In the coming months, we expect Covid- 19 claim costs to plateau and then curve downward due to development of treatment protocols, leading to less hospitalisations, increased recovery rates and shortened hospital stays.
United India Insurance Company (UIIC), one of the largest non-life insurance companies in the country, says its initial plan for 14% growth has to be reworked and, consequently, all aspects of business plan are being reviewed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc in the marketplace. UIIC reveals it has so far received 8,500 claims and settled 8,247 for Covid -19 hospitalisation. In an interview with Sajan C Kumar, UIIC chairman-cum-managing director Girish Radhakrishnan shares his views on the road ahead. Edited excerpts:
Q: How has been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the company?
A: We faced significant negative revenue growth in some lines of business because customers are compelled to defer their insurance renewals. New motor business, already reeling from the year-long downturn in the auto sector, has been further hit since dealerships have been closed and the slump in sales continues. Core industry sectors have also been affected by the pandemic. UIIC has been hit by this, as are all other insurers. Our initial plan for 14% growth has to be reworked and, consequently, all aspects of our business plan are being reviewed.
Q: How do you evaluate the company’s performance in fiscal year 2020?
A: We booked a gross premium of Rs 17,500 crore, clocking a growth rate of 6.6%. We grew significantly in property, including engineering, marine hull, personal accident and crop. While our agency channel continued to be the top single contributor, with a share of 47% of our total business, what was even more encouraging was that our digital sales showed good growth, bringing in about 15% of our total business and 42% of our total number of policies issued during the year.
Q: Your experience in dealing with outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic ?
A: Managing health insurance claims, specifically implementing cash-less settlement of claims, was the big challenge and we have successfully done that in real time with our TPAs putting in place online protocols quickly. Our IT people set up 4,200 VPNs in key employees’ residences to ensure that business operations could continue without interruption. We encouraged customers through SMSs, postings on our website and on social media to renew their policies and intimate claims online.
Q. What has been the demand for Covid-19 related policies since the virus outbreak?
A: Predictably, we have been receiving a number of queries regarding coverage of hospitalisation for Covid- 19 treatment in our existing policies. Apart from reassuring individual callers on phone, we posted FAQs on our website on this subject. Our retail health portfolio is currently growing at 42%. We have also launched our Corona Kavach policy, which is selling well. There is also a lot of interest regarding our newly launched Arogya Sanjeevani policy, a simple and affordable product introduced in April.
Q. How many Covid-19 (claims) policies you have settled so far and how do you foresee the demand for such policies and settlement during the fiscal?
A: We have so far received 8, 500 claims and settled 8,247 for Covid- 19 hospitalisation costs. The claim payouts come to about Rs 38 crore. In the coming months, we expect Covid- 19 claim costs to plateau and then curve downward due to development of treatment protocols, leading to less hospitalisations, increased recovery rates and shortened hospital stays.
Q: There have been reports alleging exorbitant fees being charged by a number of hospitals on the Covid front. How do you view the trend ?
A: We have experienced this tendency of some healthcare providers to charge high costs of treatment for Covid-19. However, our experience (and that of the other PSU insurers) had been mixed since the bulk of our claims have been for treatment at our networked hospitals, with whom package rates had already been put in place. We have not faced any major issues in Covid-19 claims settlements. TPAs help us in providing cashless claims services. Stringent turnaround times have been implemented for pre-authorisation and final claim approvals in cashless health claims.