Antony Jacob, CEO, Apollo Munich
Health insurance is one of the most important forms of insurance a person must own to enjoy unlimited access to quality healthcare services, anywhere, anytime. The value that health insurance brings to people in maintaining their health and mitigating financial consequences of medical emergencies is evident as the Gross Written Premium (GWP) of health insurance is growing annually and during the period between April 2015 and March 2016, it increased by 21.7 percent, which is the highest reported during the past five years.
The Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has been bringing in positive changes to the sector and coupled with the Government’s initiatives such as Digital India, this year we will see many more changes in our segment. The growth in adoption of technology by the Indian population will also enable a discernible behavioral change towards understanding the importance of health insurance and purchase of health insurance policies. On their part, health insurance companies are adopting technology to speed up processes, enable purchases online and uncomplicating health insurance as much as they can. Standardization and innovation along with technological advancements promise greater penetration levels this year.
Cashless is the way to go
The Government’s demonetization drive will help the uptake of mobile technology to fasten premiums payments for consumers, while pushing the insurance companies to adopt technology for enabling better, faster turn around times for policy purchase, issuance and claims payments.
As a result of demonetization, we also believe that there will be an increase in the number of policyholders using cashless services rather than claiming for reimbursement, due to the low levels of liquidity. This should lead to beneficial tie-ups that insurance companies can forge with healthcare providers to develop and offer affordable pricing treatment protocols at quality healthcare sites for the benefit of consumers as a whole.
Health insurance for all
The insurance industry is keenly awaiting the Government’s Universal Healthcare for all initiative, as an enabler to provide the much needed health insurance for every citizen. After all a healthy population will contribute more towards the growth of the country’s economy.
The introduction of wellness services coupled with health insurance policies is slowing rising and in 2017 we hope to see more companies in this sector offer wellness programs to incentivize policyholders to get fit.The introduction of specialized policies is not only helping insurers to target health conscious individuals, but also allows individuals to achieve their fitness goals.
While basic health insurance policies are essential for every person, there is also a need for specialized covers that offer to mitigate healthcare expenses of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, coronary diseases, as well as seasonal ailments such as dengue. While working Indians can avail of employee provided group covers, there is a segment of low income and lower middle income employees who do not have health insurance coverage, as their employers do not offer them. Specialized covers will benefit this segment to enable them to reduce their out of pocket expenses for treatment of NCDs and seasonal complaints.
Educating the masses
The insurance industry, over the past few decades, has been successful in educating the masses on the need for life insurance. With health insurance being the only means to save personal savings to fund healthcare needs, the insurers in this segment have been proactively helping to uncomplicated their products for consumers. Yet, there remains a dearth in awareness levels, and we believe that this segment will come together this year to create more education programmes for people to help them understand that health insurance is a long-term financial planning tool and not just an annual product to purchase to save tax.
All in all, we believe this year – 2017 – will be a year of changes and we expect to play a role in making people’s lives more healthier and stronger.