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TPAs plan to double the service charges

Come October 1 and third party administrators (TPA) that service health insurance claims will double the service charges they claim from non-life insurance companies. This may lead to a hike in health insurance premiums if insurers choose to pass it on to consumers.

At present, TPA charges 5.25 per cent of the premium paid by policyholders as service fee. This is the amount insurance companies are charged for processing health claims, storage of data, issuing pre-authorization for cashless hospitalisation and checking fraudulent claims.

“We will be asking public sector insurers to double service charges from 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the premium, as we will be out of business once public sector non-life insurance companies launch their own TPA. Since we are paid on a quarterly basis, in case the insurers refuse to pay, we will stop servicing new policies from January 1,” said the chief executive officer of a leading TPA who attended the EGM.

SK Mahapatra, a spokes­person for the TPA association, confirmed the development.

TPAs have also sought a meeting with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) to present a comprehensive report, containing proof and details of wrong underwriting practices used by the public sector insurers, which are causing them losses in the health business. Similar facts were highlighted in a recent report of the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India as well.

“The report will contain names of 200 companies which were charged lower premium on renewals despite bringing huge claims in the previous years. The report will also show employees of insurance companies have been consciously selling health policies to sick people. We will submit this report to the government and the media as well,” said a CEO of a TPA.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

TPAs are asking for hike in fees because they are expecting a loss in revenue when all four PSU insurers would come out with their own TPA. This cannot be the reason for fee hike. They should justify the value brought in OR should bring forward the components of various costs incurred by them and show the deficit between value/cost versus remuneration received by them. Loss in business or insurer’s faulty underwriting cannot be the basis for hike in fee percentage.

We are surprised to know that TPAs are making these comments & bringing out issues of wrong underwriting prctices only now when their existence is questioned. This shows that despite of being custodian of insurance company’s claims money (which means outflow), they did not share these concerns then & adopted an attitude of appeasement of insurers. TPAs should introspect & check what has brought them to this position. They will find that their own disregard for insurer’s interest & sloppy claims processing are major reasons why they are being blamed for overall mess in health insurance field.

Purandar Bhavani from Medimanage.com

All kinds of news are currently floating in the media and the industry regarding the Cashless Mediclaim. After PSU Insurance Companies taking a stand to stop Cashless at some high ended hospitals in top cities, as a reverse salvo Hospitals in Mumbai have united against Insurance companies and decided to refuse cashless hospitalization.

There is always a danger of adverse reactions against unilateral decisions. A PPN can be successful only if it is a buyer’s market. Else there has to be a genuine consensus between the carriers and the providers. Here are some facts to get a perspective:

  • Currently India has beds to population ratio of 0.9 : 1000. The recommended WHO beds to population ratio is 3 : 1000 and in India, the recommended ratio is 2 : 1000. This deficit is over 50%. Critical care beds are generally 20% of the total beds. In India apart from the new breed hospitals most centers have up to 10-13% so one can imagine the paucity of critical and life saving beds in India.
  • Insurance penetration is mostly in the urban and semi urban sector and among the middle class and above population.

  • Internationally, in the USA the current government is looking at 85 cents per dollar claim out go. Brazil, an economy similar to ours also has a similar outgo. In comparison, Indian health insurance claims are about 130%.
  • All the beds are not equitable. A general ward in a government hospital is crammed beyond capacity and sometimes over 1 one patient per bed. The nurse to patient ratio is probably 1 nurse for 15 patients. As opposed to this the private hospitals have a better nurse to patient ratio and super-specialty hospitals have close to 3 nurses per patient.
  • In the absence of a concerted governance mechanism, all the players (Carriers, TPAs and Providers) are pulling in their own direction stretching this social measure to break point.


