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New India Assurance Launches premium Mediclaim product

MUMBAI: Leading state-run general insurer New India Assurance Company today said it will soon launch a new premium Mediclaim product as a part of its efforts to resolve the issue over the cashless health cover, which the state-run players had discontinued early July alleging inflated billing by hospitals.

The move is also aimed at bringing corporate hospitals under its fold, Ramadoss said, adding it is adding three Delhi-based leading corporate hospitals-Gangaram, Max and Medicity to its empanelled list of hospitals for this scheme.

The IRDA Chairman's remarks came a day after the Delhi High Court asked the insurance regulator to sort out the imbroglio over the cashless facility to policyholders in major hospitals across the country. The regulator, however, held the view that it could do nothing in this regard.

"We have long moved away from the administered price regime and it is for the market forces to determine the price of their products," Narayan further said, adding there might be co-payees or higher premium products for these five-star hospitals, which the insurers should decide.

Clarifying on the PSU insurers' recent decision to discontinue cashless policies, Ramadoss said, the company was never against cashless claims but wanted some clarity on the tariffs being charged by most of the hospitals empanelled, which the insurance industry felt were inflated.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:  

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

Though the idea may sound promoting the Free Market regime, there is inherent flaw in the thought process.    

  • In India, when the insurance is still not reached to masses, we are already jumping to provide benefit for Class. This way, we are also promoting the thought of luxury lifestyle in healthcare when thousands of people do not have basic access to healthcare.


  • How an ordinary person will know when he will need treatment at “Premium Corporate Hospital” hospital? The basic mistake is in classifying these hospitals as “Big Corporate Hospital”. They are tertiary care hospitals & are competent to handle complex cases. A person cannot predict when s/he will have disease that can be treated only at such hospitals. Then how such person will decide in life whether to buy such product or not.

The insurers should classify the ailments as primary, secondary & tertiary care and then accredit the hospitals on same basis. Then insurer could define the rates at such hospitals & ensure that quality treatment is made available at such hospitals for given price. If the customer still wishes to go to Tertiary care hospital (as per insurers, Big Hospital), s/he can do so but should be paid only the amount that one would spend at secondary or primary care hospital.

Mahavir Chopra:

Mahavir Chopra from Medimanage.com

I agree with Sudhir.

When does a common man like you and me take decision of going to a Corporate Large Hospital. It’s in most cases when the case is complex or an emergency. Like Purandar once said, If someone suffers from a stroke he needs to be taken to a place where an MRI can be carried out. He cannot avoid going to a large hospital just because his policy does not cover this hospital.

The mass population does not look at going to a large hospital for small surgeries like a cataract of a hernia operation, he/she would go to a local nursing home through reference of his/her general physician. What is being done here is penalizing everyone for some people with hideous intentions to misuse the insurance for cashing the best out of the coverage. More scientific caps/limits to common treatments would help in getting control over such claims. In addition to room rent limits which already brings in some amount of control, the associated costs increase due to higher room rent should be brought under capping under the policy wordings.

IRDA plans new health insurance rules

On Monday, J Harinarayan, Chairman, IRDA said “The mechanisms are being put in place to improve efficiency in health insurance and administration. Expert committees of industry bodies like CII and FICCI have recommended measures including uniform claim forms, re-authorization. We are also looking into aspects related to billing,” he said. As of July 1 328 hospitals were in the network for cashless facility across four cities namely Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru. However, they withdrew from the same citing steep charges.

“They (hospitals) have renegotiated rates and as per the last count, over 390 have signed up with the partnership network,” he said.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

The initiatives like Uniform Claims Form, Uniform Pre-authorisation form, though look very simple, will add greatly to simplicity of administration.

Apart from the major reforms like cashless hospitalisation, premium rationalisation, the administrative reforms like this would hugely benefit the customers.

Cashless facility heal thyself

Unfortunately, despite the growth and their leading market share, state-owned insurers have not been able to give focused attention to health insurance through the creation of a health insurance division. The grapevine has it that the current imbroglio over cashless is partly because of differences between two senior executives entrusted with health insurance in a leading public sector firm. Instead of arriving at a middle of the road solution, such as asking for co-pay or segmenting their policies, PSU insurers have chosen to renege on their contracts with policyholders and withdraw cashless facilities with most of the tertiary-care hospitals. The result of this decision has been a frenzied round of finger pointing which makes it almost impossible to state the problem.

Insurers have alleged that hospitals are padding up their bills for policyholders. This is in sharp contrast to the practice in markets, such as the US, where insurers are able to bargain for better discounts. They have therefore decided to flex their muscles and have stayed away from the negotiating table, despite feelers from hospitals.

