Demand for standard health cover catching up in rural areas

With pandemic cases surging, people are increasingly looking at a standard basic health cover rather than opting for Covid-specific health insurance. “We notice that the demand for basic standard health cover product Arogya Sanjeevani is on the rise, especially from customers in rural areas,” S Prakash, Managing Director, Star Health & Allied Insurance According to Prakash, Covid-19 needs health insurance cover ‘without any compromise’ and Covid-specific covers are not entirely helpful as they come with many ifs and buts. “What happens if there are clinical symptoms while a Covid diagnostic test is negative? A comprehensive health cover is needed even if a person has no Covid after being suspected,” he explains. Precisely, this is the reason why a standard health cover is being seen as more useful by the people, he said. “As a medical doctor I personally feel this is advisable,” Prakash added. While the urban middle class is generally more conscious of the need for a health cover, it is interesting to see more demand for tier-2 and rural areas for the standard basic health cover policy Arogya Sanjeevani. IRDAI has mandated all insurers to offer Arogya Sanjeevani which will cover the basic healthcare costs such as hospitalisation, including for Covid-19, day-care treatment, pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses, and offers tax benefits. The main objective of the regulator in introducing the product in April 2020 is to ensure standardisation, where the same policy terms are to be offered by all insurers. Under Arogya Sanjeevani, the maximum sum insured is Rs. 5 lakh and the minimum Rs. 1 lakh. With the policy being the same with every insurer, it is easier for a policyholder to choose the insurer based on the premium, services offered and network hospitals. Though the product got clouded due to the out-break of Covid after its launch and covid-specific cover of `Corona Kavach’ now, it is now picking up, said Sanjay Datta, Head- Underwriting and Claims, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company. “All those who had realised the need for health cover due to the pandemic impact are now staying invested in health cover policies,” he said, adding that this is also applicable to other health cover products apart from Arogya Sanjeevani. Sapna Desai, Head of Marketing & Digital Sales, ManipalCigna Health Insurance said t h e impact of Covid has certainly been instrumental in driving awareness about the significance of purchasing a comprehensive health insurance policy, to cater to the problem of ever-increasing medical inflation. In the meanwhile, the insurance regulator is considering extending the validity of Covid-19-specific cover policies – Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak – beyond the current fiscal. However, last September, IRDAI had extended the deadline for validity till March 31, 2022.

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