In India, health and specialised health insurers have been rolling out focussed health insurance covers against COVID-19 in the last three months. The demand for health insurance has witnessed a significant rise with the government lockdown and coronavirus pandemic. As per market analysts, past experience with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) indicate that demand for health insurance plans picks up during epidemics, as insurers also report rise in queries for pandemic covers by the insurers.
There is a positive impact of COVID-19 as more and more people have started investing in health plans. As per available statistics, health insurance related queries have gone up by 50 per cent and the talk time has also increased significantly over the past couple of weeks. The COVID-19 outbreak is most likely to boost growth in health insurance in a relatively under-insured market by increasing the health insurance penetration rate.
Increase In Demand Of Health Plans With Higher Sum Insured
Apart from rise in demand of health insurance plans, there is also a demand in health insurance plans with higher sum insured. People buying health insurance plans with higher sum insured have increased drastically. Earlier, the share of people buying health insurance plans with Rs. 20 Lacs – Rs. 1 Cr sum insured was less than five per cent, however, the share has now increased to 50 per cent over the last 2 -3 months. This is generally because earlier, people used to have a false perception towards health insurance. To them, Rs 5 -7 lakh sum insured health insurance plans seemed significantly large and enough to take care of all medical expenses. For many, the amount was sufficient to sustain their individual as well as family’s needs and requirements in case something untoward happens which leads to sudden hospitalisation. However, they have started to realise the fact that this perception is wrong.
While the scope of healthcare and medical treatment is improving by leaps and bounds in the country - delivering more positive outcomes - the flipside has been a massive increase in the cost of medical treatment, and to be more precise – quality medical treatment. Fortunately, health insurance is available to take care of various unforeseen health emergencies.
As per insurance market trends, the number of people investing in plans with higher sum insured i.e. Rs.1 crore. has significantly gone up. As of all the health insurance policies being sold online in the last three months, 30 per cent are the ones with Rs.1 Crore sum insured. A major reason for the significant surge in the number of people investing in such plans is the highly affordable prices at which it is being offered.
A Basic Cover Now With Plans To Upgrade Later!
As the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic continues to get worse with each passing day, it is a sign of relief to watch people make sure that they are doing their bit to stay protected. People have timely realised the fact that during pandemic situations like COVID-19, the only way to stay financially protected is by buying a comprehensive health insurance policy. Unlike all other medical expenses for hospitalisation, if one gets hospitalised for treating coronavirus infection, health insurance plan will come in rescue to safeguard medical expenses. Though, considering the situations prevailing in the country as most business sectors are either experiencing job lay-offs or salary pay-cuts, buying a health insurance cover with an adequate sum insured is difficult for many.
To cater to this problem, many people are right now just buying a basic health insurance cover with sufficient sum insured with plans to upgrade the policy later with Super-top as the situations improve. The prime objective of people right now is to buy a basic health insurance plan right now and pad it up with add-ons and riders later to make the insurance policy way more comprehensive.
Rise In Number Of Senior Citizens Buying Health Insurance
Old age brings in various health complications along with reduced resistance to several diseases and pandemic like COVID-19. During the old age, immunity tends to decline, making senior citizens more susceptible to severe illnesses. This is why it is important that senior citizens must be covered under an adequate health insurance plan as the cost of treatment for coronavirus infection and other age related ailments is significantly higher amongst the people above the age of 60 years. Fortunately, in the past 2 - 3 months, it has been observed that number of senior citizens covering themselves under health insurance policies have increased drastically. In the event of senior citizens requiring hospitalisation, the major part of the medical expenses will be taken care of by the medical cover plan, without burning a hole in their pocket.
While buying a health insurance cover, most senior citizens are giving priority to a comprehensive health insurance plan rather than buying a disease-specific cover. This is because disease-specific health covers do not promise comprehensive coverage. Senior citizens are more vulnerable to multiple diseases due to their age and it is important that they must always opt for a comprehensive health insurance indemnity plan as such plans provide adequate coverage against most ailments.
Other Noteworthy Trends
Over the last 2 – 3 months, there has been a negative impact on non-COVID related claims has the number of claims has gone down dramatically. This may be because, most hospitals in tier 1 and tier 2 cities have been converted in medical centres dedicated for treatment of COVID patients only and most hospitals are not entertaining people with other ailments until the situation is critical. Also, due to the nationwide lockdown people are not visiting the hospitals for regular ailments until the conditions are severe. There is a rise in demand for health insurance plans not just in tier 1 and tier 2 cities, but even in tier 3 and tier 4 cities. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, people from smaller cities are also understanding the importance of health insurance and are getting themselves cover under a comprehensive health insurance plan.
It is also believed that in the coming few months, health insurance prices are set to rise given the increase in the number diseases covered under a health insurance plan. All those planning to buy a health insurance plan in the coming few weeks are advised to buy a policy now as the sooner you buy the lesser premium you pay. Moreover, for the convenience of the customers, IRDAI has allowed consumers to pay health insurance premium in easy monthly instalments. Following this regulation, more and more people are now buying health insurance on monthly instalments where the premium is paid every month.
The author is the Head of Health Insurance, Policybazaar