By Amit Ganorkar
‘30 is the new 20’ may be music to the ears. Medically, it seems, ‘30 is the new 40.’ Diseases that were generally associated with old age till a generation ago are rampantly plaguing the young. Today, it is common to see people in their thirties popping pills for elevated cholesterol/ high BP or taking insulin shots. It is equally common to see youngsters depend on inhalers to combat pollution-induced asthma attacks. The incidence of the young falling prey to cardiac diseases is also increasing by the day.
The double whammy of a sedentary lifestyle and long stressful work hours spell nothing but doom. Lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and the dark shadow of uncertainty cast by the pandemic are amongst the host of other reasons causing the early onset of, both mental and physical, burnout.
Identify your health insurance requirements
With unpredictability becoming a synonym for life, the only way to exercise some semblance of control is to get a comprehensive health insurance cover. To begin with, identify your health insurance requirements and the optimum sum insured you need; figure out whether you need a health insurance plan only for yourself or one that covers your family members as well. Accordingly, you can go for an individual plan or consider a family floater policy health insurance plan.
Next, narrow down the type and extent of the coverage you need on the basis of your age, family medical history, pre-existing illnesses if any, nature of medical expenses, medical inflation, etc. As health insurance policies are lifelong renewals, it is pertinent to opt for such policies from insurers having a strong brand image.
Financial liabilities such as loans or income tax savings are other things that have to be also considered while purchasing a policy.
Also Read: Should you buy a multi-year health plan?
Right Age to Buy a Health Insurance Policy
Our parents usually planned to get health insurance coverage as they neared mid-life. However, in the wake of the early onset of lifestyle diseases, it is only wise to buy a plan as early as 30. Age is a significant factor when comes to the purchase of a health insurance policy. The earlier one buys a health insurance policy, the better it is.
Most insurance companies ask for a pre-policy medical screening before issuing a health insurance plan and it depends on the coverage opted for & medical/health conditions, if any, apart from age. Considering that diseases such as obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, lung cancer, etc usually stem from an unhealthy lifestyle, it is highly advisable to get a policy when such conditions are either absent or are controlled with no associated complications.
Get a cover before poor lifestyle choices take a toll and begin to reflect by way of deranged biomarkers. Secondly, based on the health conditions an individual is suffering – there exists a high possibility that the individual is subject to an underwriting lens before acceptance of the proposal.
And be mindful of the fact that most health insurance policies do not cover pre-existing diseases from day 1 of policy start. Depending on the Health insurance Plan bought, such pre-existing diseases get covered after a waiting period which typically is 36 or 48 months from the policy inception date.
It is also important to keep in mind the COVID-19 pandemic experience and hence deferment of purchase for a health insurance policy would not be a prudent decision.
Choose the best health insurance plan
If your health report card is all green, then opt for a health insurance plan that offers comprehensive coverage and look for no restrictions applied in the product such as room category restriction, disease/ailment wise sub-limits, capping medical/surgeon expenses, co-payment, OPD cover and plan that offers higher cumulative ‘No-claim Bonus’ for every claim-free year. There are plans in the market that also offer annual preventive health check-ups.
Also, there are certain illnesses that necessitate substantial expenses pre-hospitalisation as well as post-hospitalisation. In such a case, opt for a Plan which offers wider coverage duration for pre/post hospitalization expenses There are different plans with varied coverages and premiums and ample discretion is necessary. With the pandemic putting a spotlight on the role of co-morbidities in recovery from Covid, it is only wise to choose a plan which covers Covid-19-related medical expenses such as consumables (e.g. PPE/Gloves/Face shield etc.).
Immense research has been happening in medical technology/treatment, diagnostic as well as therapeutic, which leads to medical inflation. Hence, plans with higher sum insured options (Rs. 10 lakh and above) are something one should look at. Secondly, access to healthcare treatment overseas is another key element to keep in mind. Insurers have started offering global coverage in their health insurance plans. Opting for such a policy will be an added advantage.
In the case of younger individuals, health insurance plans that offer maternity coverages should not be ignored. The need for this coverage should be aligned as per one’s requirement.
One should also look for the hospital network density of the insurer while purchasing the policy. Individuals should check for the availability of such network hospitals which offer cashless facilities in their city/vicinity and then freeze on the health insurance plan.
The bottom line
From a macro perspective, choose an insurer that has a strong brand image and a policy that has a wide network of hospitals, no sub-limit on hospital room rent, covers consumables expenses, global treatment coverage, plans offering OPD coverage and definitely a hassle-free claim process.
The bottom line is – Just get yourself a cover. The right cover.
(The author is Chief Operating Officer, Tata AIG General Insurance)