Regulator as well as insurers keen on such policies, but pricing may be a trouble.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) is looking to do away with the age limit for purchasing insurance policies. Even as the proposal is still at a nascent stage, the regulator is in the process of clearing products targeted at senior citizens.
By allowing policyholders to renew policies at any age, Irda has already taken the first step to make health policies ‘age free’. It had recently made it mandatory for policies to have a “life long” renewal clause. This means once a health insurance policy is issued, insurers would be obliged to continue renewing such policies during the policyholder’s lifetime. However, the entry age barrier remains.
Meanwhile, some general insurance companies have already started applying for an ‘age-free’ policy. For instance, Apollo Munich Insurance applied for such a policy a few months back and is awaiting approval.
L&T Insurance, on the other hand, has an interesting variant which permits lifetime renewal but mandates a co-payer after the age of 70. Even ICICI Lombard is looking at a lifetime renewal policy. “We will be coming out with a plan where policies issued once could be renewed throughout the lifetime of the policyholder. However, the final entry age for our health policies is 65 years,” said a senior official at ICICI Lombard GIC.
Other insurance companies are expected to follow suit or add necessary clauses in their existing portfolio of products. At present, the entry age for most existing health insurance plans is capped at 65 years.
When contacted, Irda chairman J Hari Narayan said there had been discussions about removing the entry age gap. “However, there are no concrete plans as of now,” he said.
But, the regulator is looking into these products carefully. Senior officials at Apollo Munich said though the first application was made a while back, Irda sent it back with queries. They have reapplied for the product and are awaiting a response.
For most insurers, pricing remains the main issue with policies. For a Rs 5-lakh cover for someone aged 75-80 years, the premium should not be more than 15 per cent of the cover. “But, since the loss ratio beyond 80 years is high and most people of that age suffer from some illness, the real challenge is underwriting such a product,” said a senior official at Apollo Munich Health Insurance.
As a result, the pricing for a Rs 5-lakh policy (for persons over 70 years) is expected to be around Rs 60,000-80,000 annually. In addition, there would be certain conditions, subject to the health of the individual. “For example, some existing chronic diseases might be excluded from the cover,” the official added. Another official of a standalone health insurance company said they would be filing a product without any entry age cap with the regulator soon, even as the premiums would be slightly higher.
According to industry estimates, the health insurance business constitutes more than 25 per cent of the general insurance industry. Over the last one year, premiums have risen 25 per cent. During April-September this financial year, the health insurance premium collection rose 21.3 per cent to Rs 6,721.53 crore from Rs 5,540.34 crore.