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Online health covers aren't for all

By Neha Pandey Deoras
June 15, 2013 08:51 IST
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First-time buyers advised to take offline route, so are those looking for specific feature or higher cover.

When confused between buying an online insurance plan and an offline one (that is, through a company or agent), most experts will suggest the online plan because of the low cost. But, are lower premiums good enough reason to buy health covers online?

Online health info popular but often unchecked. Photograph: Bazuki Muhammad/ReutersNot necessarily. Some still believe a traditional plan has an edge over its online counterpart. For one, raising a claim is easier as an agent can play a vital role. Even for a cashless plan, where it is often argued that an agent is not required, agents could be of help.

Then, in the event of hospitalisation, the insured and / or his family will have to handle the claim procedures if the policy has been bought online.

But importantly, those with a medical condition -congenital, pre-existing or any other uncommon medical disorder - should take the offline route as they won't find a cover online. Hence, it is suggested that such individuals buy a plan through an insurance company or an agent after a thorough medical test, says KG Krishnamoorthy Rao, managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) of Future Generali General Insurance.

Similarly, first-time buyers are suggested to buy insurance offline so that they can learn about product features in detail from an advisor and are informed about what they are buying. Online you may find a variety to choose from but may not find all policy details in the brochure. Experts say many find finer details in the policy document, which comes after the policy has been bought and not in the policy brochures available online -- for instance, the type of jaundice that can be covered.

Same is the case with senior citizens, they can buy a plan only after a medical test. Hence, they won't find any product online once they punch in their age, as senior citizens are high-risk for insurers.

Says Arvind Ladhha of Vantage Insurance Broker, "Online route is best suited for those who are looking to buy a generic plan or a standard health plan. If one is looking to buy a specific plan or one with some specific feature(s), say diabetes cover, then they would be disappointed online. The difference between features in online health plans is very minimal."

Also, if you are looking to buy a bigger cover, say up to Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million) or more, you won't find it online, says Amarnath Ananthnarayanan, CEO of Bharti AXA General Insurance. While the maximum sum assured offered online differs from insurer to insurer, it mostly does not exceed Rs 500,000.

At the same time, experts suggest youngsters (in the 20s) who run a higher risk of hospitalisation due to accidents or those with dependants, should buy personal accident cover online as these are cheaper than health covers and do not require tests.

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Neha Pandey Deoras in Bangalore
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