Mr. Antony Jacob's Interview in NDTV

Cost of Motherhood a Big Worry? Buy An Insurance

What could be the best gift for a newly married woman on the 100th anniversary of international women’s day? How about a health insurance plan that covers pregnancy!

Given the sharp rise in the cost of maternity care, any woman would be thrilled with a gift that can ensure her good care at the most precious moment of her life. The problem is, the choices for you are few and far between.

While India’s health insurance market has expanded pretty fast over the past few years, offering people an effective tool to reduce the financial burden in healthcare, pregnancy-related expenses have remained excluded from insurance coverage of most health plans.

General insurance companies say pregnancy is not an illness and, hence, it should not qualify for insurance cover.

The entry of standalone health insurers has changed the scenario a bit. All three standalone health insurance companies — Star Health and Allied Insurance, Apollo Munich Health Insurance and Max Bupa Health Insurance — have come out with plans that cover hospitalisation expenses related to pregnancy.

Star Health started operations in May, 2006 as India’s first standalone health insurer. Apollo Munich entered the market as Apollo DKV in December 2007, while Max Bupa came into being in April 2010.

Among them, Max Bupa offers a wide range of sum assured options to choose from. It does not differentiate between expenses incurred in a normal delivery and a caesarean delivery.

Among general insurance companies, ICICI Lombard covers maternity expenses, but it’s limited to OPD charges only. Maternity benefits are also available with most group health insurance policies.

“With medical costs galloping ahead of inflation, having sufficient health insurance is a must for everyone. We strongly suggest family floater plans for maternity as well as other benefits,” said Antony Jacob, CEO of Apollo Munich Health Insurance.

While buying a health insurance plan, it is important to check out the number of years one would need to wait before you become eligible to claim maternity benefits. Max Bupa’s health plans require a subscriber to wait for two years, whereas it is three years in case of Star Health Wedding Gift Plan and four years in case of Apollo Munich Easy Health Family Floater. All these plans cover pregnancy.

“Maternity is one of the most important milestones in every family’s life. For couples planning to start families, there is an immediacy to the decision, especially in India. Four years is too long to wait when you have decided to start a family. Therefore, we offer a comprehensive family cover where maternity is covered with a waiting period of only two years,” said Karanvir Singh, director of sales and distribution at Max Bupa Health Insurance.

As a part of the plan, Max Bupa also provides cover for the newborn immediately after birth, which gets activated automatically. This is a first in Indian health insurance market. The health cover continues for the first year of the child and even provides for vaccinations.

Star Health too extends a similar cover for the baby at no additional cost. Apollo Munich charges a nominal amount to include the new member. This is important considering that the child may require medical attention right after birth. The automatic activation of the health cover may come handy in such a situation.

“Our maternity cover offers total solutions and the newborn is covered right from birth, even for any congenital abnormality,” said D Rama, assistant vice-president for product development at Star Health and Allied Insurance.

Criteria for claiming maternity expenses are the same as any other health plan. Hospitals that are empanelled with the insurance company provide cashless claims while in case of a non-empanelled hospital, you will need to claim reimbursement with necessary papers.

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