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Mint Healthcare Summit: ‘Fear, not awareness, driving health insurance buying post-covid’

The covid-19 pandemic sparked a welcome change in the insurance industry as people bought health insurance plans proactively to secure themselves in case of sudden hospitalisation. However, Dr. Bhabatosh Mishra of Niva Bupa Health Insurance said during a panel discussion on health insurance at the Mint Healthcare Summit 2023 that fear, not increased awareness, drove people to buy health insurance during and after covid. That said, health insurance very much remains a push product in India.

Dr Mishra is director – product, underwriting & claims, at Niva Bupa Health Insurance. Addressing widespread complaints about the huge jump in the price of many health insurance policies, he said the price of health insurance is directly linked to healthcare costs. “Health insurance is heavily regulated whereas healthcare prices can change on a whim,” Mishra said. “Some hospitals change their prices twice or thrice a year.”

Mayank Gupta, co-founded and COO of Zopper, added that India’s health insurance density is very low compared to that of other developing markets. Insurance density is the ratio of total premiums paid to the country’s population, and serves as a proxy for how much people spend on average on health insurance.

“We have an average density of $70-80 compared to other developing countries, which are at $500-600,” said Gupta. He added that the biggest problem is not technology but the lack of awareness about health insurance.

Shilpa Arora, co-Founder & COO of Insurance Samadhan, said it isn’t enough to focus on insurance penetration and that there is also a need to look at the customer experience at the time of making claims. For instance, she said, many claims are rejected due to improper disclosure of medical history. She added that there is a need to properly train insurance sellers and distributors as they are often unaware of the clauses in specific products.

When asked which channels should be used to drive the next leg of growth in health insurance, Rishi Mathur, chief distribution officer and chief strategy officer at Canara HSBC Life Insurance, said both physical and digital channels should be leveraged.

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) said in its annual report for FY22 that insurance penetration in the country stands at 4.2% (premium to GDP ratio). Of this, 3.2% is for life insurance and only 1% for non-life insurance. And of the 1% for non-life insurance, less than 1% goes towards health insurance. IRDAI has introduced initiatives such as Bima Sugam, Bima Vahak and Bima Vistar and state level insurance to increase insurance penetration in the country.

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Updated: 29 Nov 2023, 08:35 PM IST

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