India is being projected as the next hub for medical tourism considering the advancement in technology, development of expertise and low costs. Many foreign nationals are coming to India for treatment. However, does this spell out anything significant for the local population? While medical facilities in terms of expertise and infrastructure are improving, the common man feels the heat on account of the manifold rise in the costs of medical treatment.
Medical advancements have helped increase the average life span of an individual but this extended life is still subject to disease contingencies, especially lifestyle ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Thus, people are paying more for maintaining their health than they used to. Also, the concept of a nuclear family is on the rise, replacing the earlier joint family concept. This has resulted in a lack of the much-needed family support for individuals in their quest for a healthy life, especially in critical times.
If, in the meanwhile, some major illness confronts an individual, he will have to forfeit a large amount of his hard earned savings as there is no concept of social security in India. The ever-rising medical costs can burn a hole in his pocket in case of a medical emergency.
Here comes the concept of health insurance. Health insurance covers you and your family against unforeseen and sudden hospitalisation expenses. A medical emergency can arise due to sudden illness or injury. With the cost of medical treatment rising, a health insurance policy would help you sail through a bad patch. Your medical expenses will be taken care of by the insurance company, provided you pay your premiums on time. The premium, in turn, is influenced by your age and the cover that you require.
Health insurance also gives you the benefit of reduced tax liability. In order to encourage people to buy health insurance, the government has made medical insurance premium paid, eligible for a deduction from gross total income under section 80D of The Income Tax Act.
Criteria for choosing Health insurance
Premium Cost: Premium Cost is a critical factor in the entire decision-making process, as buying a policy depends upon its affordability. The cost element depends on the coverage expected, the age factor and the number of dependent members in the family. A dependent, in simple terms, is a person relying on an individual financially. It usually includes the spouse, children and parents. Also, you should watch out for the fact that the cost of buying justifies the benefits covered under the policy. In other words, you have to strike a balance between the premium cost and the benefits available.
Adequate Cover: Adequate Cover refers to the benefits under the policy and the persons to be covered under the policy at the right cost. One should look out for a policy that will pay all the expenses incurred when hospitalised. You can opt for a policy that provides you adequate cover against a majority of contingencies (the sum insured shall be adequate to take care of likely expenses on account of unexpected contingencies). Besides, it should cover your entire family.
Age Factor: Age is another critical factor that needs to be taken into account. In case of children, as well as parents, the age factor becomes more important as beyond a particular age, there may be restrictions on entry or coverage may not be possible at all.
Insurance provided by the employer: Sometimes, your employer may provide you and your family coverage under a group health insurance policy taken by the company. If there is such a coverage, please check whether your dependents are included. If your employer policy does not cover your dependents, then you will need to find an alternative health cover for your dependents.
The flip side: Your employer’s policy will cover you as long as you are employed with that company. In case you change your job or retire, you need to ensure some coverage so that you and your family are not stranded without any cover.
Don’t let the policy lapse: Renew your policy without a break, as a policy renewed after a lapse may be considered as a fresh proposal. It will then have limitations in covering certain medical conditions which may be diagnosed over the years. Also, you may lose benefits such as bonus, discount etc. that are available on continuous renewal.
Don’t overinsure or underinsure: Choose a sum to be insured based on your age, the number of people to be covered, the premium paying capacity and the medical condition. Don’t overinsure or underinsure yourself. In short, look for a cover that pays all the expenses when hospitalized following any medical contingency.