Mr. Antony Jacob's Interview in NDTV

Get the Right Health Insurance Cover Under Portability

Until portability was allowed for health insurance, customers were wary of shifting to a new insurer, even if they were unsatisfied with the existing one. The fear was the loss of accumulated loyalty benefits or having to begin the waiting period for existing diseases afresh. But now, with the option of health portability in place, they can right their wrongs. However, it would be wise to keep a few factors in mind before shifting to another insurer.

“Customers can only take the policy in totality. So it’s important to understand the benefits offered under the existing health policy and to match those with the plan one wishes to port to,” says Apollo Munich Health Insurance CEO Antony Jacob.

Those planning to port their services should look for an insurer with a good track record in claim settlements and a large network of hospitals. Besides these, there also are other conditions that should be looked up to avoid being in a spot when making a claim.

Additional loading: Typically, if you have a hospital cash cover, you can opt only for a similar cover with another insurer. Going by the apples to apples logic, there may not be a wider scope for added premiums or loads on renewals.

But insurers say every portability request is considered as a new application. So, if a customer is considered a high-risk person under an insurers’ underwriting norms, he may be asked to pay a higher premium or extra loading. In such cases, unless the insurer is offering a better cover, you should not port your services in a haste.

Co-pay and sub-limits: Companies often ask customers to share the risk burden, and levy conditions like co-pay or sub-limits on treatments. Under co-pay, a customer pays a percentage of the total cost, while under sub-limits, he pays anything above the pre-decided cost limit for treatment. For instance, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance levies the co-pay structure, if the customer goes to a non-network hospital.

Customers could look at insurers that reward customers for prudent usage of the cover. So, for instance, Apollo Munich encourages shared accommodation or hospitalisation under its ‘Easy Health’ policy. As an incentive, depending on the slab applicable, it offers Rs 300-500 per day hospital cash to policy holders.
“The cash perks attached to them mean lower price on the product in the long run,” adds Jacob.

Renewals: While insurers have been following 70 years as the average age after which they refuse covers to individuals, customers should now insist on lifelong policy renewals.

“There is no official regulation from the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (Irda) on the age limit and insurers have been told that they cannot refuse health policy renewals. This, in effect, makes lifelong renewals a must,” says Suresh Sugathan, head (health administration team), Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.

Increase in cover with age: Given the rise in medical inflation, your current cover may be insufficient at a higher age. While you may plan to bridge the gap by buying a new policy, companies are sceptical about covering those in the higher age bracket, as medical risks rise significantly with age.

“Customers should, instead, approach their existing insurers, as they are much more open to upgrades from own customers, subject to the necessary medical tests,” adds Sugathan.

Doing this will also help a customer skip the waiting periods applicable on new policies.

Wellness support: A number of companies now offer wellness support to their customers through helpline set-ups for health tips, medical camps and newsletters. These are value additions and part of awareness campaigns insurers undertake.

But, experts warn, one should take into account the kind of support offered, since the costs involved are met by insurers in premiums. “How many people would really follow the advice dispensed by a doctor on the other side of the phone helpline,” asks an official.

It would be better to see if the new insurer has tied up with hospitals and offers discounted rates for out-patient procedures not covered in the basic policy.

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