These are unprecedented times. As the cases in India surge and we enter into a phase of lockdown, the question that arises now is whether the health insurer is equipped enough to handle the COVID-19 crisis?
Says Dr. S. Prakash, Managing Director, Star Health and Allied Insurance, “Health insurance people are very much watchful because COVID-19 is now a public health emergency and it will explode any time. Insurers are keeping their technology platforms well equipped so that if there is a growing number of admissions in private hospitals, the health insurers can come forward and service the cashless patients.”
The increase in the number of cases for COVID-19 patients happens in geometric progression. Now there are over 700 cases. If the numbers reach 1,000, in another one week it may reach 1 lakh.
So far, the treatment of coronavirus patients is happening in government hospitals. With the government planning to open coronavirus treatment for private hospitals when there is a surge in cases, the insurance should be helpful when patients visit private hospitals.
Let us say that as a COVID-19 patient is being treated at a private hospital. He or she runs into complications, is shifted to an ICU and the bill runs into a few lakh. Then the insurance should come as a support and help to pay the bill. Generally, in such cases, the hospital treats a patient. When they send a record to the insurance company, a doctor from the insurance company checks whether the patient has received an indication for admission. Based on that, a team of doctors and financial approvers approve the claim.
“I have foreseen this requirement and have equipped our IT platforms so that most of our customers who get admitted to private hospitals get their claims approved easily through a cashless system,” says Prakash.
He adds “We have some 500 plus doctors working with Star Health Insurance. I am trying to educate my doctors, give them some guidelines and prepare the technology platform so that they can work from home 24X7 and continue to offer the services to our customers. We are giving laptops to our employees and enabling them to work from home.”
IRDAI has also allowed extra time to pay health insurance premiums and have asked insurers to consider a delay in renewal up to 30 days, without this leading to a break in the policy.
Says Mayank Bathwal, CEO, Aditya Birla Health Insurance, “The government has undertaken several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In line with the government’s initiatives of preventing this virus and to ensure uninterrupted services to policyholders and customers, the regulator has asked all the insurers to maintain continuity of business operations through alternate possible modes such as telephonic and digital contact. We welcome the prompt measures taken by the regulator in the customer’s interest such as the extension of grace period for paying premiums. We were already prepared for this and have implemented it immediately to ensure steady and continuous services to all our customers.”
Health insurers are gearing up as India prepares to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. At our end, we should practice strict social distancing and maintain basic hygiene.