Tag Archives: India

Indian health insurers can benefits from benchmarking administrative costs

Health insurance is the fastest growing segment in India’s nonlife insurance sector. Health insurance costs are also increasing quickly. According to Milliman’s Lalit Baveja, insurers in the market should consider the benefits of administrative savings as a larger part of a cost containment strategy.

Administrative costs, customer acquisition costs and benefit payment (in the form of claims payouts) are the three key expense areas for insurers. Going forward, the importance of managing administrative expenses will increase as competition continues to put pressure on overall premiums. In line with other markets, the Indian regulator also restricts the percentage of premium income that can be used as management expenses to promote efficiency and the availability of funds for benefit payments after a defined inception period. Insurers themselves have a vested interest in keeping these costs manageable. Topline focus must be complemented with cost containment in both benefits and administrative costs to achieve desired profitability and sustainability. While claims cost containment requires effective provider contracting and optimal utilisation management (and is reliant on multiple providers and other intermediaries), acquisition costs are dictated by market forces. Administrative efficiency within internal operations is one area where an insurance company can effectuate changes more directly. Tracking and managing these administrative costs can be a challenge, and identification of areas where there is opportunity to optimise administrative spending can be an even greater challenge.

Lalit discusses how benchmarking is an effective tool that can help health insurers manage their administrative efficiencies and expenses. To learn more, read his article “Administrative benchmarks for health insurance in India.”

The advantage of a top-down cost-allocation approach in developing markets

A top-down cost-allocation model averages out all of a hospital’s expenses based on its activities. This type of model provides a more accurate reflection of a hospital’s expenses when defining package rates. In this short film, Lalit Baveja provides a primer on top-down cost-allocation and discusses a Milliman project for the state government of Mandholi, India, that used the methodology.

Read more about how Milliman consultants assisted India’s Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) set up a top-down cost-allocation model here.

To read the video transcript, click here.

Top-down cost-allocation approach to universal healthcare

A top-down cost-allocation approach may help developing countries set appropriate bundled rates for providers to participate in universal healthcare coverage. Such an approach focuses on averaging the costs of current utilization and actual expenses for hospital groups. One advantage of this practical approach is that it is feasible in situations with limited data.

In this new paper, Milliman consultants discuss their experience utilizing this top-down approach under India’s Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS). The following excerpt highlights the scheme’s objective:

In its first phase of rollout, the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) had limited benefits. The government wanted to expand its scope to better serve the population by providing a wider breadth of procedures, including tertiary care specialist procedures in oncology, neurosurgery and cardiac surgery. However, to make its second phase a reality, the Meghalaya scheme needed greater participation by private healthcare providers offering such specialist services. The state needed to offer realistic pay rates to private healthcare providers to attract participants.

Milliman helped the state identify the potential demand and gaps in benefits by conducting an extensive review of hospital utilization data, publications about disease burden and disease registries in the state. This was the basis of recommendations for additional surgical procedures that needed to be included in the scheme to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Milliman was asked to develop indicative prices for recommended additional surgical procedures under expanded benefits. To determine rates, Milliman used a top-down cost-allocation approach to estimate the cost of each procedure, using local hospital utilization and financial information. We developed specific tools to collect data from a representative group of hospitals.

Here are the outcomes and important considerations:

Using the top-down costing approach, we were able to estimate the costs of the following:

• Per-bed-day department cost for the five hospitals in the study
• Cost of 20 common surgeries in MHIS Phase I as a reference point for comparison with existing package rates
• Cost of 160 surgical and 20 medical conditions for tertiary care benefit expansion in Phase II

Developing the final package rates involves additional parameters, making adjustments for inflation trend, capacity utilization, quality, profit margins and specific variations among the participating hospitals. MHIS will need to apply various adjustments for these parameters to arrive at the final cost of each procedure for the social insurance scheme.

If providers are not keeping reimbursements in line with their expenditures to manage a clinical condition, there will be a tendency to pass on the shortfall to the members and deny or avoid admissions for procedures, potentially compromising the quality of care. This makes it critical that frameworks for costing are regularly updated. These frameworks also need to seek wider participation from providers. Apart from recurring medical inflation, wider provider participation and cost impact of new practices should be consolidated in updates.

Will collaboration bring sustainability to India’s health insurance industry?

The key message at the 8th Asia Conference on Healthcare and Health Insurance centered on the sustainability of the health insurance industry in India. This article in Asia Insurance Review (subscription required) cites Alam Singh, who said the industry needs to, “Collaborate, as it is everyone’s problem!”

It is crucial for insurers to create an internal culture of information sharing so processes and guidelines evolve quickly. Insurers also need to provide regular training to sales, underwriting and claims employees and invest in data analysis and also offer rewards to whistleblowers,” he added. The industry as a whole should have a mechanism to share case studies, tools and training and should also create data standards that facilitate analytics, which is the unique provider code.

…The industry [needs] to collaborate in data analysis and to collectively engage with policy makers and consumer bodies. The industry also needs to collaborate with media to increase public awareness that fraud will not be tolerated and finally demand tougher laws and facilitate prosecution.

Global underwriting: India

Biresh GiriLalit BavejaThe role of private health insurance differs significantly from one country to another. A key reason for this relates to the availability and the delivery of public healthcare within each country. In addition, governments often dictate the role of private health insurance within any particular country. This eight-part series focuses on international health markets, comparing and contrasting the key elements of risk selection practice in the public and private health insurance markets in each region.

Health insurance market summary
In India, health insurance is a young and growing phenomenon. Private health insurance covers only 2%-3% of the Indian population. There are some other government, employer, and social schemes that cover about 12%-13% of the market. The healthcare for the poor is available either through social schemes or government-owned hospitals and dispensaries. The government clinics and hospitals are available for everyone and offer almost free services.

The Indian health insurance industry was opened to private insurers in 1999. Currently there are 18 private non-life insurance companies in the market, including three stand-alone health insurance companies and four public sector insurers. In 2003, third-party administrators (TPAs) were established and insurers outsourced claim management and administration to them. The introduction of TPAs facilitated the start of ‘cashless claims,’ where hospitals were paid directly by the TPAs for their services.

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Evidence-based medicine in India

The Indian healthcare system is at a familiar juncture. eHealth picks up on the story:

The size of the Indian medical technology industry may touch US$ 14 billion by 2020 from US$ 2.7 billion in 2008 on account of strong economic growth, higher public spending and private investments in healthcare, increased penetration of health insurance and emergence of new models of healthcare delivery.

Says Alam Singh, Assistant MD, Milliman India, “As the healthcare industry matures in terms of infrastructure and innovative technologies, the next goal of care delivery demands clinical excellence through evidence based medicine tools and benchmarks. Evidence based medicine is already being promoted globally and has been proved to be beneficial for all the stakeholders- clinical teams, hospital management as well as the patients. Evidence based medicine tools like clinical protocols and clinical pathways provide explicit and well defined standards of care for the clinical teams and support multi-disciplinary care planning.”

He further says, “From a management perspective these tools reduce healthcare costs, reduce patient documentation, optimise management of resources and help continuous clinical audit. They improve clinical care by delivering superior outcomes, improved clinical effectiveness and patient satisfaction.”