Health insurance is expected to increase its share manifold in the coming years, it is slowly becoming a buyers market, says Antony Jacob, Chief utive Officer, Apollo Munich Health Insurance.
How do you see the advancement in the field of health insurance in India over last decade?
From being an openly competitive market to nationalisation and then back to a liberalised market again, the insurance sector in India has now completed a full circle. If you care to trace the developments in the Indian insurance sector, you are confronted with a 360 degree turn around. Although there has been rapid growth of the sector over the last decade, insurance in India still remains at an early stage of development.
Insurance is one sector whose contribution to the GDP has been quite significant. During the last three decades, insurance penetration as a percentage of the gross domestic product has more than doubled from around 3.5 percent in 1970. The insurance sector thus has grown more strongly than the overall economy.
The biggest development in this industry was the opening up of the industry, following the 1999 IRDA regulation. Also, with the proliferation of bank assurance, there is a rapid change in the way insurance products are distributed in India. This has strong implications on the process of financial convergence and capital market development in India.
Please give a brief about Apollo Munich Health Insurance offerings in the health insurance domain.
Apollo Hospitals and Munich Health have developed unique products and services which are based on careful researched. The products and services are developed with clear understanding of the changing and varied needs of the customers. Having said that, we already have some of the best products in the market, and the scope for growth is quite substantial.
We have introduced an innovative multiplier benefit in our new product Optima Restore. The multiplier benefit is a no claim benefit offered as a renewal incentive. Under the multiplier benefit, if the insured person has had a claim free year, Apollo Munich will increase the basic sum insured by 50 percent and, if the second year too is claim free, then the basic sum insured is doubled. This benefit is offered at no extra charge and without any hassle of paperwork.
Thats not all, under Optima Restore we also offer another unique restore benefit which automatically reinstates the basic sum insured in case the insurer exhausts their sum insured in the policy year. The reinstated sum insured can be utilised to cover against any other illness or in case anyone in the family (in case of a family floater scheme) falls ill later. This unbelievable benefit is also being offered at no extra charge. Apollo Munich includes maternity benefit, which is incidentally the single largest reason for hospitalisation in India, in an individual policy – an example of trying to understand the market and make it easy, friendly and innovative for consumers.
Apollo Munich was the first to introduce 100 percent guaranteed life-long renewal. This means that if our customer lives for 105 years, he can continue to be insured with us. We were one of the first ones to launch a truly comprehensive cashless OPD + IPD insurance product in India by the name Maxima. The same was developed after thorough understanding and research.
We offer multi variant options across various sum insured levels where a customer is free to choose as per his or her affordability and perceived need for cover.
In terms of affordability we have policies ranging from `30,000 (for the State of Meghalaya), right up to policies with a premium of `20 lakhs. We cater to the entire health insurance schemes for the different income levels, starting from below the poverty line and reaching above the poverty line.
What is your perspective on the role of IT in health insurance?
Information technology (IT) plays the most critical role in automating the fulfilment processes in customer facing businesses such as insurance. We believe that the fulfilment processes can be segmented into sales stage and claims stage.
In the past decade our industry has seen considerable development and innovation pertaining to the sales process which involves the sharing of information at the application stage. But sadly the pace of development has been slow when it comes to the claims processes. This may be due to the fact that the processes related to claims require integration of multiple stakeholders including thousands of healthcare providers.
At Apollo Munich, we believe IT should play a significant role in enabling real time data sharing requirements between the claims facilitators and providers. This may be possible by creating a data highway where each customer, provider and claims facilitator can work in tandem for faster decision making through real time sharing of information.
What has been your marketing and business strategy in India?
Our strategy is to design the right products, where the price is as per the customers expectations. Most importantly, we are focussed on providing the right kind of service. We know healthcare and health insurance because of our parentage of Munich Health, the largest composite health insurer globally and Apollo Hospitals, one of Asias largest healthcare providers, and this gives us the competitive edge.
Also, our approach to health insurance lies in our positioning – Lets Un-complicate. We have positioned Apollo Munich as a straight-forward, user-friendly and hassle-free health insurance company that will consistently tackle the general concerns faced by people when it comes to healthcare and health insurance. We focus on the easy uncomplicated process we have for people seeking comprehensive health insurance for themselves and their loved ones. This positioning has enabled us to create a unique brand identity for Apollo Munich.
How important, from a healthcare insurance point of view, is it to have a national health IT policy?
Information Technology is one of the most significant enablers of growth in the health insurance sector. Health insurance has benefitted, and will continue to benefit, from the efficiencies that technology brings to traditionally paperdriven processes. The implementation of a standardised IT processes across the industry will play a major role in efficient capturing and analysis of data, product designing and fraud detection. There is the need to establish standards and invest in initiatives to help healthcare providers transition to the next generation of healthcare technology.
What are your future plans? Do you think making health insurance mandatory for everyone can address the issue of low health insurance penetration?
A compulsory health insurance has good precedence in a country where the sector is characterised with very low penetration. Making health insurance compulsory for all Indians is a move that Indian government should think about. Subsidising the cost of providing health insurance for SMEs and allowing them to participate in larger pools to increase buying power is a model that India should consider emulating.
Customers today demand different product benefits according to their needs and lifestyles. Spending on healthcare in India is expected to double (and touch `2,250 billion) by 2014. We believe that in the next five years, health insurance is expected to be the biggest contributor in the non-life segment, as the awareness levels are fast increasing.
One size no more fits all and to keep pace with the changing consumer behaviour and demographics, we have many products in the pipeline that will bring flexibility to our product portfolio.