Can Coronavirus Pandemic Change Indian Health Insurance Industry?

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The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns imposed due to that have disrupted our lives in many ways. Almost all industries have negatively been impacted in one way or another. The healthcare industry is one such industry that has seen significant consequences resulting from the rapid rise and spread of COVID-19. Even the concept of health insurance has changed to adapt to the current scenario. IRDAI has introduced corona insurance to help individuals and families to cope with the medical expenses arising due to coronavirus. The way we look at healthcare and hospitals has changed and the way we adapt to this interruption may change our healthcare system forever.

Facts Reinvigorate Our Inclination Towards Digital

Let us jump on to some facts. During the lockdown, around 85 percent of the medical practitioners in India used teleconsultation to stay connected with their patients. Over 80 percent of the teleconsultations were booked by first-time users. A good 44 percent of these teleconsultations were from non-metro cities. This data is as per a survey from Boston Consulting Group, a global consulting firm for Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries.

Indian Insurance Claim Process

The Indian government has proposed the National Digital Health Mission. It aims to transform how the healthcare ecosystem and health insurance plans in India function. Only a handful of Indians would not have had problems with insurance claims. There are just too many stakeholders in the process – insurance companies, third-party agents, hospitals, and of course, us, the policyholders. Note that the insurance claim procedure is not easy even for hospitals and insurance companies. The long paperwork associated with claims is unwieldy for the hospital and the insurance company as well along with us. These are unprecedented times and new developments every day, it is difficult to determine a concrete health insurance plan and a streamlined claims process.

Use of Technology May be The Way Forward

The government foresees creating a digital system to process claims as per the National Health Mission Blueprint. Regarding the FICCI-BCG analysis, a digital claim processing system could be of value not just for hospitals and insurance companies but also for us as policyholders. The mission plans to formulate a national health identification number that allows insurance companies, hospitals, and agents to track and maintain records. The data will enable insurance companies to lessen health insurance premiums for those leading a healthy life.

National health identification number will use the technology stack like the United Payment Interface system used in financial services. New products like OPD insurance and gamifying premium pricing linked to our behavior can be a new thing. Common health claim platforms can validate our claim requests by routing our requests to relevant stakeholders, collect necessary information, and guarantee payments. All such things are possible through e-discharge forms, e-claims, etc.

The consistent and frequent use of technology is the way forward for us. It can eliminate the stress that comes from manual labor of registering every detail and going through the tiresome process of verifying and cross-checking details during the claims process.

What Does the New Shift Mean for Us?

The digital transformation in the health insurance sector means that we could get personalized insurance while sitting at home. For example, in the future, maybe you could enroll to gamify your premium. Maybe your health tracker will work along with your insurance company. Again, there is a good chance your insurance company will provide you with a health and fitness tracker or a smartwatch. You may get rewarded by your insurance company for following healthy living habits. Based on the points that you have earned by staying healthy, you may get benefits from your health insurance company that you can avail during your hour of need. You may also be presented with the option to exchange the points for certain rewards or discounts.

We read in healthcare literature and know that in India, nearly half of the deaths occur because of lifestyle-related illnesses. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle keeps such diseases at bay. While having health insurance is vital, it is even more important to stay fit and healthy. So, if we maintain a healthy lifestyle, our insurers will keep our policy simple and our health insurance premium reasonable.

Our Information Sharing Matters

Our technological agility matters besides our physical activity and well-being. The use of personal data is of a problematic nature. If we have an active social media presence and are using digital banking services, we are already shelling out much of our personal information into the universe. But if the guarantee of maintaining the security of our personal data from social media companies, payment companies, online food ordering companies, and banks are good enough for us, then such assurances from the National Digital Health Mission must also be good enough.

In the pandemic, more than 16 crore people have downloaded and used the ‘Arogya Setu’ app. By using the app, over 16 crore people have already provided worthy health-related information to the government. Many of us have made a digital banking transaction or a stock market trade on our smartphones since even before the lockdown. While technology does come with the risk of sharing too much of our personal details online, it also offers the ease and comfort of conducting financial transactions without having to physically visit a bank or even purchase a health insurance policy. After demonetization, crores of us have started and habituated making small payments online from our phone. All these facts are already a massive leap in the transformation to digital. Technology must be an enabler in our goal towards better healthcare.

The Bottom Line

While we await the announcement of a new healthcare system, we still must deal with the situation at hand by buying corona insurance and related plans. The Coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call for the ones who do not prioritize healthcare. We need to have appropriate health insurance to our names. We need to invest adequate funds every year to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

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