Now is the time to bring in regulation for healthcare sector: Anand Roy
Mirror Now Dailogues with Vinay Tewari: Anand Roy, MD, Star Health & Allied Insurance shares insights on the changes in health insurance industry, trends to watch out for, need for regulation
MIRROR NOW in collaboration with exchange4media Group is curating a series of video interviews, ‘MIRROR NOW Dialogues with Vinay Tewari’. In the first part of this series, Vinay Tewari, Managing Editor, Mirror NOW interacted with Anand Roy, Managing Director, Star Health and Allied Insurance Co Ltd on the topic "Healthcare trends to watch in 2021".
The ongoing pandemic on account of Covid-19 has made health and wellbeing the utmost priority for people. This in turn has resulted in consumers looking at health insurance with new eyes as they realised the importance of health insurance and financial protection. Speaking to Tewari, Roy sharedhis insights on the key changes in the health insurance industry, trends to watch, demand for customised solutions to cater to different consumers across markets, the need for regulation of the healthcare sector etc.
The session opened with Tewari asking Roy to sum up the key impacts of the pandemic on consumer sentiment towards the insurance sector. According to Roy, while India has had an abysmally low penetration of health insurance, the pandemic has changed the consumer perception of health insurance. He said “The pandemic has brought an awareness like never before as many people got insured. While the insurance penetration in India has not kept pace with the increasing GDP over the years, people’s attitude towards insurance has changed and the regulator has played an important role in that.”
Talking about narrative of fear used in insurance advertising, Roy states that there has been a narrative shift in insurance advertising. He adds, “Insurance ads have now moved on from the idea of protection or the fear of loss narrative. The narrative has shifted to getting a better quality of treatment, at least from the health insurance point of view.”
Insurance companies are also working hand in hand with hospitals and healthcare providers to provide a seamless experience to the consumers. However, according to Roy, overpricing and differentiated billing by some healthcare providers remains a challenge. Roy said “Unlike the insurance or the telecom industry, the healthcare industry doesn’t have a common regulator. Therefore, we observe differentiated pricing in the same city within a distance of say 1 kilometres.” Roy also shared that there is an ongoing initiative to categorize hospitals based on various parameters. This initiative will help consumers make an informed choice and build trust and confidence in insurance companies. He added “Insurance companies have paid out more than rupees 10,000 crores of insurance claims after the pandemic. Hopefully, this will help the industry in the long run.”
Talking about the need for customised solutions for the rural and urban areas, Roy shared that there has been a lot of demand coming in from rural areas post-pandemic. He added “We have set up a very exclusive rural vertical this year. A year ago the regulator came up with the ‘Arogya Sanjeevani’ which is a standardised product offered by all companies that can be paid for in instalments. Specific micro-policies are also being designed for these areas which are doing very well.” In terms of customisation, explaining the offerings for specific professional sectors, Roy added “There are a lot of unions and associations who approach insurance policies to buy policies for their members. We have a lot of plans for different communities and organisations like truck manufacturers, delivery companies, etc”.
Commenting on the expectations for the insurance sector in 2021, Roy states, “The fate of the general insurance sector is linked to the growth of the economy. The future looks very bright for the insurance industry. Accident insurance, life insurance and health insurance will continue to see a high demand for the next many years because of the awareness created.”
Roy also shared the challenges facing the insurance industry, “In health insurance, the biggest challenge that we face is the medical inflation, and thus the need for regulation in the healthcare segment. Secondly, the investment needed for digitisation and technologies to prevent fraud is quite heavy.”
Concluding the session with an impetus on the need for regulation of the healthcare sector, Roy explained “Now is the time to bring regulation to the healthcare sector. Like we have the IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) for insurance companies in India, a common regulator in the private healthcare sector will ensure an organised growth of the healthcare sector and the health insurance sector alike.”
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