “In the U.S., more than 85% of all houses have mortgages and the mortgage holders require insurance. In Ecuador, less than 40% of homes have mortgages.” Another factor for the low number of policies is that the incidence of home fires is substantially lower in Ecuador due to masonry construction.
Vintimilla is sponsoring an insurance seminar for foreign residents Thursday at 5:00 p.m., at Villa Rosa Restaurant, Calle Gran Colombia 12-22 and Tarqui. She has invited an agent from Uniseguros, an insurance company with offices in Ecuador´s major cities, and an affiliate of international banking and insurance company, Wells Fargo, to join her. “The purpose is to provide general information about insurance in Ecuador and then to talk about specific issues that concern foreign residents.”
According to Vintimilla, health insurance is the major area of interest for most foreigners she works with. In general, she says, premiums are much cheaper than for comparable coverage in North America, often by as much as 75%.
Questions she frequently receives regard maximum age for coverage and pre-existing conditions. “Because many foreign residents are retired, they tend to be older and most policies will not cover you if you over 65 or 70, depending on the company issuing the policy,” she says. “It is, however, possible to purchase coverage for older people. We often go to companies with special cases and find that we can get coverage even though it is more expensive.”
In addition to selling policies for several Latin American companies, such as Panamericana de Seguros and Salud, S.A., Roviza also represents such U.S. companies as Best Doctors and Pan American Life. For home insurance, such companies as AIG, are active in the Ecuadorian market.
Costs for home and car insurance are comparable to costs in the U.S. “The coverage is similar too,” says Vintimilla. “You can buy policies that cover fire, earthquake and flood damage, and there are separate policies for theft and liability. For cars, there is theft, fire, collision and liability coverage.”
The quality of any insurance policy, according to Vintimilla, depends on the agent and companies she represents. “I feel very good about the companies who write our policies. They have an excellent track record and a reputation for paying legitimate claims.” She adds: “It is my job to make sure my clients understand the terms and conditions of the policies that they buy.”
Hors d´Oeuvres and drinks will be served at Vintimilla´s Thursday seminar. “I hope to see all my foreign friends at Villa Rosa,” says Vintimilla.