Coronavirus health cover available but yet to kick in

The need for insurance against coronavirus will arise where public healthcare is unable to cope or the government refers cases to private hospitals. Until then, testing for the virus, treatment and food are free of cost at government hospitals.

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Insurers say that other than a few countries like the US and Australia, students will not face a problem concerning insurance in most countries.
BENGALURU: As the number of coronavirus cases in India climbs to about 160, the insurance regulator has said that current health insurance plans in the market are adequate to protect policyholders.

In an emailed response to TOI, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai) said, “The majority of health insurance products cover coronavirus. We have already instructed insurers to give greater attention to the processing of claims in these cases.” The regulator added that it is fast-tracking applications by some insurers to expand coverage under existing policies.

The government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme, which provides a basic Rs 5-lakh cover to 50 crore citizens, will cover the treatment of the disease as the resultant symptoms are all covered, said a National Health Authority official.


Currently, Covid-19 cases or those suspected being infected with it are mandated to be treated in government hospitals, which has reduced the scope of private health insurance. The need for insurance will arise where public healthcare is unable to cope or the government refers cases to private hospitals. Until then, testing for the virus, treatment and food are free of cost at government hospitals.

Leading providers of travel insurance ICICI Lombard, HDFC Ergo, Star Health and IFFCO-Tokio say their products cover coronavirus treatment overseas. “Existing travel policyholders will continue to be covered for OPD and hospitalisation expense abroad,” said IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance executive VP Subrata Mondal.

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Insurers say that other than a few countries like the US and Australia, students will not face a problem concerning insurance in most countries. “Many governments like in the UK, Italy, South Korea and Singapore have taken on the responsibility to do aggressive testing and treatment. In these countries, private insurance wouldn’t kick in — for now,” says ICICI Lombard General Insurance chief (underwriting claims) Sanjay Datta.

Students in the US are likely to face challenges as many American universities insist on local health coverage. “Foreign insurers are a lot more cut-throat. Over there, co-pay is the norm. And the co-pay can vary from 50-60% on different slabs,” said an executive with a private insurer.

With US President Donald Trump having waived co-pay only on testing, the burden will still be on the patient to pay a large part of the prohibitive treatment cost. An overseas health insurance policy from India will take care of the risk, albeit some Indian insurers also have co-pay. But the downside is the limited network hospitals for cashless treatment.

Given the size of the country, students could be 50-200 miles from the nearest networked hospital. “In the US, clarity is yet to emerge on many aspects-...some Indian students have already come back home due to the crisis,” adds Dutta.
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