  • India is clearly not a buyer’s market and the healthcare providers will continue to dictate the price at least for some time.
  • Insurance companies are here to making profits albeit marginal on this portfolio, but certainly losses are not acceptable.
  • With over 80% of the paid claims being for private hospitals, the preference of the customer is very obvious. This is a reality and hence a consensus most desired. One of the methods to do this is the RBRVS. This is the Resource Based Relative Value System. Giving a layman perspective, in this system, the pricing is done based on the resources used for a particular procedure. The insurer could identify a hospital well know for quality and ethics as the bench mark. In tandem with this hospital, the insurer could identify various procedures, the complexities involved, the resources utilized and the costing. This should cover the entire spectrum of hospitalization. Once this is done a tariff card can be brought out. This tariff is a relative value and will change with the type of hospital and the region.
  • A strong governance mechanism should be put in place (this is the responsibility of the health ministry) to ensure that at the end of the day the average citizen is not taken for a ride.

TPAs to move competition panel against PSU insurers

The association of third party administrators (TPA) has decided to move the Competition Commission of India (CCI) against the four public sector non-life insurance companies and their association, called General Insurers Public Sector Association of India (Gipsa), for forming a cartel and abusing their dominant market position in planning their own TPA outfit.

“The TPA floated by Gipsa companies will result in cartelization, market dominance and monopolisation,” the TPA association alleged in its letter to the insurance regulator.

The association said the move would lead to stopping of fresh investments and huge lay-offs by existing TPAs. “The entire business model introduced by the insurance regulator will get destroyed. This is anti-consumer and anti-competition,” Mahapatra said.

When contacted, M Ramadoss, chairman and managing director of New India Assurance, said, “Let us first get the notice. We will then decide what we should do? The TPAs have all the right to do approach the CCI.”

“The move will result in closure of all existing TPA companies. This will give rise to an arbitrary increase of premium, refusal of policies to the elderly, restrictions on cashless network, favouritism under the guise of preferred network of hospitals and corruption,” the TPAs alleged in their letter to Irda.

“How can an organisation owned by the insurers be a TPA to service their clients?” the association asked.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

All four Public Sector Insurance companies coming together & deciding for a single TPA could be interpreted as Cartelisation as these four govt. companies are separate legal entities.

However, the TPAs cannot force an insurance company to use their services & insurance companies have been selecting TPAs for their various offices based on capability, fees charged, claims processing quality & technology implementation. Instead of going for an open tender, all four companies can have a tacit understanding among them & select, may be just one TPA, for servicing all their claims. After-all, we have examples of Pvt. Insurers going in for their own TPAs & hence, you cannot stop Insurers from setting up their own TPA.

So it’s not what is being done that is questioned? It’s about who is doing it & the manner in which this is being done that makes it questionable.

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.

Health Insurance Companies to extend cashless facility in emergency and trauma cases

MUMBAI: In a major relief to health insurance policy-holders, public sector insurance companies have announced that cashless treatment will be extended to all hospitals in emergency and trauma cases.

During a healthcare meeting with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) in New Delhi on Friday, New India Assurance Company chairman M Ramadoss said a patient who requires emergency and trauma services will be attended to through the cashless scheme in all TPA-empanelled hospitals.

An official from the PSU said that emergency and trauma cases will have to be certified by third party administrators (TPAs) in order to avail of the cashless benefits. There are a total of 24 TPAs which are linked with the Gipsa (General Insurance Public Association), a body comprising the four public sector general insurance companies — New India Assurance Company, National Insurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and United India Insurance Company. The official said that planned or elective surgeries such as bypass, knee replacement and cataract among others, do not fall under the category of emergency or trauma cases.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

This is a welcome change & as we had always maintained, a dialogue between insurers & the hospitals only can bring this imbroglio to successful resolution.

As mush the hospitals need the Insurers to maintain their revenues, the insurers need the Tertiary care hospitals to ensure that the high-cost treatments are offered to their customers on cashless basis. The changes in the health insurance market are just beginning & the industry will have lots of up-downs In near future and will continue to remain in news.

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.


