Things to note when purchasing health insurance during COVID-19 pandemic

Here are some things you need to consider if you are thinking of purchasing health insurance in these times of the coronavirus.

Things to note when purchasing health insurance during COVID-19 pandemic

The way in which the world views healthcare has changed drastically in the last few weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many people question their financial preparedness. And a crucial financial aspect that has emerged in these trying times is whether one has adequate insurance. 

With the coronavirus scare engulfing the globe, the need for insurance is greater than ever. Medical issues have always been associated with older people, but the imminent threat of COVID-19 to all age groups has convinced individuals to buy health insurance regardless of their age. 

If you do not have health insurance and would like to purchase one, here’s what you should know: 

Starting the process without medical tests

Getting health insurance is a straightforward procedure. You can select the plan and insurer of your choice and get in touch with the company. Typically, the insurer might conduct a medical test before deciding upon a sum assured. However, due to coronavirus and the lockdown, getting a medical test is currently not possible. To combat this problem, some insurers have started conducting telemedical tests. Under this process, a doctor calls you and asks you some questions about your health. Based on your answers, the insurance company evaluates your medical status and offers you a suitable sum assured. It is essential for you to truthfully answer all questions and reveal your entire medical history to the doctor during a telemedical test. Right from your smoking and drinking habits to any medicine that you could be consuming on a daily basis, everything is important. Hiding such information can result in the rejection of your claim later. 

Choosing the right insurance plan

Buying health insurance can is simple but picking the ideal plan can be tricky, especially in these times when social distancing norms do not allow you to step out of home and meet an insurance agent to discuss the pros and cons of a policy. However, most insurance providers let you buy insurance online. You can pick a plan, chat online with a customer representative, and add riders – all from the comfort of your home.

You must keep the following points in mind while buying health insurance:

  • Coverage: The amount of cover can differ for each individual. If you are young, you can pick an extensive cover for a nominal premium. The premium for middle-aged or older people is likely to be higher but this should not deter you from selecting an adequate amount. The coverage would also depend on the city you live in. The cost of healthcare is usually higher in Tier A cities as compared to Tiers B and C. Factor in these aspects and pick a suitable cover. 
  • Network hospitals: Every insurer offers a unique list of hospitals as a part of its network. These network hospitals offer many benefits such as cashless hospitalisation, ease of payment, etc., at the time of a health emergency. Go through the list of network hospitals before picking a plan. Make sure at least one of the listed hospitals is at a convenient distance from your home and offers various kinds of treatments and facilities that you might need.
  • Co-payment options: Under co-payment, you settle a part of the health expense yourself, and the remaining portion is covered by your insurer. This is a way for insurance companies to reduce the number of unnecessary claims by policyholders. Co-payment plans can also offer the benefit of lower premiums. Make sure you understand this clause and its repercussions before signing any documents.
  • Hidden limits: Some insurers add limits to the overall sum assured. For example, the room rent will be a part of the sum assured and not be paid over and above the total coverage amount. Some hospitals may have daily room charges that are extremely high, and this can overwhelm your final bill. It is advisable to look for a plan without such indirect costs. 
  • Daycare treatments: Not all procedures require hospitalisation. Minor procedures or treatments like dialysis, chemotherapy, physiotherapy, etc., can be done in a matter of a few hours or less. If your insurance plan only covers hospitalisation expenses, you may have to pay for daycare treatments out of your own pocket.
  • Additional benefits: Look for plans that provide maternity riders and add-ons like free medical check-ups. Choose a plan that covers the cost of medicines, post-hospitalisation check-ups and consultations, etc. These can come in handy in the future and reduce your overall expenditure. 
  • Claim process: The claim process should be as simple as possible. An ideal plan should ask for minimal documents, pay upfront on diagnosis, and offer cashless hospitalisation.

Related: Unique features offered by different health insurers

Determining an adequate insured amount

One should always keep in mind the rising costs of medical care while choosing a health insurance plan. While it is difficult to predict how much treatments can cost 10 or 15 years from now, you can try looking at the past to get an idea. 

For example, a heart procedure that costs Rs 4 to 5 lakh today may have cost only Rs 1 lakh a decade ago. Try to evaluate your family’s history of ailments and diseases that have a high probability of getting passed down to you or your children. Now check the current cost of treatment of these ailments and try to gauge the expenditure of such a medical condition in the future. 

In addition to this, your lifestyle habits, number of dependent family members, etc. can help you arrive at a right sum assured. Family floater packs or spousal plans are a great way to get a high cover for the entire family at a relatively low premium. 

Related: How to prepare yourself financially during a pandemic

Comparing different insurance policies online

Each insurer has a specific set of rules and procedures when it comes to purchasing, claims, settlements, etc. Here are some things you should keep an eye on:

  • Claim settlement ratio: This helps you ascertain how many claims a company settles out of the total claims they receive in a year. The higher the rate, the better is the company’s reputation.
  • Incurred claim ratio: This refers to the total amount of claims settled by a company in relation to the premium earned. If the incurred rate exceeds 100%, the company may soon go into losses, as they are paying out more money in claims than they make through premiums.
  • Customer reviews: The charm of the online world is that every service is rated and reviewed by users. These comments and feedback can help you understand how well an insurer works, to guarantee a flawless and smooth insurance process.
  • Policy documents: It is crucial to read policy papers carefully before deciding on an insurance provider. Insurance jargon, legal stipulations, etc., can help you choose the right plan and provider.

Related: COVID-19: Some Frequently Asked Questions

Last words

Choosing the right health insurance plan depends on many factors. But it is vital to understand that what works for someone else may not necessarily work for you. Therefore, you must make sure you choose a policy that caters to your specific requirements. 

Health insurance is crucial in the present times of coronavirus. Also, read if unprecedented pandemics covered under health insurance or not so that you can make an informed decision.

 

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