Covid-19: What changed for health insurance before and after pandemic

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Published: May 22, 2020 1:00:49 AM

Given the gravity of the current situation and the worldwide panic surrounding it, people now, more than ever before, are concerned about their health and that of their families.

Due to Covid-19, there is a shift in consumer mindset — from thinking that health insurance is a priority, health insurance is now seen as a necessityDue to Covid-19, there is a shift in consumer mindset — from thinking that health insurance is a priority, health insurance is now seen as a necessity

Due to Covid-19, there is a shift in consumer mindset — from thinking that health insurance is a priority, health insurance is now seen as a necessity. Prasun Sikdar, MD and CEO, ManipalCigna Health Insurance, in an interview to Saikat Neogi explains the need to buy a health insurance policy now. Excerpts:

ManipalCigna Health Insurance has waived the mandatory co-payment clause for those above 65 years for treatment of Covid-19. What was the idea behind it?
The last several weeks have been some of the most uncertain times we’ve ever experienced due to Covid-19 situation. During these unprecedented, complex and ambiguous times, our top priority is to do all we can to protect the health and well-being of our customers. We understand that unexpected medical expenses can jeopardise a family’s financial security; therefore, to give our customers greater peace of mind in these trying times and to help them focus their energies on fighting the virus and not on their medical bills we decided to waive the 20% mandatory co-payment on all claims for insured persons aged 65 years or above who have obligation of mandatory co-payment benefit under ManipalCignaProHealth Insurance plan. This is a small gesture on our part to safeguard the most vulnerable population of our society and ensure that the cost is not a barrier for them in getting quality healthcare they need for Covid-19 treatment.

In addition, to provide customers with in-home health support, we have launched care calls under our ‘WeCare4U’ initiative for senior citizens with pre-existing co-morbidities, to guide them to their next best step of self-care for good health and thereby equipping them against Covid-19 or other infectious diseases.

As India is under-penetrated in health insurance and the number of people infected with Covid-19 is increasing, will people look at health insurance as a necessity now?
Given the gravity of the current situation and the worldwide panic surrounding it, people now, more than ever before, are concerned about their health and that of their families. In the hierarchy of needs, health has claimed primary position because the control we had over our health has been taken away by Covid-19. Today, we can eat well and exercise, but there is always an element of chance that we can catch the virus any time. Thus, consumer behaviour has undergone tectonic shifts due to this looming fear. First shift we have seen in the consumer mindset is from thinking health insurance is a priority to thinking health insurance is now a necessity. Second, from thinking health insurance is a safety net to being a saviour for people. Third, until now falling ill was considered a distant possibility, but now falling ill has become a distinct possibility.

We always said that buy health insurance and prepare for a rainy day but today consumers are feeling that the ‘rainy day’ has already come and there are some unforeseen situations like Covid-19 that can still occur and will require hospitalisation. In a relatively under-insured market like ours, I believe the Covid-19 has been the biggest advertiser to reinforce the fact that ‘Health KeSaath, Health Insurance ZarooriHai’ to safeguard long-term financial goals, enjoy lifetime access to quality health care, and to live a healthier life.

Apart from a comprehensive health insurance cover with adequate sum insured, do you think people should also opt for a super top up plan?
A comprehensive health insurance cover is as essential as roti, kapda aur makaan. With healthcare costs on the rise due to modern treatments and procedures, existing health insurance cover may not be adequate and buying a health insurance cover with a large sum insured may not be affordable. Thus, a Super Top Up is a value-for-money plan that offers a wide range of sum insured between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 30 lakh at an affordable premium amount. We have recently launched our easy on pocket ‘Super Top Up’ health insurance plan to deliver enhanced safety net of coverage and to take care of rising healthcare costs, so that more people will be able to enjoy a more secure future.

I do believe purchasing a super top up plan can be a wise thing to do, because most working people have corporate health insurance cover provided by their organisations. But more often than not this corporate cover is insufficient to cover the entire family, especially given the growing costs of healthcare and rising infectious diseases. Thus, a super top up plan at a nominal cost can provide that added financial cushion in times of unforeseen medical requirements.
Secondly, often people feel they have enough savings to cope with an immediate health emergency. But sometimes the funds may get repurposed towards achieving other financial goals such as a child’s education, purchasing a property, a wedding or a situation may arise where the savings are not enough to meet the big emergency costs. A super top-up plan along with the existing health insurance plan will keep you covered for a high sum insured limit taking the financial stress away.

What kind of innovation is required in health insurance to make it sustainable for the overall ecosystem and relevant for the customers?
We are living in a transformative age, and it is significant to innovate to stay ahead in the game. Thus to make health insurance far more sustainable for the overall ecosystem and relevant for customers, we need to come up with innovative products based on customer needs, streamline the processes, digitise the supply chain and use various technologies to build the greater sense of importance of insurance. Moreover, today our customers are asking for three things—know me, help me, and make it easier for me to engage with the healthcare system.

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