Non-life insurers to suffer longer from pandemic: Liberty General CEO

Uncertainty on the personal and financial health of the public arising from the pandemic and its ripple effects on general insurance industry will stay longer because the loss of livelihoods

Press Trust of India Press Trust of India Mumbai
CEO and Wholetime Director of Liberty General Insurance Roopam Asthana

Uncertainty on the personal and financial health of the public arising from the pandemic and its ripple effects on general insurance industry will stay longer because the loss of livelihoods and the widening income disparity have radically altered consumption patterns, warns an industry player.

The general insurance industry has already taken a big hit from higher claims from their health insurance verticals on account of the pandemic. The two waves of the deadly viral infection so far have bled the general insurance industry to the tune of around Rs 27,000 crore as over 2 million customers have made industry-wide claims till early July, according to Roopam Asthana, managing director and chief executive of the mid-scale non-life player Liberty General Insurance.

Of this, the whole of FY'21 saw only about claims worth Rs 14,500 crore from around 9.8 lakh customers. As against this, the first three months of FY'22 alone have seen close to 12 lakh customers seeking over Rs 13,000 crore in refunds or cashless hospitlisation, he said and added that this is only from the second wave and no one knows what is in store for the industry as the world is fearing a third wave.

"For long, uncertainty has been ruling our personal and professional lives. The pandemic has vastly changed the consumption patterns as a vast majority of the public suffered from income, partial or permanent losses," Asthana told PTI.

The general insurance sector closed FY21 with a gross written premium of Rs 1,98,724 crore with a modest growth as their flagship motor business was badly hit which was partly offset by the runaway sales in health insurance business.

Liberty closed FY21 with Rs 1,446 crore in premium income or 0.73 per cent of the overall pie, he said, adding in the health vertical its market share was 0.4 per cent and similar was the proportion of the claim too, Asthana said, without disclosing the actual number of health claims he had so far.

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It closed Q1 of FY22 with Rs 337 crore of premium income, led by Rs 170 crore motor premium and Rs 80.5 crore health and Rs 86.4 crore commercial business premium, he said and admitted that the quarter was a washout though there was some traction on the motor and health fronts initially. But on net basis, the quarter was a washout, he said.

Consumption is the biggest challenge as health dominates every family's first priority now and this will linger for years as insurance will be a low priority for the average majority, Asthana said.

It will be disasterous for those insurers with large health portfolios because what the industry has gained from motor segment due to the lockdowns has been lost on the health front by way of higher claims, he warned and said that introduction of universal health coverage is the need of the hour.

First Published: Aug 09 2021 | 10:02 PM IST