Health insurers are looking at smaller markets for business with the growing penetration of government health insurance schemes like Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana - RSBY along with private hospitals increasing their capacity across the country.
Star Health a private insurer is starting a scheme with an Rs 1000 annual premium for a 1 lakh sum insured. This is to be launched across a few districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. "The increased penetration of healthcare facilities has resulted in lesser movement of patients to metros at least for routine procedures. If a person chooses to get a procedure done in a metro, the entire sum insured is wiped out very soon. On the other hand, the same policy can be better utilized if the same procedure is possible back in his home town," V Jagannathan, CMD, Star Health and Allied Insurance said.
A new product may get volumes initially; officials feel awareness for quality health care among the growing population is urging insurers to look at such markets. "Today, customers from smaller towns and cities want an open product with minimal exclusions with many not minding to pay additional premium for the same," Renuka Kanvinde, associate VP at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance said.
A stand alone health insurer is allowed to seek bank support, so the penetration is bound to rise. "For mono line companies, it is not feasible to open branches in locations with limited potential as it takes them minimum four to five years to break even," Antony Jacob, CEO, Apollo Munich Health Insurance said. Nearly, 30% of the company's customer base resides in such locations.
Newer insurance companies like Cigna TTK Health Insurance are among those seeing good results in Aurangabad, Kochi, Indore and Kanpur.
Aparna Ramalingam, September 2014
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)