Maternity covers offered by companies are not in alignment with the rising cost of maternity in urban cities in India, according to a recent report by Plum, an employee health insurance platform.
The average cost of childbirth (vaginal births) in Tier 1 cities and metros in India at private hospitals ranges between Rs 45,000 and Rs 55,000. However, the cost of Caesarean-sections in private hospitals can range between Rs 70,000 and Rs 2,00,000, depending on the level of complications. Given these figures, the study finds that while 66 per cent of the platform’s customers have adopted maternity covers, a majority of them cover expenses up to only Rs 50,000 for up to two children. Only 15 per cent have opted for covers between Rs 1,00,000 and Rs 1,25,000 for maternity.
City-wise, Bengaluru has the highest average of Rs 55,000, followed by Chennai at Rs 53,000, New Delhi at Rs 51,000 and Mumbai and Hyderabad at Rs 45,000 each.
Maternity cover is an optional benefit and many organisations do not opt for it due to employee demographics and cost. Standalone retail policies for maternity are at present not available in India. Additionally, in retail health insurance, there is usually a 90-day waiting period from the time of the child-birth for the baby to get medical insurance coverage. Group health insurance policies provide cover for the baby from the first day.
According to the report, ideal maternity benefits should provide a minimum cover up to Rs 1,00,000 for Tier 1 cities and cover the baby from the very first day. For workplaces to be considered equitable, employers must consider including of surrogacy and adoption leave policies and benefits, same-sex partner maternity and leave benefits and paternity leave and benefits.
Healthcare inflation in India is rising at 18-20 per cent annually. In this backdrop, lack of proper maternity benefits could be one of the key reasons for a drop in the percentage of the women workforce from 26 per cent in 2005 to 20.3 per cent in 2019.