Recently, we came across news in an online Publication, in.news.yahoo.com

Common TPA to process the health insurance claims

Chennai, July 11 (IANS) The four government-owned non-life insurers -- National Insurance, New India Assurance, Oriental Insurance and United India Insurance-- will soon be taking forward their idea of floating a common third party administrator (TPA) to process the health insurance claims.

'We will be issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) shortly. Our requirements will be specified in the RFP so that interested parties can submit their proposals,' New India Assurance Chairman and Managing Director M. Ramadoss told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

Consulting firm KPMG had given a report on the feasibility of setting up a common TPA by the four companies a year ago.

The four insurers, which together do around Rs.6,000 crore of health insurance business selling several lakhs of polices, are not happy with the manner in which claims are being processed and settled by the existing  TPAs.

To read full news, click here

Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

Common claims settling agency will be a death knell for the Third Party Administrators which are approved & regulated by Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority.

Already the Private Insurers like ICICI Lombard, Bajaj Allianz, Star Health & Max Bupa have gone for their own TPAs. Hence the business available for 27 independent TPAs would be negligible & that would be the end of TPAs.

As the TPA is an independent agency, the claims settlement happens in impartial manner. However, with an insurer based TPA, we would see rise in mal-practices & consumer rights violation as all disputed case may not be resolved thru’ proper escalation mechanism. The consumers may have to take those cases up in Consumer Court which may not be a path that all aggrieved member would follow for lack of time & will. This may result in dissatisfaction.

It would be interesting to recall that the insurers used to manage the claims themselves till year 2002 (before TPAs stepped in). As the efficiency levels of the PSU insurers are still very low, it would not be wrong to assume that this TPA will work with similar efficiency levels. Also, with multiple TPAs, there is competition & the TPAs are forced to improve their performance (at least at the corporate sector which amounts to 50% premium). This lack of competitive spirit may further decline the service levels of the insurance claims settlement process.  

Purandar Bhavani:

Purandar Bhavani from Medimanage.com

The PSU insurer's concern about spiraling claims is justified but the means adopted does not seem to make complete sense.
Any decision has to take into consideration the following:
1) Continued availability of affordable health insurance.
2) Ensuring convenient utilization.
3) Benchmarking and standardizing healthcare delivery.
4) Providing practical, achievable and common guidelines to TPAs to achieve the outcome desired by the insurers.

5) Ensuring that the TPAs have the desired bandwidth to offer the solutions.
All of the above are interdependent in varying degrees.

For health insurance to continue to be affordable, the insurers have to recognize the fact that unless they is some mechanism for deciding on and standardizing the healthcare delivery costs, the premiums would only continue to rise. The premiums have shot up over 50% in some age bands in the recent correction. For the mechanism to be in place the onus squarely lies on the insurers and the government. There are such structures in place worldwide and it should not be too difficult for us to implement these. Needless to say, such an activity has to involve the healthcare providers and the TPAs.

Once a rationale is decided, it is then the duty of the TPAs to implement the program and manage it efficiently. The TPAs had been instituted, among other things, for the purpose of ensuring convenient utilization of the health insurance. It is erroneous to say that the TPAs are inefficient. One has to remember that they are always in the line of fire and are still manage the show reasonable well. It is because of the TPAs that there is now a semblance of data available which can be the basis of any analysis. Yes, there should be a re-evaluation of the TPAs and those having robust processes and efficient delivery should be shortlisted by the insurers. This will automatically weed out the inefficient ones. TPAs alone are not to be blamed for high loss ratios. The insurers are to share the blame equally. Currently the 7,000 Cr health insurance premium is divided 60:40 in favour of the corporate i.e. the group policies. Almost all of these policies operate more as a finance mechanism than an insurance cover. All covers from Day 1.

True, there could be rouge TPAs, but that is what an evaluation is expected to find out. A common claims settling agency is also not the right approach.

1) It is contrary to the concept of instituting TPAs.
2) We are not functioning in a unitary environment. There has to be competition for progress and growth.
3) There is danger of monopoly.
4) The apparatus could become a monolith, another government.
5) Customer satisfaction will be compromised.
6) Fresh ideas will be hard to come by.

