In the present scenario, medical tests are not feasible either because people are not willing to go for it owing to their safety or because of lockdown in many parts of the country.
Aditya Birla Health Insurance has adopted changes in the underwriting process during the Covid-19 pandemic with adoption of tele or video underwriting increasing the speed of issuance of policy, says chief executive officer Mayank Bathwal. In an interview with Mithun Dasgupta, Bathwal says currently about 98% of the company’s sales were happening paperless and were being digitally completed. Edited excerpts:
Amid the Covid disruptions and the countrywide lockdown, Aditya Birla Health Insurance’s gross written premium (GWP) in April-May grew 71% over the previous year. What are the reasons behind this high business growth during this period? And, do you see this type of growth in GWP would continue going forward?
The strength of the ABHI’s business model was evident by its strong performance in Q1. ABHI continues to be the fastest growing health insurer having registered gross written premium (GWP) of Rs 246 crore in Q1FY21, growing by 72% year-on-year. The primary of such high sustained business growth, which is expected to continue going forward is its multi-channel distribution strategy and extensive network of industry-leading strategic partners, complemented by robust digital strategy which significantly broadens our access to potential new customers.
The company has created a differentiated ‘health first’ business model by moving from the traditional ‘buy and forget’ to ‘buy and engage’, thus serving as an enabler and influencer of customer health in addition to fulfilling the traditional role of funding healthcare expenses. This has led to increased customer stickiness and consequent improvement in persistency, hence resulting in sustained high business growth. Also, one of the reasons for ABHI’s growth is that the company was able to reach out to customers where we were with offerings relevant for them. For instance, ABHI reached out to customers on a large scale leveraging digital modes of distribution and virtual channels for selling. The company grew because of the right offering and right distribution to reach to the customers brought by a strong brand. In addition, the experience customers have got creates a multiplier effect on fresh sales. We have clearly seen an upward trend in awareness and we see a positive sentiment for health insurance in times ahead.
What kind of demands are you witnessing for Corona Kavach policies?
Corona Kavach is a specific reactive care hospitalisation indemnity plan which covers hospitalisation expenses in case of inpatient admission due to Covid-19 infection and any other co-morbidity which a patient may have. We encourage customers to buy this as an add on cover. As other health hazards and morbidities have not reduced, hence the right advice for a customer is to buy a comprehensive policy which provides complete cover against all illnesses and covers you and your family. The response from the customers has been encouraging and Corona Kavach can be bought from our large distribution set up where our distributors may assess your health insurance needs and advice you the most suitable offerings.
With coronavirus cases spreading fast in India, has the company adopted changes in the underwriting process and the product pricing for new customer acquisition?
In the present scenario, medical tests are not feasible either because people are not willing to go for it owing to their safety or because of lockdown in many parts of the country. In order to tackle this, we launched tele underwriting and video underwriting. Here, our trained personnel speak to the customers and understand their medical health condition. Thus the company has adopted changes in the underwriting process during the Covid-19 pandemic. Adoption of tele or video underwriting has increased the speed of issuance of policy and the customer is able to get the coverage in a much shorter time. The customers too have responded very well to this transition.
As social distancing and self-isolation are needs of the hour, at present what percentage of your products are being sold through digital platforms? Do you believe this trend in insurance distribution would continue post Covid-19? Has selling more products digitally cut costs? How does it impact product pricing?
Currently, about 98% of sales were happening paperless and were being digitally completed. We reached out to customers on a large scale leveraging digital modes of distribution and virtual channels for selling. With the shift to work from home, I think organisations will now look at roles that don’t require employees to come to work every day and offer some flexibility. This will also allow organisations to lower costs such as real estate, travel, etc. And digital is becoming a way of life and personally, I am a big fan of virtual because of the prospect of scalability and ours is a heavy engagement model so I think digital will refine and redefine all operating processes.Newer opportunities for digital partnerships with the likes of Paytm and other large digital platforms too will come up and with Irdai now allowing Sandbox, more product innovation to sell short-term, byte sized and contextual insurance through digital platforms is an opportunity that has emerged.
There were some reports that a number of private hospitals across the country had refused cashless treatment for insured Covid-positive patients. In some cases, hospitals have allegedly inflated bills. How are the insurance companies going to address these major issues?
None of our customers have been denied claims till now.