How to prepare your Omicron-ready health insurance policy

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Here’s how you can make your health insurance policy more comprehensive to protect you and your loved ones against the Omicron variant.

The world is once again coming to terms with another variant of COVID – highly mutated and believed to be highly transmissible this time around. As the virus rears its ugly head again, from travel guidelines to vaccine effectiveness, all safety measures are reassessed again. While things can get back to normal, it is time to lift the guard for now. Even as we prepare to fight Omicron and its aftermath, don’t forget to bolster your most important security shield against it: your health insurance. The second catastrophic wave taught us some hard lessons and now it’s up to us to measure and minimize the consequences this time around.

Recent times have brought about a tectonic shift in the Medicare landscape. Although awareness and demand for health insurance increased dramatically after the epidemic, having insurance is not enough. This may be the best time to reassess your health insurance. Shortly after the outbreak, all health insurers began offering coverage for COVID-related hospitalizations, but it is advisable to check whether your current health insurance will be sufficient to protect you.

Here’s how you can make your health insurance policy more comprehensive to protect you and your loved ones against the Omicron variant.

Choose a comprehensive policy to cover illnesses caused by COVID

At first glance, it might seem like you need to protect yourself against COVID-19 and its variants. However, the past two years have taught us to walk with caution. COVID is giving way to other diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, among others.

Usually, a person is susceptible to developing these lifestyle related diseases at a later stage in their life. Unfortunately, if you contract COVID, you become more prone to these illnesses at any time, even after you recover. The latest findings from the National Family Health Survey also reveal that Indians have now become more obese, hypertensive, and have a higher risk of developing diabetes compared to 2015-16.

Apart from this, you also need to protect yourself from other complications like black fungus. The resulting consequences can be serious and may even require hospitalization. As more details about Omicron are leaked, you need to stay protected against a range of conditions under COVID by opting for comprehensive health coverage.

Opt for a higher sum insured to remain covered in the event of hospitalization

Just as you need a plan that covers the majority of illnesses, you also need to factor in the surge in medical inflation year after year. The second wave always serves as a terrible reminder of the importance of staying prepared in advance. Medical bills during this period have reached Rs 85 lakh to Rs 1 crore. If you have insufficient insurance sum, you will end up paying the remaining amount. Especially in metropolitan cities, these expenses can dramatically reduce your savings.

In the event of renewal of your contract, you can choose a higher sum insured. However, if your renewal is not due in the near future, you can always purchase a Super Top-up for your policy. For example if you have an existing policy of Rs 10 lakh you can get a super top up of Rs 90 lakh and the total coverage will be Rs 1 crore. Niva Bupa’s Health Recharge plan offers a super supplement of Rs 90 lakh on a deductible amount of Rs 10 lakh for an annual premium of Rs 898, subject to terms and conditions.

Include home treatment fees and other additional charges

Home treatment involves treating the patient at home even when they need to be hospitalized. There are two reasons for this – either because of the unavailability of hospital rooms, or because of the comorbid or critical condition of the patient certified by a doctor. Not so long ago, a large number of COVID patients struggled to find a hospital bed and needed to be treated at home. In addition, guidelines have been prescribed regarding home isolation and treatment of COVID patients. At a time when the return of the fear of COVID seems very likely with this variant, it makes sense to include the coverage of home care.

Other additional expenses that you need to take into account are medical consultations, check-ups, tests, use of medical aid items, OPD and ambulance costs, etc. Make sure these costs are covered by your policy.

Pay attention to claims settlement

The settlement of claims is the moment of truth for both the insurer and the insured. It is when the claim is settled that the policy really turns out to be successful. Be sure to check the claims settlement ratio before finalizing your insurer. Typically, a ratio greater than 95% is considered ideal. Not only that, check for any terms, conditions or the fine print that may cause a hindrance later in processing your request.

Add suitable runners

Endorsements are additional benefits that you can add to your policy at an additional cost to your premium. Some of these popular runners may come in handy during this time of COVID. For example, consumables make up about 20% of COVID hospital bills, but many comprehensive plans don’t cover them by default. Consumables are medical aid items that are thrown away after a single use, such as syringes, PPE kits, masks, gloves, etc. Adding a jumper such as Care Shield or Niva Bupa Safeguard allows the coverage to be added at a very minimal cost. Likewise, critical illness coverage helps you pay your bills for serious illnesses that may arise from COVID, such as heart attack, kidney failure, etc. Few of the other riders like the hospital allowance or the inflation protection rider can also be useful during these times. Remember to check with your insurer for the appropriate endorsements.

While the Omicron variant is still being researched and new information emerges every day, it is wise to make an informed decision by learning from the lessons of the past.

(By Amit Chhabra, Medicare Manager, Policybazaar.com)

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