A better approach would be to segregate the business into about 6-8 zones and have 1 TPA for each zone. By this, we can

1) Push TPAs to capitalize on local strengths, create strong processes and improve on efficiencies.
2) Achieve greater customer satisfaction.
3) Create an environment of fair play and competition.
4) Create a strong basis for comparison between TPAs.
5) Have new thoughts and ideas coming to the fore which can be better implemented.
6) Eliminate monopoly.

I am hopeful that saner senses will prevail while deciding on a solution and the competent authorities will place the consumer’s interest above all. The cycle of high hospital bills and therefore high claim ratios, therefore higher premiums and restrictions are only making life for the common man that much more difficult. My father’s premium has gone up by 30%. Delisting hospitals and TPAs seems rather a kneejerk reaction and obviously not the solution for stemming high claims.  

Recently, we came across news in an online Publication, mydigitalfc.com

Health insurance policyholders may face problems as I-T dept seals TPA accounts

Several health insurance policyholders may face problems in getting cashless hospitalisation as the income tax department has sealed accounts of several third party intermediaries (TPAs) for non-payment of tax deducted at source (TDS).

Industry officials say TPAs whose accounts have been sealed are Mumbai headquartered Pa­ramount Health Services, United Healthcare Services, Dedic­ated Health Care Ser­vices and Health India TPA.

Industry sources said sealing of accounts means that the TPA cannot render its services till the issue is settled. TPAs are inte­rm­ediar­ies between the ins­ured, ho­spital and the insu­rance fi­rm and facilitate hospitali­sation of the insu­red by pay­ing the hospital from fu­nds allocated to them by insurance firms.

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Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

This is purely the area of failure to fulfil the obligation of deducting the TDS from the payments made to Hospital.

Though the insurance claims pay-outs to individuals are not treated as income, the pay-outs to hospital are treated as income by the hospital & the TDS should have been applied. This was not done by the TPAs & hence, the Income Tax department has taken this action.

As the TPAs in South have been able to manage a Stay on the order, there is a precedent & the issue should get resolved without any major disruptions. Also as IRDA (which regulates TPAs) & Income Tax Dept. both report to same ministry, an amicable solution can be identified to ensure that policy holder is not hassled unnecessarily.

Recently, we came across news in an online Publication, business-standard.com

Withdrawal of cashless service for Mediclaim.

The decision by public sector health insurance companies to deny cashless services to their clients has been criticised by Fortis, a leading corporate healthcare chain.

Chains such as Fortis generate a significant portion of their revenue through health insurance policy reimbursements.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry was also critical. Pointing out that private insurance firms are managing to offer cashless services to policy holders, it wanted public sector firms to review their decision to suddenly withdraw this facility. “Withdrawal of an important component of a financial contract without sufficient notice is not fair and just,” it said. National Insurance Co Ltd, New India Assurance Co Ltd, Oriental Insurance Co Ltd and United India Insurance Co Ltd have said many leading hospitals are charging exorbitantly for treatments offered to insurance-protected patients. The hospitals say the problem is not with their fare structure, but with the policy packages offered by the insurance firms.

To read full news, click here

Experts from Medimanage.com give their opinion:

Sudhir Sarnobat:

Sudhir Sarnobat from Medimanage.com

Though there are cases of inflated billing from hospitals, that’s not the sole reason for higher claims. An Hernia is a secondary care surgery but often, insurance patients get this done in Tertiary care hospital because there is no norm that restricts the person from not visiting such hospitals. The normal cost of 30-35 K goes up to 60-70K because the overheads of such hospitals are higher. This generally inflates the cost but cannot be termed as wrong-doing by the hospital.

The higher claims ratio has two components: One is Premium & the Other is claims. For better claims ratio, the correct premium pricing is also an important factor. The way the premium pricing is done currently is also faulty & hence, that’s an area which needs to be looked into too.

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