It feels strange to give financial advice, considering that for a large part for my early and mid-career life, I spent money like it was going out of fashion. I invested in the usual LICs and PPFs because I had to, but I don’t think I had a single other financial instrument. My mother would nag, “Get yourself a medical insurance. You are young, your premiums will start young.” The younger me was an idiot and she spent the money on books instead.
The first time I bought health insurance, it was not for me. It was for my grandmother as her 60th birthday gift. After all, she was old. She needed health insurance. My mind hadn’t yet computed that one day, I too would be older and may need medical cover. Frankly the paperwork terrified me. I held off buying health insurance till the introduction of cashless payment.
For most of us working professionals, a medical cover from the company has been the norm. But my suggestion would be to invest in a separate medical cover and let it build up for you so that when you do need to use it, you have built up a good no claims corpus. With the cost of healthcare going up, falling ill has become a luxury. Those of us who have been following the current crisis and hospital bills that run into lakhs have an added impetus to stay indoors and stay well. And for those of us with no medical cover, the horror of falling ill is not just about the physical impact of the virus but also the financial impact.
Right now, we don’t even know what the long-term impacts of the illness are. Therefore, the need for health insurance is even greater. As a KPMG insights article points out, “The pandemic itself may cause more people to reconsider their individual health insurance needs. In the wake of the SARS epidemic, for example, we saw a temporary spike in critical illness policy sales in Asia. We may see a similar phenomenon post-coronavirus, with rising sales of health insurance, critical illness and even life cover across the world.”
As the new normal becomes the gig, jobs with health cover become rarer. The need to start early and have a health policy that grows with you and your health needs becomes very important. Earlier, there was a one size fits all policy. Now things are much more flexible and customer focused. With health costs on a rise by at least 15% annually, falling ill without health insurance seems like a very risky proposition. So which health policy is the best in the country? The best health policy is one that matches your needs. Jot down what you want from a health policy, and tick off the boxes as you make your choice.
Like everything else, the new normal in healthcare will be different too. I see many of us opting for tele-medicine. I already see many of my friends getting more comfortable talking to their doctors on a video call. I also predict major changes in the way health cover operates. I see it getting more simplified, and easier to understand as more people opt for health insurance cover. I see more of on-demand health insurance and I see health covers adapt to meet this new normal. I see more app-based health covers with consumer-friendly interfaces replacing the impersonal call centres. These apps will integrate all your health history in one place, allow you to get your prescriptions, enable you to buy medicines from online pharmacies, and more. It would be a gateway for all your health needs, online prescriptions, monitoring your reports, and order medicines online.
I was quite interested to see the launch of ICICI Lombard’s Take care app that does most of these – I have written about this here. . I haven’t searched to see if others are doing similar stuff, but sooner or later they all will. It is interesting to see health insurance go more personalised. I would say this kind of innovation makes it the best insurance policy in India’s new normal. The earlier avatar of health insurance was scary. This looks like the start of health insurance 2.0, and that is going to help you restart right.