Healthcare in India has advanced rapidly over the last few years. Mumbai and Chennai have emerged as centres of international medical tourism. People travel to India from all over the globe for medical treatment. However, despite these advancements, it is not all good news. Healthcare continues to be an expensive proposition for the Indian middle and lower-income classes. The awareness of the importance of health insurance is still on the rise. The covid-19 pandemic has witnessed a surge in the purchase of health insurance. And one of the most convenient ways to buy it is online.
Health Care Costs in India
The past two decades have witnessed a rise in the number of ailments. The number of cases of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes has increased exponentially, seeming to affect younger and younger people. Such illnesses require long term treatment. In the meanwhile, medical inflation in the country is as high as 15%. Here is a glimpse of how expensive medical treatment can be—an angioplasty can cost around INR 3 lakhs, dialysis costs approximately INR 1000 per session in metro cities, cataract surgery costs between INR 8000 to INR 180000. And this is not considering ambulance expenses, as well as pre and post-hospitalisation costs.
Middle-class Indians have become more aware of the importance of savings and investments. Unfortunately, just one major medical emergency can derail a family’s finances for years. And put people’s dreams and goals on the backburner. This is where comprehensive health insurance can help mitigate that risk.
Health insurance helps you to prepare for your financial future without needing to worry about steep medical bills. Just make sure that you buy adequate coverage and choose the right type of health insurance.
Advantages of Buying Health Insurance Online
There has been an uptick in buying health insurance online; there are several reasons why. Here is a rundown of the advantages of online health insurance:
There is no middleman or distributor involved. Hence, insurance companies save on the distributor’s margin leading to cost efficiency. Moreover, since the application process is paperless and takes place online, further costs are saved. Health insurance companies share these savings with their customers in the form of reduced premiums.
- Easy comparison
Online platforms have made it easier to compare different health insurance plans available. This leads to customers making informed choices, rather than just going by the advice of a distributor. Online aggregator sites in particular have made it simpler to compare the prices and features of various plans. Genuine online reviews may also help you make an informed choice.
Purchasing insurance online is as convenient as it gets. You can buy a plan from the comfort of your home or your office or even when travelling on a train! There is no need to set an appointment and meet with a distributor or two or three. You can get premium quotes from different health insurance companies almost instantly online. Just open a webpage and purchase a plan any time you want.
- Online service
Other than buying health insurance online, you can get follow-up customer service 24/7. Online websites give you access to policy wordings, premium quotes, and brochures. Health insurance websites also allow you to track your insurance online, pay your premiums online, and also renew old policies. It allows you to be self-sufficient rather than requiring you to be dependent on distributors.
- It’s instant
When you buy your health insurance online, you get coverage almost instantly. Transaction times are greatly reduced when buying insurance online.
Those savings mentioned in the first point also lead to health insurance companies offering discounts on online plans.
Transactions take place online through secured payment gateways making it a safer option than dealing with potential shady distributors.
Points to Consider When Buying Online Health Insurance
Buying health insurance has become easier than ever with all major health insurance companies selling plans online. But before you rush to purchase online, wait! Here are five crucial points that you should consider carefully before you buy health insurance online:
Type of Plan
There are various types of health insurance plans available. You should choose one that suits your circumstances and needs.
- Individual Health Plan:
This plan provides health insurance protection against various diseases. You also get cashless hospitalisation and coverage for ambulance expenses.
- Family Plan:
This type of plan covers you and your family under a single cover. A family floater health insurance plan offers comprehensive coverage for all your family members and is preferable to an individual health insurance plan. The reason being that your overall expenditure would be higher if you bought individual health plans for every family member.
- Senior Citizen Plan:
As the name suggests, this plan is for senior citizens and the medical risks that come with old age. It covers individuals who are between 55 to 80 years old.
- Critical Illness Plan:
There are critical illnesses that have become more prominent over the past few decades. The common critical illnesses covered are kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, paralysis, and so on. Treatment costs for these ailments are extremely high. It makes sense, therefore, that you protect yourself with such a plan. This type of plan would be more important if there is a history of these ailments in your family.
- Preventive Healthcare:
This plan covers the expenses incurred during regular health check-ups as well as diagnostic tests. This plan is suitable for a person who wants to keep track of any potential chronic illnesses that may run in their family. Preventive healthcare can help you keep on top of your health in a proactive manner.
- Personal Accident Insurance:
This plan is ideal for those who are required to travel a lot, especially as part of their job. It may also be suitable for a person who works at a job that has the potential for danger/accidents. The plan covers the medical expenses that occur due to an accident.
Health insurance companies pay claims in two ways; one, by reimbursing the claimant, or two, by providing cashless hospitalisation. The reimbursement route tends to be a long one. You will have to first, pay all the bills yourself, collect the receipts and required documents and then submit them to the insurer. After going through all the documents, the insurance company reimburses the amount to you. The cashless health insurance claim is easier and more hassle-free. In a cashless claim, you do not pay anything out of your own pocket. Rather the claim is settled between the insurer and the hospital. However, the cashless facility is only provided in hospitals with which the insurer has a tie-up. Before you buy a health insurance plan, ensure that the insurer has a wide-ranging network of hospitals in your city and around the country.
The Waiting Period
A standard health insurance policy has a 30 to 90 days waiting period from the start of the policy coverage. During this waiting period, treatment will not be covered. However, accidents may be covered from the first day itself. Moreover, there will be a list of ailments that have waiting periods of a few years before coverage. The waiting periods could range anywhere from two to four years. Some of the ailments with such a waiting period are ENT surgery, gallstone/kidney stone removal surgery, hernia, cataract, and so on. Furthermore, there are pre-existing diseases that the patients already have prior to purchasing the health insurance plan. These diseases are also covered after a waiting period of 2 to 4 years. So before buying a plan, check the waiting period for various ailments. You may want to choose one that has the lowest waiting period if you or any of your family members have any such pre-existing diseases.
What is not Covered
There is no health insurance plan that covers each and every ailment. Even the most comprehensive plan will have some conditions that are not covered. A few common conditions that are not covered by health plans are AIDs, cosmetic treatments, self-injury, and more. Before taking the plunge, go through the list of exclusions so that you are fully informed.
Sub-limits on Treatments
Sometimes you pay high premiums on health insurance thinking that you will get the best coverage. Later on, you get to know that you will only be covered a small amount for certain operations. For example, you may be covered for a fraction of the amount for hernia surgery. So you would lose double by not just paying high premiums, but also burning a hole in your pocket by paying for expensive surgery. For this reason, do not assume that high premiums equal less or no sub-limits. Read the fine print for every policy to ensure that you are fully informed about the terms and conditions.
The bottom line
Health insurance should be a prerequisite investment today. Online health insurance has made buying health coverage quite easy. But every investment deserves careful research and consideration, and health insurance is no less. First, understand your own needs in a health insurance plan. Research thoroughly and then choose a plan that comes closest to fulfilling all your requirements.