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How health insurance needs are affected amidst the Omicron wave

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, over 385 million people have been infected by the virus globally. Just when it seemed to be over, and the world was trying to get back to normal, came the new Omicron variant, much more infectious than previous ones. In just 10 weeks since its arrival, the Omicron variant has already affected 90 million people and counting.

Amid all this, a major concern in India is that over 80 per cent of Indians are not covered by health insurance, according to the National Sample Survey’s 75th round of household consumption survey on health. There is a silver lining, however. With widespread cases of COVID being reported, many people now understand the importance of health insurance.

As per industry data, more people are now opting for health insurance policies and there has been a 30 per cent rise in demand just in the first week of the third wave. Here are a few things to keep in mind while opting for a health insurance policy to protect yourself and your family amid the Omicron wave.

The need for a higher sum assured

With COVID-19 being one of the most infectious viruses in recent history, there are high chances that if one in your family is infected, the whole family may, unfortunately, sooner or later, contract the virus. At the peak of the pandemic, a 14-day hospitalisation costs an average of Rs 5-10 lakh per person. With the whole family infected, as was the case for many, the medical bills ran up to tens of lakhs. So a sum assured of Rs 5-10 lakh may not be enough. In fact, most people realised this as evidenced by almost a 100 per cent increase in the overall average sum insured after the first Covid wave. Especially in the metro cities, the bills have shot up to even Rs 50-80 lakh after the first year of the pandemic. If you plan to purchase a new policy, go for a higher sum assured so you could have peace of mind. Similarly, you can also increase the coverage of your existing policy by opting for super top-ups.

Significantly low waiting period

Usually, all insurance policies came with a waiting period of 30 days, during which no claim can be filed except for accidents. So if you are infected with COVID-19 soon after buying a policy, you may not get coverage for the treatment. The first lesson to draw from this is that you should go for a health insurance policy at the earliest so as to increase the chance that the waiting period would be over when, and if, you need to raise a claim. However, keeping the evolving consumer needs in mind, insurers are now offering a waiting period as low as 7 days.

The increased importance of Consumables cover

Since most regular health insurance policies do not cover the cost of consumables, it is a good idea to opt for the consumables cover rider. Consumables are medical items that have to be discarded after use. While they earlier accounted for around 3 to 5 per cent of the medical bill, their share in the total bill has increased to around 30 per cent of the total bill due to the COVID pandemic because of increased usage of items like PPE kits, masks, gloves and sanitisers, apart from crepe bandages, syringes etc. Given this increased share, there has been a growing demand for policies that cover consumables.

The need to cover Domiciliary treatment expenses

At the peak of the second wave, a huge number of people struggled to find a hospital bed and had to be treated at home itself. Till the time the virus continues to mutate and spread, there will always be uncertainties with respect to health emergencies. So it makes sense to be prepared for any kind of situation.

This is where the concept of domiciliary treatment cover comes where patients are treated under hospital-like care and set up in their house which is certified by a medical practitioner. Due to the rise in COVID cases, there has been an increased interest in insurance policies that cover the cost of domiciliary treatment. This benefit is not available by default in most policies, and hence it would be wise to add it to the plan you are considering.

The Omicron wave came when it was expected that the pandemic was nearing its end. So, it is only fair to prepare for another wave, albeit hoping it never comes. The right health insurance plan with the right benefits will help you prepare for any eventuality.

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