The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in South Africa has raised lots of concerns. A new variant of the coronavirus – Omicron - is considered the reason behind this sudden rise in cases. It raises doubts over the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines on the new omicron variant. While the omicron virus has already spread to over 150 countries so far, the world is struggling to stop the transmission of this highly infectious variant of coronavirus.
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As of 15th February 2022, India has detected about 4,26,92,943 cases of COVID-19 in the country. Amongst these, about 5,09,358 people have lost their lives due to the disease. Moreover, over 10,050 omicron India cases have been reported.
On the other hand, more than 5,50,000 cases of the omicron variant have been reported by over 150 countries across the world as of 10th January 2022. Besides South Africa, the omicron virus has spread to Australia, Canada, the United States, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany and Denmark amongst others. As of 15th February 2022, the total tally of global coronavirus cases is 41,34,80,802 while more than 58,26,378 people have lost their lives.
Omicron is the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus, which has more than 30 mutations on its spike protein. Also known as B.1.1.529, this variant was first identified in South Africa on 22 November 2021. This heavily mutated COVID variant is being considered more contagious than even the Delta variant as it contains more than twice the mutations. In fact, the COVID-19 cases in South Africa have increased up to four times over the last two weeks due to the new omicron virus. On 26th November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared ‘omicron’ as a coronavirus variant of concern.
The omicron symptoms are mostly the same as the other coronavirus variants except for scratchy throat and extreme tiredness irrespective of the patient’s age. Besides, people diagnosed with the omicron virus do not complain of loss of taste or smell. Moreover, most omicron COVID positive people have recovered without the need for hospitalization as no major drop in oxygen saturation levels have been reported.
However, the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been discovered recently and thus, the details on the severity, transmission and impact of this variant on the COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines will unfold in the coming weeks. Keeping the devastation by the second COVID-19 wave in mind, it is wise to stay prepared for sudden medical emergencies due to the omicron variant by buying a health insurance policy.
Health insurance for the omicron COVID variant covers the treatment expenses resulting from getting diagnosed with the omicron variant of coronavirus. It refers to the coronavirus health insurance plan that provides financial aid to pay for the medical expenses incurred on hospitalization or home treatment in case the insured is diagnosed positive with the omicron virus. Since omicron is a COVID variant, it is covered by all health insurance plans available in India just like coronavirus.
A health insurance policy for the omicron variant provides comprehensive coverage to the insured once the initial waiting period is over. Also, it will cover the treatment cost of the omicron virus immediately as coronavirus is not a pre-existing disease.
Take a look at the benefits of buying a health insurance policy covering COVID-19 variants, including omicron below:
Yes. All existing health insurance plans in India will cover the expenses incurred on the treatment of the omicron virus because omicron is a variant of coronavirus and not a new disease. As per the direction of the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority of India (IRDAI), all existing health insurance plans are liable to provide coverage for COVID-19 irrespective of its variant as it is an infectious disease. Therefore, all plans offering coverage for COVID-19 will automatically cover the treatment cost for the omicron variant.
If a person owns a health insurance policy before getting diagnosed with the omicron virus, the insurance company will pay for all his/her treatment expenses. On the contrary, if a person does not have an existing health insurance plan and purchases it after testing positive for the omicron variant, then his/her policy will not cover the resultant treatment cost.
Moreover, no additional waiting periods are applicable to avail the coverage for omicron treatment costs under existing health insurance plans. But if someone is diagnosed with the omicron variant of coronavirus during the initial waiting period of their health insurance plan, then the medical expenses incurred on the treatment will not be covered.
Some of the most common coverage offered by a health insurance plan for the omicron COVID variant are as follows:
Certain medical expenses incurred during the treatment of the omicron COVID variant will not be covered by insurance companies. Check out the expenses excluded under health insurance for the omicron variant below:
There are two ways to claim a health insurance policy covering the omicron variant of coronavirus. Take a look at them below:
1. Cashless Claims – Under cashless claims, the insured will not have to pay for the hospitalization expenses resulting from testing positive for the omicron COVID variant if admitted to a network hospital of his/her insurance company. This is because the insurance company will directly settle the bill amount with the network hospital. The insured only has to fulfil a few formalities to avail cashless claim benefits.
All health insurance companies come with a network of affiliated hospitals where cashless claims can be raised. The list of network hospitals can be found on Policybazaar.com as well as the website of the insurance company.
2. Reimbursement Claims – Reimbursement claims can be raised if the insured receives treatment for the omicron strain of the coronavirus at a non-network hospital. In this case, the insured will be required to pay the entire hospital bill at the time of getting discharged and later raise a reimbursement claim with the insurance provider. Once all the required documents have been submitted, the insurer will verify them and pay the claim amount.
Take the following precautions to stay safe from the new omicron variant of the coronavirus:
Ans: Yes. Health insurance plans covering COVID-19 variants come with an initial waiting period of either 15 or 30 days. While most coronavirus health insurance plans will cover the treatment cost for the omicron variant after an initial waiting period of 15 days, regular health insurance plans covering COVID-19 will provide coverage for the omicron variant after a 30-day waiting period. Therefore, you are advised to check the waiting period before buying health insurance for the omicron virus.
Ans: Yes. Health insurance plans like the Corona Rakshak plan provide coverage for co-morbidities as omicron is a variant of coronavirus.
Ans: Yes. You can purchase a COVID-19 specific policy, such as Corona Kavach policy and Corona Rakshak policy, to ensure financial coverage against the omicron virus. However, COVID-19 specific policies are only available up to 31st March 2022 as per current IRDAI guidelines. If you want wider coverage against the omicron virus beyond this date, you must buy a regular coronavirus health insurance plan.
Ans: Yes. You can buy a health insurance plan covering COVID variants, including omicron, online by visiting the websites of the insurance companies or insurance brokers, such as policybazaar.com. While buying the policy online on Policybazaar.com, you can compare various health insurance plans for coronavirus to find the best deal as per your budget.
Ans: Most people will not have to undergo a pre-policy medical test to buy a health insurance plan for the omicron variant of coronavirus unless they have a pre-existing disease.
Yes. You can buy a health insurance policy for the omicron variant of coronavirus for your entire family. However, the availability of the sum insured on an individual or floater basis will depend on the plan you are buying.
Ans: Yes. You can avail tax benefits on the premium paid for a health insurance policy covering the COVID-19 variants, including omicron virus, as per Section 80D of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
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