In 2002, Opportunity International began offering microinsurance. Opportunity subsidiary MicroEnsure, the world’s first microinsurance intermediary, provides protection against the many risks faced by those living in poverty. MicroEnsure works with local insurance company partners and other stakeholders to develop an expanding range of products to meet the specific needs of people living in poverty. Innovative products cover policyholders with crop, loan, health, life and property insurance–offering clients a safety net when an unexpected hardship or disaster occurs. Products include:
- Affordable term life insurance available for the first time exclusively to people living in poverty. Premiums average about $1.50 per month for a family of five.
- Health insurance for the economically marginalized, including people with HIV/AIDS. In India, premiums of just $8 per year can provide inpatient hospital treatment on a cashless basis for India’s most impoverished families. This insurance covers pre-existing illness and allows clients to pay premiums weekly.
- Credit life insurance protects loan clients’ families and lending institutions in the event of a loan recipient’s death.
- Weather-indexed crop insurance that mitigates the devastating consequences of drought or excess rain. Crop insurance enables farmers like Henry Kangwelema of Malawi to access credit for high quality seed and fertilizer, while mitigating banks’ risk of default due to weather extremes. The insurance makes it possible for banks to make agricultural loans that they might otherwise view as too risky. As a result, farmers are not only protected from loss, but are able to realize a significant increase in food production.
MicroEnsure currently offers insurance to more than one million policyholders in five countries, and in June 2010, it was named the runner-up for the Financial Times‘s prestigious Sustainable Banking Award for Banking at the Base of the Pyramid. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a generous grant to enable the agency to expand to new countries and provide insurance to many more people in the next few years.