Third-party administrators (TPAs) have all along been having fights with hospitals over the need for tests and billings. This has resulted in TPAs being blacklisted from time to time. Hospitals, on their part, accuse TPAs of interference in medical decisions, needless harassment caused by their verification processes and delay in receiving reimbursement. “The days of naadi shastra are over. Today, we can decide on treatment only after conducting tests. TPAs cannot apply the wisdom of hindsight and tell us that a particular test was unnecessary,” says a medical director of a leading hospital in South Mumbai, defending the medical practices of using the process of elimination through various tests.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

Cashless hospitalisation is not a product in itself but an extended service for a core product of indemnity against hospitalisation expenses. However, this has been an attractive product feature & has helped in popularisation of Mediclaim in Urban India. However, this has been abused by some hospitals most of the time or most of the hospitals some of the times. Though the insurers are trying to bring in underwriting discipline to improve claims performance, they also are trying to make the consumption efficient & hence, this upheaval that we are witnessing in the market.

Though the hospitals (and doctors) may not like interference in their treatment, some amount of questioning & control will happen from the Insurers & TPAs. Doctors, being not habituated to such interference (In India, we treat them like God but abroad, they are always questioned & challenged) they feel threatened but with changing time, need to be open & educative.

Medical exigencies and an empty wallet

When faced with a medical emergency, you pay cash or use your credit card, instead of asking why the hospital is not accepting your cashless medical insurance. This is exactly what harassed consumers found out when health insurance companies recently stopped cashless treatment making customers pay first and then get reimbursed.

Health insurers blamed private hospitals of inflating bills that were paid by the insurance companies. On July 1, four public sector insurers New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance, United India Insurance and National Insurance stopped cashless insurance services in some big hospitals in big cities.

Instead of cashless, these insurers are planning to introduce a new variant - Premium Mediclaim. You will be charged a higher premium than a regular health insurance policy to avail cashless facility at major hospitals.


* Evaluate an additional plan- Can use a combination of plans 

* Evaluate switching the plan (not a preferred option)

* Create a corpus for health emergencies- Replenish the corpus with the refund from the insurer 

* Credit cards can save in urgent times - Own one card with decent limit

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

As we have repeated maintained that the differential product with high premium for claiming expenses in big hospitals is akin to legitimizing their higher charges for standard procedures.
We will continue to maintain our stand that the efficient network needs to have primary, secondary and tertiary care hospitals in right proportion of strength. Then only, the PPN would be a workable reality.
Buying another policy with higher premium would not be a feasible idea in long term. We must look at rationalizing the consumption pattern of healthcare seekers thru health insurance.
Creation of personal Health Fund (starting at early age) by investing in mutual funds with tax benefits (lock-in of 3 Years) would be a good intermediate strategy to supplement your existing health insurance till the confusion over health insurance benefits is resolved.

Pay higher premium, go cashless to big hospitals: insurance plan in the works

To break the stalemate with big corporate hospitals, the four state-owned insurers are planning to introduce a new variant of health cover — the Premium Mediclaim. Subscribers will be charged a premium higher than that of a regular health insurance policy, but will be offered cashless facility at all major hospitals on the insurer’s network.

“Big hospitals have agreed to revise their package rates and share it with us in a few days. We will compare it with a list of ‘reasonable rates’ that we have prepared in consultation with doctors and third party administrators (TPAs). If they are within a reasonable range, it is fine. Else, we may introduce a premium product for customers who insist on getting treated at 5-star hospitals,” an insurance official privy to the negotiations told The Indian Express.

The four general insurers — National Insurance, New India Assurance, United India and Oriental Insurance — had taken about 150 hospitals, including the big ones, off their network list from July 1 following instances of differential treatment and charges for insured patients.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

Underwriting, which is one of the most important part of Insurance, is based on minimising risk & identifying innovative solutions to make the product attractive. The idea being used here lacks both. It’s like if the hospitals are charging “high” let them charge high. If there are buyers who want to buy this, we will have product to match.

Another way to look at it is the “adverse selection” angle of the insurance. Insurers deny risks which are basically skewed and which may bring heavy losses to them without any doubt. The basic premise of this product is that the insurer is ready to pay claims in big hospitals. Then the buys would be those selective members who wish to spend money. The premium being high, the insurer would have tendency to recover & will consume high, not because he needs it but because he has paid higher premium for it. It’s akin to those members in current scenario who buy 5,00,000 cover & then go to big hospital & spend 3.5 lakhs for a simple Hernia or Gall Bladder. These are the tendencies which are bringing losses to insurers (apart from other lack of controls & faulty underwriting) & one more product like this will only further the losses.

Cashles Chaos: Making sense of it all

News Flash:  “The General Insurance Public Sector Association consisting of four major state-run insurance companies - United India, New India, Oriental Insurance and National Insurance have decided to stop cash-less hospitalization in most hospitals”

Shock and outrage are the two words that describe the reaction of most of the customers and media reports on this piece of news.  We demanded to know how insurance companies could take such a decision one fine day, and what would the customer do. 

Before creation of PPN (Preferred Provider Network  by the Public health insurance companies, media and the industry experts were congratulating the sector for the phenomenal growth. It is this decision which has caused a huge backlash from all around- ustomers, hospitals, media and other insurance experts.

