One of Australia's biggest life insurers is trying to avoid payouts to customers who die from COVID-19, including frontline doctors.

Insurer TAL has reportedly begun adding an exclusion clause for the coronavirus in new insurance policies.

“No benefit will be payable under this cover for any claim resulting directly or indirectly from COVID-19, any related condition or infection or any complication thereof,” the clause reads, according to the ABC.

TAL has admitted inserting the exclusion, but it says that so far it has added to “only a very small number of new customer policies”.

“If during the underwriting process it has been determined that they have recently travelled abroad, or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, or are in high risk groups (broadly based on current government guidelines), then these customers will be individually assessed, and individual underwriting terms may be offered,” the company said in a statement.

But it has been alleged that TAL intends to apply the exclusion to customers aged over 50, smokers, those with asthma or other respiratory illnesses, and doctors who may be exposed to COVID-19.

TAL says that applying the exclusion to doctors would not discourage them from treating patients with COVID-19.

“All existing TAL customers, including doctors, nurses and medical professionals on the frontline, can be assured they are fully covered for COVID-19,” it said.

“All new customers can also be assured that they are fully covered for COVID-19, unless in cases where an individual underwriting decision has been applied.”

The Australian Medical Association’s Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee chair Chris Moy said it is a “sad and disappointing” policy shift.

“Just as doctors are preparing to step up and get ready from something very scary, some in the insurance industry appear to be stepping back from us,” Dr Moy said.

“It's their financial choice to be doing that, but I'll let the court of public opinion decide whether this is a fair thing for them to be doing at this point in time.”