In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
Max Bupa’s Heartbeat High Deductible plan is only the second of its kind in the market after United India’s super top-up medicare. The product is attractively priced and will appeal to a specific market segment
Max Bupa Heartbeat High Deductible Policy is a super top-up policy, which will compete with United India’s super top-up medicare. While the concept of a top-up or super top-up policy is yet to catch on in the market, Max Bupa’s research showed that there is customer demand for such a product. It is a good concept for those who are already covered by a corporate or retail health insurance policy and wish to go for higher coverage. This product is also useful for someone without mediclaim who is willing to pay for medical expenses up to the high deductible barrier (Rs2 lakh or Rs3 lakh) before the super top-up policy kicks in to pay for additional medical expenses.
Heartbeat will have a standard pre-existing disease waiting period of 48 months like any other mediclaim policy. The high deductible option can be availed for the entire family, including parents to top-up their already existing health insurance policy. Max Bupa’s super top-up policy offers a deductible amount of Rs2 lakh or Rs3 lakh. The customer can choose the coverage amount above this limit as per their need. The premium will be based on the deductible limit and the coverage amount over the limit. For e.g. a 35 year old male going for a deductible amount of Rs2 lakh and coverage of Rs2 lakh over the limit will pay an annual premium of Rs1,503. The customer can also opt for a two-year policy tenure. The same person, going for the same deductible sum and coverage of Rs3 lakh over the limit in United India’s super top-up medicare will end up paying a premium of Rs2,317. In effect, Max Bupa offers a competitive alternative.
What is the value that a top-up and super top-up policy brings to you? One way to get additional cover could be to buy another health insurance policy. But this may be too expensive. There are other alternatives as well. For instance, one was buying a top-up plan which would provide an additional cover to add to your existing cover in a very economical way of getting higher insurance cover. The thing to note here is an amount called the “threshold level”, also known as the “compulsory deductible” amount. This is the level above which the top-up can be utilised to pay for the expenses.
For example, for a top-up amount of Rs10 lakh and the compulsory deductible amount is Rs3 lakh; the top-up amount will pay only for expenses above Rs3 lakh up to Rs10 lakh. Super top-up is also like a top-up policy. The difference between the two is that in the case of a top-up policy the expenses for a single treatment should be over the threshold, whereas in a super top-up the total expenses in a year must be above the threshold level for the policy to be effective. Thus, between a top-up and super top-up, the super top-up is more beneficial for customers.
There are four companies that provide top-up policies: United India Insurance (Top-up medicare), Bajaj Allianz (Extra Care), Apollo Munich (Optima Plus) and Star Health and Allied Insurance (Super Surplus). Of the three, only United India had a super top-up plan (Super top up medicare). Now, Max Bupa Heartbeat High Deductible product offers super top-up plan.
The move by the insurance regulator is in the interest of customers as it would bring transparency in the way insurance is pushed by intermediaries. Many times the customer does not even know the insurance company’s name whose product he may be forced to buy
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) has come out with a discussion paper which details the aspects of tying and bundling insurance products. Insurance mis-selling or forced selling is a reality that cannot be easily wished away. Often, the customer ends up with a product with little knowledge of insurance company as there may not be a choice. “White labeling” of insurance products makes it difficult for customers to differentiate between the core product and the incidental one. There is a conflict of interest in most of these cases as the seller is often a corporate agent or their group entities are insurance brokers. These areas, therefore, need attention from the consumer-protection point of view.
Buying a new car usually ends up with the auto dealer pushing the insurance product of his choice down the customer’s throat. The product is from the insurance company which gives a hefty discount for getting volume sales, which the dealer undertakes. Life insurance against home loans is classic example of a customer either taking what the bank offers or going to another bank. There is no other option. In both these examples, the intermediary commission is paid by the insurance company.
According to Avadhoot Mavlankar, principal officer at Shinrai Insurance Broking, “This is not new to the insurance market. The classic example was a credit card, which used to have in-built personal accident cover. But its shortcomings were discovered when there were serial blasts in the Mumbai local trains. The personal accident policy did not cover terrorism. Tying and bundling insurance policies with other services is mostly coming as a mandatory requirement especially by banks; which is not a healthy practice.”
Arvind Laddha, chief executive officer of Vantage Insurance Brokers and Risk Advisors, brings another perspective. According to him, “Tying or bundling of products helps customers by reducing the transaction effort and also opens the possibility of some savings for them. However, occasionally we do see that the insurance intermediary is able to exercise undue influence on the customer, due to the extended relationship they enjoy. The regulator should consider allowing the distributor to bundle the insurance product but should ensure that the customer can transparently see the value he is getting. It may also be appropriate to issue guidelines that do not allow a bundled product to be highlighted largely as an insurance product, as it could result in formation of groups with a view to merely enjoy the benefits of bulk purchase of insurance.”
According to Kamalji Sahay, managing director and chief executive officer, Star Union Dai-ichi Life "Bundling of products evolved for adding more value for the customer through one life insurance policy. In fact, this offers the customer better benefits than what he would be able to receive through a core product. This suits the need of large number of customers; of course, not every customer." Moneylife tried contacting several other insurance companies to get feedback on IRDA initiative, but there was no response till the time of writing this article.
IRDA’s discussion paper comes down heavily on group insurance covers that are bundled with mutual fund products. According to the insurance watchdog, “One of the concerns that arise here is the manner in which this is advertised by the service provider. Providing information regarding the insurance cover is okay but highlighting that more than the core service being provided misleads the public. This violates the IRDA (Insurance Advertisements) Regulations, 2000. The insurance cover will have to be incidental to the other financial product. There could be instances where the public is led to believe that the insurance cover is the main feature of the product that is being sold.”
Mr Mavlankar says, “Some insurers who have big retail outlets have tried it through mall assurance, but it has not been successful. IRDA should come up with very clear guidelines and should specify the minimum cover such policies should offer, further the drafting of such policies should also be simple.”
Tying is defined as two or more products packaged together where at least one of the products is not sold separately while bundling occurs when products are packaged but are also available separately. The discussion paper is a great initiative from IRDA which will delve whether it should stop bundling of insurance products with other goods or services or allow this activity with some checks built-in. IRDA has sought feedback on its discussion paper, which is available on its website www.irda.gov.in. Kindly mail your opinion to [email protected] on or before 15 March 2012.
Rethink on Single Premium
IRDA is not happy with insurance companies’ increasing focus on single-premium products which has wider acceptability with customers. Even with ULIP business steadily going down by 17% over one year, single-premium products did well. IRDA wants to re-emphasise insurance as a long-term business wherein regular premium products enforce disciplined savings and rupee...