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Health covers for COVID-19 get more life

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Short term COVID-specific health covers Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak will get a longer run with insurance regulator IRDAI permitting insurers to offer and renew them for six more months up to September.

“Taking the prevailing COVID situation into consideration, it is decided to allow all insurers to offer and renew short-term COVID-specific health policies, including Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak, up to September 30,” it said.

Introduced in July following a mandate from IRDAI amid a raging pandemic and high hospitalisation costs, the policies were allowed to be offered and renewed till March 31. Extending the timeline for sale and renewal up to September, General Manager (Health) D.V.S. Ramesh said “all other terms and conditions remain valid.”

The two products were introduced with a tenure of three and a half months; six and a half months and nine and a half months, including a waiting period of 15 days. The product was designed keeping in mind people looking for an adequate solution for COVID-19 treatment, said Amit Chhabra, head, Health insurance, Policybazaar.com. While Corona Kavach is an indemnity-based health plan, Corona Rakshak is a fixed benefit health insurance policy.

More than 30 lakh Corona policies have been sold industrywide thus far. The fear of contracting the virus is pushing more individuals to opt for health insurance covers. With the extension, more people can now buy health insurance, he said.

E-policies permitted

Continuing with its facilitation measures, IRDAI has permitted general and health insurers to issue e-policies as well as dispense with wet signatures on the proposal form till September 30. The decision follows a similar extension given to life insurers on Tuesday.

Separately, the regulator directed insurers to complete the template registrations with their respective telecom service providers as per the framework implemented by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and intimate the same by April 5.

Pointing to how “spam calls/messages have become a menace and a matter of concern to policyholders / consumers,” a communication referred to the July 2018 TRAI notification on the regulatory framework for unsolicited commercial calls and messages. The notification required principal entities, including insurers, to register with their respective telecom service providers, to be allotted a header along with their identity for proper identification of all messages and voice calls. The framework is to enable policyholder protection and seeks to protect them from fraudsters using fake identities as insurers.

All insurers are directed to register their templates of the messages with their respective telecom service providers in controlling unsolicited calls, including fraudulent calls and messages to the policyholders, IRDAI said.

Director of Underwriting, Products and Claims at Max Bupa Health Insurance Bhabatosh Mishra welcomed the move to extend the COVID-19 specific policy in the context of an increase in number of people contracting the virus.

“The move will help people with tight budget get secured against any additional financial burden owing to COVID-19,” he said. Noting that the average size of the claims received at Max Bupa is ₹1-1.5 lakh, he said and listed other products of the insurer, including ReAssure and Health Premia, that covered COVID-19. The company has reduced the waiting period to 15 days for COVID-19, he added.