Sankar Talks: Options in Life & Health Insurance

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(The story of two young men and a woman)

You might find the title to be weird.. Options in Life & Health Insurance – What have they got to do with each other??

Let me share with you the stories – real life ones:

Shiva is into IT. Was working for a multinational IT major. Shiva has always had the entrepreneurial streak in him. From his IIT days, his cherished dream is to do something on his own. ‘Knock Knock’ came the opportunity, when, after an Alumni meet, Shiva and his 6 IIT mates spent time on some coffee. The Idea of doing something on their own got tossed up and around, and, bingo, in a month’s time, all seven had given up their lucrative employments and started an ITES company of their own. Each of them were quite prepared for a situation where, during the first couple of years of their new company, what they can take home would be far less than the salaries they were earning – as can only be expected with any start-up venture. While this was expected, unfortunately the unexpected happened. Shiva’s father contracted a major ailment, and it was diagnosed that he will have to undergo a series of hospitalization processes for a few years to come. Shiva and the other co-promoters were quite willing to take a Group Medical Insurance, but for such a small group size, a Group Medical cover with pre-existing illness cover was just not available. Today Shiva is back behind his desk, laboring as an employee with another IT major, since that is the only way he can get an insurance which would include his father and also cover pre-existing illnesses. His dream even became a reality but he could not be a part of it.

And then, there is Sucheta and Gaurav. Working for a multi-national BPO. Gaurav had moved in from NCR on promotion. They met in an Employee Engagement Programme. Cupid was just waiting for that moment. The Chemistry was instantaneous. Once Cupid has arrived with the Bow & Arrow, the Stork cannot be far behind. After a year of romantic courtship and two years of blissful matrimony – the bundle of joy arrived in the form of a baby boy. The first discussion they had as Gourav was driving Sucheta and the new-born home from the maternity home was on why not Sucheta stay at home and give all of herself to the child. Like in almost all other things, on this also they were of the same opinion – that Sucheta should take a sabbatical. But then, that very evening they had a tearful phone call from Sucheta’s mother – Dad is serious and is hospitalized. Another situation that would involve prolonged and repeated hospitalization. And that was the end of any talk or thought on Sucheta’s sabbatical because, like with the vast majority of Companies, the Group Mediclaim Insurance provided by Sucheta’s Company included parents of employees but not parents-in-law. If Sucheta were to put in her papers, the cover available to her father would cease. Even if she managed to get an individual insurance for her father at his age (which, in itself, is near impossible), there is no way she could get an insurance for him that will cover his current hospitalization and any further hospitalization for treatment of his current ailment. And the cost of his treatment would have simply crippled the family economically. So.. the daughter Sucheta gave way to the mother Sucheta; she continued with her employment and lives to regret till today that she had not been able to give quality time to her son.

Manoj was my student in his part time MBA. A bright young man employed with a Financial Services Company, he was in seventh heaven when, in his very first appraisal, he got a hefty hike. He promptly married the girl he was devotedly in love with from college days and settled down. A few months down the line, he started feeling a strange kind of numbness in his fingers. When this discomfort developed into distress - when one morning he realized he couldn’t even grip things with his hand, he went through a series of consultations. The diagnosis was a disease that shocked him out of his wits. He was immediately admitted; the hospitalization lasted three months; only to be followed by a series of follow-up hospitalizations and day-care procedures. Thanks to the brilliance of the Indian Medical fraternity, Manoj is completely cured today. But the 2 Lac Medical Insurance that his employer had provided did not see him through even the first 15 days of his initial hospitalization. Today he is spending a larger part of his take home salary servicing the debts he has run up to meet his hospital bills than he is spending on his lovely wife and even lovelier daughter.

Manoj, Sucheta and Shiva are just three out of the multitude of such cases I had come across in my near 3 decades of insurance experience.

And the common refrain with which any conversation I have with any of these people ends is with their telling me “If only I had listened to you when you kept insisting I should have an individual family health insurance in addition to the Group Health Insurance provided by my  employer..”

They did not listen. Are YOU listening?

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