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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Health insurance against pandemics like coronavirus infection

The severity of the coronavirus outbreak is such that all most all infected countries are requesting their citizens to avoid non-essential travel, both domestic and international.


March 13, 2020 6:06:14 pm
Once a pandemic is declared, it becomes more likely that community spread will eventually happen, and governments and health systems need to ensure they are prepared for that. (Representational image, source: Getty Images)

Written by Amit Chhabra

As the number of cases of the coronavirus infection continues to swell with over 1,26,000 confirmed cases – spread to at least 114 countries around the world – out of which over 4,600 people have succumbed to the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a Pandemic. As per WHO guidelines, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the globe beyond expectations. Once a pandemic is declared, it becomes more likely that community spread will eventually happen, and governments and health systems need to ensure they are prepared for that. The severity of the coronavirus outbreak is such that almost all infected countries are requesting their citizens to avoid non-essential travel, both domestic and international.

India, as well has suspended all visas, except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till April 15 to prevent the spread of coronavirus as 10 new cases have been reported taking the total number of patients in the country to 73. The government is even strongly advising Indians to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. Moreover, the government has even issued a statement stating that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

How is coronavirus spreading?

The coronavirus spreads from one person to another in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu. Droplets of bodily fluids – such as saliva or mucus – from an infected person are spread in the air or on surfaces by coughing or sneezing. These droplets can come into direct contact with other persons or can infect those who pick them up by touching infected surfaces and then their face.

How to stay protected?

In terms of self-protection and containing the virus, experts agree that is important to wash your hands as frequently as possible and thoroughly with soap. Apart from that, it is important to cover your face with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. It is also highly recommended to visit a doctor if you have symptoms and avoid direct contact with live animals in affected areas. While all these are measures to protect yourself physically from getting infected with coronavirus infection, it is also very important to stay financial protected against the epidemic and the only way to stay financially protected against the treatment of the infection is by buying an adequate health insurance policy. Unlike all other medical expenses for hospitalisation, if one gets hospitalised for treating coronavirus infection, the health insurance plan will come in rescue to safeguard medical expenses.

Buying a health insurance plan not just for yourself but for your entire family is important to make sure your hospital admission and treatment expenses are covered seamlessly. Moreover, viral infections like Ebola, H1N1 and now coronavirus are not a part of pre-existing ailments and they don’t have any waiting periods implied. Your health insurance policy will cover you for testing and the cost of treatment for the novel coronavirus. However, while buying a health insurance, it is important to have an adequate sum insured as treatment of such pandemics is quite costly and one must have sufficient coverage to pay for the expenses. One may choose to buy a cover with 1 crore sum insured which is available for as low as Rs. 9,552 for a 32year-old individual living in a metro city.

Showing concern over the severity of the pandemic, even the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) issued guidelines on the handling of claims reported under the coronavirus. As per the issued guidelines, all claims reported under coronavirus must be handled by the insurers where hospitalization will be covered also covering the costs of admissible medical expenses during the course of treatment including the treatment during the quarantine. It also ordered insurers to design specific products covering the costs of treatment for coronavirus infection and other vector-borne diseases.

In line with the guidelines issued by the IRDAI, a prominent general insurer – Digit – has rolled out a fixed benefit health insurance plan – Health Care Plus to cover expenses related to Coronavirus Disease, or COVID-19. The plan is available with a sum insured between Rs 25,000 and Rs 2 lakh wherein if the policyholder tests positive for COVID-19 at any of the authorised centres of ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune, the insurer will pay out the entire sum insured. While in case quarantine is advised in a government or military hospital, the insurer will pay out 50 per cent of the sum insured. The maximum entry age of the plan is 75 years with the premiums starting at Rs 299 at the lower end, while the maximum sum insured entails a premium of Rs 2027, plus GST.

The author is the Head- Health Insurance at Policybazaar.com. Views expressed are the author’s.

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