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3 more standalone firms to enter health insurance

T E Narasimhan in Chennai | February 03, 2009 12:46 IST

Three more standalone health insurers are likely to join the race for grabbing a chunk of the general insurance pie. Only two standalone insurers -- Chennai-based Star Health and Allied Insurance and Apollo DKV Insurance -- are operating in this sector, which is poised to clock Rs 28,000 crore (Rs 280 billion) by 2015.

According to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority's data in 2007-08, the health insurance segment was estimated to be around Rs 5,152 crore (Rs 51.52 billion), with only 2 per cent of the total population being covered. Realising the potential and advantages -- the segment has been growing at 37 per cent since 2002 -- both life and non-life insurers have already started offering health insurance products.

For instance, health insurance in 2007-08 accounted for 0.2 per cent of the individual regular premium for life insurance companies in India. For non-life insurers, it formed a significant proportion of the business, accounting for around 18 per cent of the total gross written premium, according to a KPMG study.

The industry's potential has attracted global brands. For instance, Max Bupa Health Insurance (Max Bupa), a joint venture between Max India [Get Quote] and UK-headquartered British United Provident Association (Bupa), would begin to roll out its first health insurance policy in eight to 10 months. Other majors who have evinced interest to start health insurance companies include Aetna, CIGNA and Fortis, according to a senior industry representative.

Adding to this, both government and the people have now started becoming conscious about their health and the cost, said V Jagannathan, chairman and managing director, Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, India's first standalone health insurance company. Star Health had bagged contracts from Haryana and Andhra Pradesh governments to offer health cover for people living below poverty line and is getting premium income of over Rs 360 crore (Rs 3.6 billion).

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