The coronavirus outbreak has been in news for months now and the number of people getting infected with the virus is on the continuous rise. It is a matter of great concern for countries like India. Though it has not impacted India as severely as some of the most developed nations like the United States and Italy, it is always advisable to be prepared for any unfavourable circumstance.
It is better to have a health insurance policy in such circumstances and this is why the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has come out with standard products to deal with the specific needs of the COVID-19 patients. A data by IRDAI shows that health insurance premiums saw a 13 per cent Year-on-Year growth in the April 1-August 31 period.
According to Ajay Shah – Director, Head- Retail, Care Health Insurance – the response to specialized health insurance policies for COVID-19 has been good.
“Our customers were concerned if their existing policies covered them for COVID-19 and many others who were currently uninsured wanted to secure their health with a plan that covered it. Since our existing comprehensive products already cover coronavirus, many interested customers opt for comprehensive plans. For others, the COVID-19 specific products are a good starting point to experience insurance, and we believe many of them would later upgrade to a comprehensive plan since it will not just cover infectious diseases like COVID but a comprehensive set of conditions,” Shah said.
Types Of COVID Health Insurance Plans
The coronavirus is covered in almost all Comprehensive Health plans that were already available in the market. But IRDAI took the initiative to introduce standard COVID-19 Specific plans that cover medical expenses or provide a lump-sum benefit.
Ravichandran N – Chief Technical Officer, Kotak General Insurance – has explained two standard products offered by all insurers – Corona Kavach & Corona Rakshak.
“Corona Kavach is COVID-19 specific health insurance policy which covers medical expenses due to hospitalization. It pays for expenses for treatment availed at home for a period of 14 days after a positive diagnosis. It also provides an Optional Cover for a daily cash benefit for each day the customer is hospitalized. Customers can purchase a cover of INR 50,000 to 5,00,000 for a period of 3.5, 6.5, and 9.5 months. The policy can be availed for self as well as family members” Ravichandran N said.
“Corona Rakshak policy pays a one-time lump sum amount on diagnosis of COVID and subsequent hospitalization for continuous 72 hours. This policy can be purchased on an individual basis for a sum insured of 50,000 to 2,50,000. This is also a short tenure policy with policy period options of 3.5, 6.5 and 9.5 months,” he added.
It is worth mentioning that those who are looking at a short term cover can opt for these COVID-19 specific products but those who are looking at a long term health cover must take comprehensive products that they can stay enrolled in lifelong.
Ankit Agarwal – Managing Director at Alankit Ltd – threw more light on the Corona Kavach policy and talked about its benefits which are attracting many individuals.
“This covers you for hospitalization expenses that include PPE costs, nursing cost, surgeon’s fee, doctor’s consultation fees, etc. The pre and post hospitalization expenses are covered up to 15 days to 30 days respectively. The reason why Corona Kavach policy is attracting many individuals is that it doesn’t require policyholders to pay premiums periodically. One is required to pay the premium once at the time of purchase. The waiting period for this medical cover is 15 days only, i.e., policyholders can claim policy benefits after 15 days of purchasing the policy. The policy comes with a period of three and a half months (3 1⁄2 months or 105 days), six and half months (6 1⁄2 months or 195 days), nine and half months (9 1⁄2 months or 285 days), depending on the customer requirements,” Agarwal said.
Not only individual COVID insurance policies are available in the market but Group COVID Health Insurance products are also being offered for companies and SMEs who want to get their employees covered. According to Dr. Sudha, Head – Health and Travel at Digit Insurance – Group COVID Health Insurance Products are aimed at SMEs, start-ups, and companies.
“With over 50 partners on board, we have already sold 16,000 group policies, covering more than 1.2 million lives. Companies from various industries like the Indian film industry, E-commerce, Auto, FMCG, financial services, travel, hospitality & more, have covered their employees under this product. This speaks to how valuable companies have found this product and how many people it has helped to protect,” Dr Sudha explained.
How claims are being settled?
Most of the health insurance providers have kept the claim settlement process completely zero touch with no manual intervention required.
“Our endeavour has always been a speedy settlement of claims at all times. These are unprecedented times and we are putting in extra efforts to extend cashless settlement in most of the cases, given how the crisis has hit everyone. We have also been working towards extending cashless settlement in non-network hospitals. Currently, about 3/4th of cases are handled through cashless mode. Charges like PPE kits and other relevant disposals are also considered since the onset of the ailment, considering the fact that the disease is highly contagious and treatment protocol, which recommends such usage. Ease of submission of claims documents through online mode for both customers and hospitals have also been initiated for faster clearance of claims,” Ravichandran N of Kotak General Insurance said.
What Importance COVID insurance plans will have in the long run?
According to Subramanyam Brahmajosyula – Head, Underwriting & Reinsurance, SBI General Insurance – COVID-specific products have been introduced by the regulator short term as it is aware that they may not be required following the introduction of vaccines.
“The two COVID-specific products – Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak- have been introduced by insurers in line with the initiative taken by the insurance regulator to find a quick insurance solution to the medical emergency created by the pandemic. The regulator is aware of the fact that these products may not be required once the pandemic abates following the introduction of a vaccine or a permanent cure. Hence the decision to initially allow the sales of these products till 31st March 2021 and also allow for short term policies for the duration of 3 ½ , 6 ½ and 9 ½ months. It goes without saying that if required the validity of these products can be extended beyond 31st March 2021,” Brahmajosyula explained.
Brahmajosyula also said that “industry-level data shows that nearly 28 lakhs Corona Kavach policies and 32 lakh Corona Rakshak policies have been sold so far. This is an indication of the necessity and immediacy of these products.”