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SBI Life to launch health insurance product by July end

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"We have already filed with the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) for launching a health (critical illness) product and are awaiting the regulator's approval", Uday Shankar Roy, managing director and chief executive officer (CEO), SBI Life said.

The health insurance product will be a critical illness policy, offering a cover for seven critical ailments and hospital cash. It will be initially sold through the SBI and associated banks, and may be sold directly through hospitals later.

In a normal mediclaim policy, cash is paid to the hospital. But in the proposed policy, the insured will be paid a lumpsum amount whenever an ailment covered under the policy is detected. The new product will be a standalone health insurance product which will provide cover for seven life-threatening diseases such as cancer, blood pressure and heart attack.

Roy said the policy will feature good health declaration, which is critical to all health insurance products. "It will have the group advantage and as such the premium will be low", he added.

Similarly, SBI Life expects the total premium to cross Rs 10,000 crore mark by the end of this financial year from Rs 5622 crore during the previous financial year. The company achieved a growth rate of 91 per cent last year and is expecting to maintain the same rate during 2008-09.

The private insurer plans to open 250 branches across the country in this financial year. It already has 180 branches.

"We have sought the regulator's approval for opening 250 branches during the current financial year. We will open these branches as soon as approval is obtained", Roy said.

Besides, the company will substantially increase the strength of its agents in 2008-09. It will recruit about 40,000 to 60,000 agents by March 2009, taking its total strength to 1 lakh.

The company plans to double its branch network in Orissa from 10 to 21. It is targeting business growth of 60 per cent in Orissa in 2008-09 over the premium of Rs 280 crore collected in the previous financial year.

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