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Check-up for the future

Smita Tripathi | February 01, 2003

It was a donation that Delhi-based housewife Aditi Verma made without a second thought -- and it isn't tough to understand why. The donation of a few thousand rupees to the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute in Delhi guaranteed Verma free treatment if she should ever contract cancer.

Executive Ankur Jain has taken a different sort of precaution. He's just bought an accident insurance policy "Dost" from the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi.

Why are hospitals getting into the medical insurance business? As the cost of medical care rises, some hospitals are stepping forward and offering medical and accident insurance policies.

Take the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and the Dharamshila Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. Both offer schemes where by paying a few thousand rupees one can avail free treatment of cancer for life.

Says Verma, "My father suffered from cancer. Besides the emotional stress, the rest of the family went through a major financial crisis. Treatment is extremely expensive but at the same time you don't want to give up. So when RGCI opened the scheme on January 1, 2003, she promptly made out a cheque for Rs 7,000 in favour of the organisation and ensured herself free treatment if she should ever have the misfortune to contract cancer.

How does the scheme work? As per the RGCI scheme, one has to make a one-time donation and then if the person ever suffers from cancer, free treatment is provided for life, irrespective of the cost and length of the treatment involved.

Treatment includes surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, the cost of medicines, drugs and disposable materials such as syringes has to be borne by the patient. Bone marrow and stem cell transplant facilities are also not covered under the scheme.

The amount paid towards the scheme is eligible for 50 per cent exemption under Section 80-G of the Income Tax Act. Moreover, by paying Rs 6,000 per person, one can enrol family members in the scheme and also get income tax exemption on this amount.

Another feature of the scheme is the fact that age is no bar. Anyone from an infant to a senior citizen can be enrolled. However, people who've already had a bout of cancer or are already afflicted by the disease cannot sign one.

DCHRC's scheme is almost exactly the same. The only difference is that the cover depends on the initial amount you've paid to enrol. A one-time contribution of Rs 5,100 entitles one to a lifetime relief of up to Rs 200,000. By paying Rs 7,500, one gets medical cover of Rs 300,00, Rs 10,000 provides cover worth Rs 400,000, Rs 15,000 entitles one to treatment worth Rs 600,000 while a payment of Rs 20,000 provides medical cover worth Rs 800,000.

Both these schemes have advantages even for people who are already covered by a medical insurance policy. That's because once cancer becomes terminal, most insurance companies no longer cover it. Moreover, the cost of treatment is restricted to the maximum monetary limit and the insurance premium has to be paid every year.

At a slightly different level, the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and the Coimbatore-based Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital both offer accident insurance policies. For Rs 320 per annum you can purchase Apollo's Dost policy, which provides you with medical cover worth Rs 100,000 and compensation worth Rs 200,000 in case of death due to accident.

Family members can buy the policy for Rs 275 each.

If you buy the policy from Apollo Hyderabad or Apollo Chennai, then the policy costs Rs 170 and provides medical cover worth Rs 50,000. However, if you have bought the policy from Apollo Delhi and meet with an accident in Hyderabad, you will be entitled to Rs 100,000 worth of medical treatment.

Also, if death due to accident occurs during treatment, your nominee is still entitled to Rs 200,000.

Policy-holders are issued a Dost card which is valid for one year. If you have an accident and only a part of Rs 100,000 is used for your treatment then the remaining amount is carried over for the next time you have an accident, provided it is during the same year.

The KMCH policy is available for Rs 250 per annum and entitles one to treatment worth Rs 100,000 and compensation worth Rs 200,000 in case of death. KMCH has four centres in Coimbatore.

Moreover, in case after the accident you are taken to another hospital, then Apollo and KMCH will reimburse you.

Both these policies enable you to undergo treatment without having to pay for it upfront. That's different from most accident insurance policies offered by insurance companies, where you have to pay upfront and then the amount is reimbursed by the insurance agency. However, they are slightly more expensive than the personal accident insurance policies offered by insurance companies.

For instance, one is required to pay a premium of Rs 147 for a similar policy offered by Iffco Tokio. Of course, the hospitals can't compete with medical insurance firms in a big way. But for the time being it's an option for anyone who wants to avoid big health bills.

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