May 30, 2012

Insurers keen on bolstering alternative treatment cover

By Falaknaaz Syed May 29 2012 , Mumbai

With the rising popularity of alternative treatments, several non-life insurance companies are in the process of launching retail health insurance policies that cover alternative forms of treatments, while several insurers, which already cover such treatments, are in the process of increasing the limits. The country’s largest general insurer, New India Assurance, which covers alternative treatments up to 25 per cent of the sum insured, has already filed a product with the regulator, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda), with higher limits. ICICI Lombard General Insurance, the largest private insurer, too has filed for approval of a product with Irda that will provide outdoor patient department (OPD) coverage under alternative treatments, but without hospitalisation benefit.

Last month, Tata AIG General Insurance launched a new policy called MediPrime that will pay for alternative treatment with limits.

Alternative treatments referred to as Ayush (Ayurveda, Unani, Sidha, and homeopathy) is so far offered by a mere seven non-life insurers out of 24 companies with limits and conditions. The insurers that cover hospitalisation under alternative treatments are New India Assurance, United India, Oriental Insurance, National Insurance, Tata AIG, HDFC Ergo General and Cholamandalam General Insurance.

“We have filed a product with the regulator that would cover a higher amount for alternative treatments against the existing limit of up to 25 per cent of the sum insured. We cover Ayurveda, Unani and homeopathy, if the treatment is availed in a government hospital,” says Segar Sampathkumar, deputy general manager, New India Assurance.

Sanjay Datta, head health, ICICI Lombard General Insurance, says, “We will be launching a retail health insurance policy that will cover alternative treatments under OPD. At present, we do not cover expenses for alternative treatment in retail policies, but, cover it in group policies up to a certain limit.”

Although, the policies of United India and Oriental Insurance do not mention the word Ayush, a senior official of United India clarified, “Although, we have not specifically defined alternative treatment in our policy contract, we cover hospitalisation under Ayurveda up to the sum insured of the policy.” In case of National Insurance, the insurer covers alternative treatments up to the sum insured in their individual policy but has excluded such treatments in the family floater policy.

KG Krishnamoorthy Rao, MD and CEO of Future Generali India Insurance, says, “We are exploring the option of including alternative treatments in our retail policy.”

In many ways, treatment under alternative forms of medicines are quite similar to the treatment procedures followed under allopathic medicine. But, because alternative forms of medicine are still considered outside the scope of traditional medicine, most non-life insurance companies do not cover such treatments in their health insurance plans. Mahavir Chopra, head of e-business and personal lines at, says, “Even those policies that pay for alternative treatments, exclude naturopathy treatment, acupressure, acupuncture, magnetic therapy, massages, steam bathing, Shirodhara and Ayurvedic treatment.”


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