Most of you who are salaried individuals are often covered under the group insurance policy - be it life insurance or non-life (health) insurance, provided by your employer, as a consideration towards welfare of the employees.
While undertaking group insurance (life or non-life), the insurers, especially PSU insurers like National Insurance Company , New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance Company tend to offer a huge discount in order to corner chunk of the market share. And usually the discounts are so high that the PSU insurers tend to suffer losses. It is noteworthy that last financial year (i.e. 2011-12), the total health insurance premium collected by the four PSU companies — National Insurance Company, New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance Company (which together command more than 60% of the total health insurance segment in India) — was to the tune of Rs 8,145 crore, but on combined net losses by them in the said financial year were to Rs 1,500 crore. This was quite an astonishing since group health insurance accounts for more than 50% of the health insurance business.
But now irked by the losses faced by the PSU insurers, the Finance Ministry has directed all public sector insurance companies to stop offering discounts on "group health insurance policies". The instruction, issued by the Department of Financial Services to the Chairman and Managing Directors of the four Government insurers talks about the strategy to be strictly adopted with immediate effect. It seeks to stop providing discounts on any policy where combined ratio, or the cost of a policy to the insurer, is more than 100%.
The combined ratio refers to costs on insurance claim, management expenses, commission to agents and to Third Party Administrators (TPAs) and any other expenses that may have been incurred in servicing a policy.
Thus, in order to reduce the combined ratio to below 100% (thereby reducing their cost borne on an insurance policy) by the PSU insurers, the premium on such group insurance products may shoot up by more than 50%. It is noteworthy that reducing the combined ratio will result in factoring all expenses into the pricing of the products leading to the potential surge in the premiums.
We are of the view that, increase in the premium of "group health insurance policy" may induce employers to reduce the coverage of health insurance provided to employees or even in some cases remove such benefits if the cost of providing such benefits escalates beyond their (employers’) employee welfare budget. In such cases it is imperative for individuals to have their own health insurance policy in order to take care of any health emergencies.
Many a times salaried individuals forget do not opt for an individual health insurance policy if their employer provides the same. But in our view they (employees) forget the fact that once they retire from their jobs the health insurance cover ceases to exist. Thus, it is prudent for the individuals to have a separate health insurance policy at an early age from a long term perspective.