Coimbatore-based Hani Harrise, 21, was diagnosed with dengue in August 2015. His platelet count dropped to 40,000. Platelet count between 150,000 and 450,000 for every microlitre of blood is considered healthy. “I was hospitalized for 10 days because the situation was severe. I didn’t have health insurance, so we ended up spending around ₹28,000 for my treatment,” said Harrise. Fortunately for Harrise, his family was able to absorb the unforeseen cost, but that might not be true for many.
According to data from National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), the number of dengue cases rose to 188,401 in 2017 from less than 60,000 in 2009. The mosquito-borne disease killed 325 people in 2017. Till September last year, 83 people had lost their lives to dengue in India. Treatment for dengue can be expensive, especially because more severe cases can require hospitalization for an extended period of time. To cover the costs associated with the illness, some insurers such as Apollo Munich Health Insurance offer a stand-alone dengue cover, which is also sold through brokers such as Toffee Insurance. ICICI Lombard General Insurance has tied up with Paytm, and Aditya Birla Health Insurance sells its dengue product through financial services company Bajaj Finserv. But is a dengue-specific insurance policy useful?
What is it?
Dengue insurance is a pocket-sized policy that helps you cover costs if you get diagnosed with the disease. The policy covers both inpatient and outpatient expenses. Inpatient benefits typically cover the hospitalization expenses for 24 hours and above, pre-hospitalization costs such as medical expenses incurred before being admitted, and post-hospitalization medical expenses. Outpatient benefits include fees for consultation by a general medical practitioner, diagnostic tests if you test positive for dengue, all medication, provided they are prescribed for the treatment of dengue, and home nursing which includes expenses for necessary medical treatment taken by the insured from an empanelled medical professional at home. The premiums range from ₹49 to ₹682 depending on the insurer, sum assured, benefits and exclusions. The sum insured is ₹10,000 to ₹1 lakh. “The premium for this policy remains the same, irrespective of your age. These plans can be claimed simultaneously with other existing health insurance policies,” said Balachander Sekhar, chief executive officer, RenewBuy.com, an insurance aggregator. Keep in mind that most dengue policies don’t cover individuals under the age of 18. Most insurers offering this product will also not process your claim if you get infected within 15-30 days of purchasing the policy. The cost of treatment could be high and it’s necessary to be financially prepared. “The average cost of dengue treatment in metro cities is ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh, and in non-metros it’s ₹25,000- 75,000,” said Mallesh Readdy, co-founder and chief executive officer, Insuremile Insurance Aggregator Pvt. Ltd.
Should you buy one?
If you have a regular health insurance plan, you may think buying a separate dengue cover makes little sense. However, there are some differences. Dengue insurance is a rather simple product where you pay a low single premium for a year. “A standard indemnity health insurance policy covers only medical expenses incurred through the inpatient treatment whereas dengue covers reimburse outpatient bills, in addition to covering inpatient treatment. This is important, as most of the dengue patients need only outpatient treatment,” said Sekhar. Though dengue is known to be a seasonal illness, it may not be completely true. This is why the policy is valid for one complete year. “Occurrences of dengue are witnessed throughout the year in southern states, and between April and November in the north. So, in reality, it is actually a year-round threat in a country like India,” said Rohan Kumar, chief executive officer, Toffee Insurance.
The aim of a disease-specific insurance plan is to ease your financial burden if you are diagnosed. It also helps safeguard the no-claims bonus for your health insurance policy. Whether the disease is at an early stage or an advanced one, such covers provide complete coverage. According to Sekhar, compared to the cost, the benefits obtained from disease-specific health insurance plans are significant. “While these plans offer a range of benefits, they cannot serve as a replacement for comprehensive health covers. They act as add-on covers. The range of coverage offered by comprehensive health covers is much larger than disease-specific ones; but they are limited in terms of the monetary benefits offered. You can get the best possible protection by having both,” he said.
Dengue is just one of the many stand-alone disease-specific policies that insurers are now offering. But how many such policies can one buy? Shweta Jain, certified financial planner, chief executive officer and founder, Investography Pvt. Ltd, recommends sticking to a regular health insurance cover. “Covering individual diseases could be quite expensive and limiting,” she said. “If cases of dengue are on the rise in a particular year, you may be inclined to buy the cover, but a regular health cover will also cover the illness,” she added. It is wiser to invest in regular health insurance cover with higher sum insured than to buy many disease-specific ones.