The entire world has come to a standstill with the COVID-19 infection spreading across almost all the countries across the globe. With no vaccine or cure in hand, governments have been struggling to fight this virus by implementing personal hygiene and social distancing measures. In India, while the lockdown helped curb the spread of COVID-19, the virus has started showing its ugly face in larger numbers in recent days. While we might take all possible precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, we cannot forget that the cost of hospitalization and medical treatment is remarkably high and can eat into our savings in no time. Hence, it is important to have a health insurance policy that offers coverage against COVID-19.
Does my health insurance policy cover COVID-19?
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has mandated all insurers to cover COVID-19 in the health insurance plans. This means that for insurance purposes, COVID-19 will be treated like other ailments. Hence, the terms and conditions applicable to your health insurance policy will apply to COVID-19 too. This includes a 30-day waiting period before raising your first claim, a minimum of 24-hour hospitalization, etc. Also, the policy will cover pre/post-hospitalization benefits.
Is this enough?
It’s better than not having COVID insurance. However, since this virus is unknown to the medical fraternity, patients who test positive are put through a series of tests, symptom-based treatment, hospitalization, and isolation. Hence, unlike other ailments, COVID-19 requires specific features from the insurance policy. Here are some things that you need to keep in mind while reviewing your existing policy or buying a new health insurance policy to cover COVID-19 treatment costs:
- Sum Insured
Given the treatment protocol for COVID-19, any individual below 50 years of age, infected with the virus, can expect a hospital bill of ₹5 Lakhs+ in a private hospital. This is assuming that the individual does not have any co-morbidity issues and does not need ventilator support. For older patients or those with existing co-morbidity ailments needing ventilators, the bill can cross ₹10 lakh.
Hence, you need a health insurance policy having an adequate sum assured. If you have co-dependents, then you will have to purchase add-ons or riders appropriately. Leading insurance providers in India like Tata AIG offer comprehensive COVID-19 insurance policies that cover the major expenses related to the hospitalization and treatment.
- Family cover
COVID-19 is a highly communicable disease. If an individual gets infected, then his immediate family members are at the highest risk of getting infected too. Hence, if you are looking to financially protect yourself against the virus, then you must look at a family floater plan that offers pre and post-hospitalization benefits.
- Hospitalization for weeks
Usually, coronavirus patients need around 12-14 days before they test negative again. Based on the condition of the patient, this could mean two-three weeks of medical observation in an isolated hospital room. An extended stay at the hospital means inflated bills and a corresponding strain on your finances. Ensure that the policy accommodates extended hospitalization to protect you against these costs.
- Vaccination and follow-up tests
One of the best ways to protect yourself against an infectious disease like COVID-19 is vaccination. While there are no vaccines invented yet, researchers are working tirelessly to come up with one as soon as they can. If your policy covers the vaccination costs, then you and your family need not worry about the costs even if the vaccine is costly.
Usually, if a COVID-19 patient has two negative tests in 24 hours, then he/she is declared as free of the virus and discharged. However, there have been reports of the virus resurfacing a few days after these tests. Hence, most hospitals recommend patients to take some follow-up tests for a few weeks after their release. Ensure that the health insurance policy covers the costs for such follow-up tests too.
There are some insurers who also offer a special plan only for COVID-19. These plans offer a lump sum amount to people diagnosed with the disease to help them manage the treatment costs and loss of income. They also offer 50 percent of the amount to people quarantined by the government at an authorized quarantine centre.
Remember, while taking precautions like wearing a face mask, washing hands regularly, maintaining social distancing, etc., are important, you should not ignore the need for comprehensive health insurance during such times too. If you do not have health insurance, then start looking and weigh your options before buying a policy.
With millions of people infected across the globe and the numbers still increasing, being financially ready to deal with the virus is recommended by most medical and finance experts. While a pandemic of these proportions is unprecedented for all of us, the uncertainty and fear surrounding the virus can be mitigated to a great extent by staying prepared for the worse.