International Women’s Day 2023: The number of insurance buyers in the country has slowly but surely increased over time, but the share of women buying insurance has not increased proportionately. While this may be a reflection of the workforce demographics, according to experts, it is also perhaps true that many women still do not think of insurance as a necessity. There may be various reasons for this, and it is important to understand those and find a solution.
Experts say that whether women become increasingly financially independent or become the primary caregivers and managers of their households, it is important that they become more aware of the need to secure their future and take steps to align their savings and financial protection accordingly.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today (March 8), FE PF Desk got in touch with some insurance sector experts to find out the most common insurance problems faced by women and how to handle them.
Jataveda Bhattacharya, Head of Product Design at Aegon life insurance, says that financial planning and decisions are still handled by the men in the family – usually the spouse or the father. As a result, circumstances that can be specific to women go unnoticed.
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At a time when working women are increasingly becoming significant providers for their parents, siblings, and children as well as for their own selves, there is a need to focus on adequate insurance coverage to take care of the people who depend on them financially and also to ensure that the women themselves plan for medium to long-term savings which can enable them financially at various points in life.
Lack of targeted communication
Bhattacharya says that the lack of targeted communication towards women to inform them about the benefits of having life insurance which will encourage them to account for future requirements and take a policy or two that can take care of these needs. For example, a fact that is not highlighted enough is that life insurance premiums are lower for women than men, and many insurers offer higher returns for women in savings insurance plans.
Rakesh Goyal, Director at Probus Insurance, says that in comparison to other developed countries, India has one of the lowest rates of insurance usage in the world. Insufficient familiarity with insurance options is a major barrier for female consumers. In spite of this knowledge, they are more likely to put their faith in a member of their own family or their insurance representative.
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Different health insurance needs
Maya Pandey, Doctoral Researcher at BIMTECH, says that women face some unique health issues like breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis to name a few. However, many women are not aware of the need for regular screenings and preventive care. Also, preventive care is barely covered under insurance policies. If the screening reveals any health issue then it is termed as pre-existing disease and not covered or covered with higher premiums. So, therefore women may have pre-existing conditions that make it difficult for them to obtain insurance coverage and if the coverage is provided it would result in higher premiums
“Some insurance policies may not cover such as maternity care, contraception, and breast cancer screening. So, women have to be cautious to take their insurance policies to ensure that they have adequate coverage for their health needs,” says Pandey.
Bhattacharya says that many insurers provide coverage for women-specific illnesses, related to frequently occurring cancers, pregnancy-related issues, etc. “Adding such insurance as part of financial planning can help take care of the financial burden such diagnosis can bring, without jeopardizing the rest of your responsibilities.”
Lack of awareness about MWP Act option
According to experts, a married woman can purchase an insurance policy under the Married Women’s Property Act, and nominate her children as beneficiaries. This is an important feature as it will ensure that the proceeds of the policy will only go to the beneficiaries and no one else. This can be a key tool for any woman trying to ensure the financial security of her children in her absence.
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Lack of awareness among non-working women
Bhattacharya says that stay-at-home moms and other non-working women do not see the need to purchase insurance. Since they are not the primary breadwinners of the household, they may believe that insurance is only for the male-earning member of the household. However, managing a household is no mean task and in their absence, the household will not only suffer emotionally but also financially since there is no easy replacement for the work she put in. Hence, educating non-working women (and their families) on the needs and benefits of insurance is a must.
Difficulty in the claim process
Pandey says that women may face difficulty in filing insurance claims due to complicated procedures or insufficient information provided by the insurance provider specially if they are single and have to do the running around on their own.
What to do
While buying insurance may seem like a daunting task and can involve a significant amount of money, nowadays it is easy to find all the required information online.
“All insurers and insurance aggregators provide details of policies and premiums, making the required information easily available, and easy to compare. Thus, it is possible to make an informed choice on your own,” says Bhattacharya.
“In addition to securing themselves through insurance, it is also important for women to know the existing insurance details of their family members, usually spouse or parent. In many cases, women are the nominees in life insurance policies of family members/spouse but they are not aware of it. Not knowing these details can result in difficulties while raising a claim, if such a time should come. Each household should ensure there is communication and information sharing with the nominee/s and they are familiar with the insurer and its processes,” she adds.
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To handle insurance-related issues, Pandey suggests that women should be aware, do research of their own for the coverages, get more educated towards the products or policies, speak up for the coverages denied, approach the regulator (IRDAI) for any issues and lodge a complaint, seek help from legal networks. They should also Search for the insurers covering the health issues required, compare the prices or take professional help.
Goyal says that there are a plethora of options to choose from now, and it’s often difficult for women to make an informed decision.
“The lack of knowledge is the most significant problem, though other factors, such as the belief that insurance is too costly or the belief that they do not need insurance at such a young age, also play a role. Only by educating themselves about insurance and personal money can women change this. Online markets have made it easy to learn about insurance and make a purchase. Women should take control of their financial futures and learn to live more wisely now,” he adds.