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How to make your health insurance policy Omicron-ready

The world is once again coming to terms with yet another variant of COVID – heavily mutated and speculated to be highly transmissible this time. As the virus rears its ugly head once again, right from travel guidelines to vaccine effectiveness, all safety measures are being reassessed all over again. While things may be inching back to normal, it’s time to put our guard up for now. Even as we prepare to battle Omicron and its consequences, do not forget to level up your most important safety shield against it – your health insurance. The catastrophic second wave has taught us some hard lessons and now it’s up to us to measure up and minimise the aftermath this time.

Recent times have brought about a tectonic shift in the health insurance landscape. While the awareness and demand pertaining to health insurance have significantly gone up after the outbreak, just having the insurance is not enough. This might be the best time for you to re-evaluate your health insurance. Soon after the outbreak, all health insurers started offering coverage for COVID-related hospitalisation, but it’s advisable to check if your current health insurance will be sufficient to protect you.

Here’s how you can make your health insurance policy more comprehensive to safeguard yourself and your loved ones against the Omicron variant.

Choose a comprehensive policy to cover COVID-induced diseases

On the surface, it might look like you need to protect yourself against COVID-19 and its variants. However, the past two years have taught us to tread with caution. COVID makes way for other diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart ailments, among many others.

Usually, a person is likely to develop these lifestyle diseases in the later stage of their life. Unfortunately, if you contract COVID, you become more prone to these illnesses at any stage even after you are cured. The latest findings of the National Family Health Survey also reveal that Indians have now become more obese, hypertensive and at a higher risk of developing diabetes as compared to 2015-16.

Apart from that, you also need to protect yourself from other complications like black fungus. The consequences arising out of these could be severe and may even require hospitalisation. While more details about Omicron are being divulged, you need to stay protected against a range of conditions lying underneath COVID by opting for comprehensive health coverage.

Go for a higher sum insured to stay covered in case of hospitalisation

Just like you need a plan covering the majority of diseases, you also need to take due note of the upsurging medical inflation year after year. The second wave still serves as a dreadful reminder of how important it is to stay prepared in advance. The medical bills during this time have gone as high as Rs 85 lakh to Rs 1 crore. If you have an insufficient sum insured, you will end up paying the remaining amount. Especially in metro cities, these expenses can cut deep into your savings.

In case your policy is up for renewal, you can choose a higher sum insured. However, if your renewal isn’t due in the near future, you can always buy a super top-up for your policy. For instance, if you have an existing policy of Rs 10 lakh, you can get a super top-up of Rs 90 lakh and the total coverage will be Rs 1 crore. Niva Bupa’s Health Recharge plan offers a super top-up of Rs 90 lakh on a deductible amount of Rs 10 lakh for an annual premium of Rs 898, subject to terms and conditions.

Include domiciliary treatment expenses and other additional charges

Domiciliary treatment refers to treating the patient at home even when they need to be hospitalised. There are two reasons for this – either due to hospital room unavailability or the patient’s co-morbid or critical condition certified by a doctor. It wasn’t too long ago when a huge number of COVID patients struggled to find a hospital bed and had to be treated at home itself. Also, there have been guidelines prescribed regarding home isolation and the treatment of COVID patients. At a time when the return of COVID scare seems highly likely with this variant, it makes sense to include the coverage for domiciliary treatment.

Other additional expenses that you need to take note of are doctor consultations, check-ups, tests, use of medical aid items, OPD and ambulance charges, etc. Make sure that these charges are covered under your policy.

Look out for claim settlement

Claim settlement is the moment of truth for both insurer and the insured. It’s when the claim is settled then the policy truly proves to be fruitful. Make sure that you check the claim settlement ratio before finalising your insurer. Typically, a ratio above 95% is considered ideal. Not just this, check for any terms, conditions or fine print that may cause a hindrance later while processing your claim.

Add suitable riders

Riders are additional benefits that you can attach to your policy at an added cost to your premium. Some of these popular riders can come in handy during this period of COVID. For instance, consumables constitute ~20% of COVID hospitalisation bills, but a lot of comprehensive plans do not cover them by default. Consumables are medical aid items that are discarded after single use, like syringe, PPE kits, masks, gloves, etc. Adding a rider such as Care Shield or Niva Bupa Safeguard gets the coverage added at a very nominal cost. Similarly, critical illness cover helps pay your bills in case of serious illnesses that might arise out of COVID, like heart attack, kidney failure, etc. Few other riders like hospital cash benefit or inflation protection rider can also be useful during these times. Do not forget to check for suitable riders with your insurer.

While the Omicron variant is still being researched and new information is coming to light every day, it’s wise to make an informed decision by taking lessons from the past.

(By Amit Chhabra, Head-Health Insurance, Policybazaar.com)


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