2022 was a remarkable year for the insurance industry. With a stronger and sharper technology-first approach, the initiatives by the regulatory authority of IRDAI have made insurance more accessible, consumer-centric and inclusive. As the world transitioned into the post-pandemic state, the rulebook across the industry was being rewritten to correspond to the new-age needs. While on one hand, the Covid caseload declined this year, on the other, new viruses and infections continued to make their way into people’s lives, thereby mandating the need for an adequate protection shield. The regulatory developments were, thus, uniformly balanced to ensure a greater focus on customer-centricity and higher insurance penetration.
2021 was also revolutionary in terms of guidelines like providing domiciliary treatment coverage and facilitating paperless signatures among others. While this year, with the change in the regulatory mechanism, we saw a blitzkrieg of progressive rules and regulations, which truly stand out at a pan-industry level. Developments like OPD as a category gaining more traction to facilitate better health insurance coverage is one such outstanding innovation. As we wrap up an eventful year, it’s time to look back and round up the key industry initiatives that were instrumental in transforming the face of insurance in 2022.
Enabling better cashless facilities through empanelling hospitals
IRDAI’s guideline on allowing the insurers to empanel the hospitals that fit the criteria and standards prescribed by the board aims to widen the ambit of providing better country-wide cashless coverage. This translates to better quality and better benchmarking for the entire healthcare and health insurance industry. The new regulation by the insurance authority will empower the end consumer to access quality cashless facilities in a seamless manner. The feature enables the policyholder to avail of prescribed treatment at any network hospital without having to worry about hospital expenditure and reimbursement process. The bills are settled directly by the insurer according to the policy terms and conditions. Cashless is considered to be the preferred option in health insurance since it doesn’t need one to run from pillar to post for bill settlement and reimbursement and provides greater convenience to the insured party. This move will further enhance the accessibility of good quality, comprehensive healthcare with insurers being able to widen their network of facilities.
Addition of new usage-based motor insurance add-ons
This has to be one of the most revolutionary and welcome move by the insurance regulator, especially in a post-pandemic world. The IRDAI introduced new usage-based add-ons for motor insurance in 2022 – pay as you drive, pay how you drive and floater plan. Considering the times of restricted mobility during Covid-19, this was a much-needed addition to motor insurance and was introduced as a regulatory sandbox product during 2020. Cut to 2022, these products allow the policyholder to save up on premium based on driving profile and frequency, and not having to pay a standard amount all year long irrespective of the usage. The pay-how-you-drive model, on the other hand, incentivizes the driver for following a good driving hygiene with reward points or discounts as mentioned in the policy. This is a win-win situation for the insurers too as they can accurately assess the risk profile of the driver based on their driving profile and facilitate better underwriting practices.
Approval of use-and-file procedure
With this regulation, the IRDAI eased norms for insurers to launch new products in the market far more easily. The development that initially allowed general and health insurers to launch a product without prior approval was later extended to all life insurers as well. This makes a significant headway for product innovation to take place in a more seamless manner without getting tangled up and delayed in approval process. This greatly reduces the turnaround time for all industry stakeholders, and most of all, for the consumer; and places great importance on higher insurance adoption.
Ensuring more transparency with Healthcare Professional Registry
The recent announcement of the Healthcare Professional ID is a great move at facilitating better transparency and information-flow within all the industry stakeholders – from Insurers to TPAs to doctors to policyholder. The IRDAI has recommended Healthcare Professional Registry for building the network of healthcare professionals and practitioners to better facilitate the OPD coverage in health insurance. The guideline is weaved in customer-centricity and focuses on continued product innovation and acceleration. Looking on the other side, it will also make it much more convenient for medical professionals to obtain professional indemnity cover for themselves and safeguard themselves in case of legal troubles.
Mandating mental health coverage in health policies
Mental health has long been a clandestine area in India and it was only after the pandemic that it was brought to the forefront. Though the guidelines for mental health coverage were already in place much before Covid-19 hit, it was mandated after the outbreak. The recent guideline by the IRDAI had directed all health insurers to provide coverage for mental health in policies till 31st October, 2022. The mandatory coverage means that mental health issues have to be treated in the same manner as physical illnesses in new policies, as well as existing ones. This essentially means that the policyholder shall get coverage for hospitalisation pertaining to mental health treatment. However, for effective coverage, one should ideally to opt for OPD coverage in their health plan to ensure the coverage for doctor consultations.
Standardisation of group insurance products
Yet another move by the regulator to ensure consumer-centricity in insurance, standardisation of group health insurance products was much-welcomed. The initiative targets better streamlining of products and their adoption at an industry level. It also offers the possibility of implementing better transparency at a mass scale through the corporate ecosystem. Before this, the purchase decision of an organisation often hinged on its price. The standardisation of product will help determine the cost of the product efficiently and also cater to the needs of the consumer.
As we wind up the year and look back at these initiatives, it’s time to take a moment to recognise these innovative and progressive moves. It is also the dawn of a new era for insurance and optimistically, more such moves in times to come.
The article has been written by Sarbvir Singh, chief executive officer at PolicyBazaar.com.
Disclaimer:The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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