Cashless Chaos: The Blame Game

Let’s understand the issue:

There have been various reports about overcharging by the hospitals and the lack of standard pricing. The TPAs as well as the hospitals have been blamed by everyone for being the perpetrators for the huge losses faced by the insurance industry in their health portfolio. And now, without as much as a warning, the public health insurers have delisted most of the hospitals from their existing network of hospitals, creating PPN.

Insurers’ Stand: Insurance industry faces losses amounting to  thousands of crores each year now. Last year the losses further skyrocketed  and for these losses the Insurance industry is blaming the lack of standardized pricing in hospitals along with the trend of hospitals to overcharge the insured patients.  GIPSA has also criticized the TPAs overall efficiency in keeping the claims down.

Hospitals’ Stand: The corporate hospitals believe that they are being unfairly targeted by the health insurance companies., They argue that the price they charge is proportional to the quality of care they provide. Since the kind of care in a 100 bed hospital with latest technology will be different from that in a 15 bed hospital, cost of healthcare in a large, private hospital is more.

TPA’s Stand: TPAs are being blamed of everything from inefficiency to not controlling fraudulent claims. There is immense amount of pressure on TPAs to bring down the claims and there is talk that the PSUs may opt for a single common TPA. Abhitabh Gupta, CEO, Paramount TPA says “ TPAs cannot be blamed for the losses primarily because, most of the PSU Insurance companies had underwritten health insurance at an extremely low cost sometimes even selling Rs. 1 policies, so it is but natural that they would suffer from losses. Further medical inflation has been increasing at a rate of 10-15 % while the premiums are not increasing at the same rate.” He says TPAs weren’t given the rights to meddle with the treatment and unless there is some change in their role, TPAs can’t do much.

Customer’s stand: Customers are caught in the crossfire between Hospitals and Health insurance companies and they feel cheated. Since Cashless facility is now limited to extremely small number of hospitals; customers have to pay the medical bills from their own pockets and then claim reimbursement.

With Brokers being the neutral catalysts in the health insurance domain, we sought theopinion of Sudhir Sarnobat, Founder of Medimanage Insurance Broking Pvt. Ltd on this issue:

Whether Health insurance companies are justified in delisting the hospitals in the middle of the policy:“The policy periods are of one year and at any point you take a decision, itwill be mid-term for some members and hence, we cannot hold insurer responsible for this. People look at benefit of insurance claim and that’s the core product which insurer is not refusing. If insurer finds issues with non-core benefits, they have the right to tinker with them.

Also, Health Insurance in India is currently in nascent stage and hence, the stable decision making would take a little time. One MUST not forget that this portfolio is loss-making and hence, under pressure to reduce losses, insurers are taking some sudden decisions as they are not too worried about consumer reactions”  

Blame game between insurance companies and hospitals

On Corporate Hospitals taking advantage of the system:I think that these corporate hospitals have taken advantage of the system and not offered negotiated rates when insurance is their single largest customer. It’s actually clash of egos and I think after 3-6 months, both Insurers as well as Hospitals will come to sense and will resolve this in an amicable manner when the industry bodies will act as mediators. I think IRDA may also step in”.

 On Grading of Hospitals: “The grading is a very common concept and it will help manage the cost of treatment well and will help in creation of centers of excellence. Why should a person go to Lilavati (Premium hospital in Mumbai) hospital for Hernia just because he has bought 5 Lakh or 10 Lakh cover. It’s a secondary care procedure and hence, should be managed in a  secondary care hospital.”

On the impact of this move on the customer: This (move) may bring the malpractices and over-billing to check. However, I would maintain that you need to have tertiary care hospitals in network as smaller hospitals do not have the facilities, infrastructure and manpower to manage complex procedures. “

On 10.3% of Service tax for Cashless Facility: “That’s not fair as its an additional burden. It’s discriminatory as it’s meant for Cashless Insurance patients only. But as it’s a decision by Union Government, the consumer forums/bodies should take it up with Government.”

On whether this move to curtail hospitals in the Network list will make Health insurance unattractive:
“It’s a need of the hour and once the insurance penetration and clout increases, hospitals will try to be compliant with Insurers’ requirements. This would bring in cost consciousness along with customer focus. The churning what we are seeing now is good for long term sustained development of the industry and hence, one should not look at this as negative or unattractive”


Timeline for Cashless Hospitalization issue:

July 1: GIPSA (General Insurance Public Sector Association) delists most of the Private hospitals in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai from their PPN (Preferred Provider Network) list. (Of the 800 hospitals in Mumbai only 90 remained)

July 13: Insurance Company leaders and Top Corporate hospitals met to increase the number of hospitals in the list.

  • It was decided that there would different grades of hospitals depending on the quality of health care provided; there would also be a common rate card across the hospitals.
  • It was decided to revive the cashless facility on a case to case basis.

July 15: A Public notice by Public Insurance companies made it clear that Cashless Facility will only be resumed once the hospitals adhered to the conditions of the Insurance companies. 

July 18: There is news that even Private insurance companies are looking at joining the PPN Network.


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