How is health insurance perceived in India?

The Asia Insurance Review considers some of the challenges facing the Indian insurance market. Here is an excerpt:

The entry of TPAs [third-party administrators] a decade ago changed the face of the health insurance industry and accelerated growth as customers felt that their claims would be genuinely addressed. The added benefit of cashless services through the network of TPAs was well used by the masses till things began to go wrong in the implementation of the rules laid down by insurers.

Insurers started distrusting hospitals, who they say inflate bills and charge insured patients more than the uninsured ones. Hospitals complain that insurance companies and TPAs are not correct in their assessment of illness and its treatment.

This has not only affected the industry’s credibility but, indeed, threatened its very viability. “Health insurance has a significant image problem,” says Mr Alam Singh, Managing Director, Milliman India, on some of the challenges facing the Indian health insurance sector. This industry has been a favourite target of the print media with at least two negative newspaper articles each month against some insurer or another, he says. He feels that with such bad publicity, a lot of consumers must doubt if their claim will be paid and it undermines the core premise of insurance.

To counter this image, he is of the opinion that the industry needs to highlight the millions of families they help every year. There is no collaborative or sustained effort by the industry to create a positive image, he says. Reforms needed In the past, property, motor and engineering insurance were tariffed, making them the preferred choice for the general insurance sector as health insurance was non-tariffed.