Banking and Insurance Synergy A Game-Changer for Health Insurance in India

Krishnan Ramchandran

Banking and insurance sectors work hand-in-hand to offer a full suite of solutions to the customer to manage the investment needs as well cover against risks, shared Krishnan Ramchandran, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Niva Bupa Health Insurance in an exclusive interaction with Srajan Agarwal of Elets News Network (ENN)

Could you elaborate on the foundational vision and mission of Niva Bupa Health Insurance? How does the company intend to align these principles to empower customers with the best healthcare solutions?

At Niva Bupa, our vision is to become India’s most admired health insurance company by giving every Indian the confidence to access the best healthcare. We are striving towards democratising health insurance by making quality healthcare accessible to people across the nation. To achieve this, we will be:

Expanding to smaller markets: Given that a large population of India does not reside in metros, insurers need to increase their footprints beyond metros and start exploring the large section of the rural market as well. In this endeavour, we at Niva Bupa have been opening new offices across tier II, tier III, and tier IV cities in a phased manner.

Create more customised and innovative plans: Customised or innovative insurance solutions make inexpensive coverage available to a larger audience while also meeting consumers’ demands. Travel insurance, and maternity insurance, among others, are examples of such products. We at Niva Bupa intend to come up with more creative solutions that are tailored to the demands of consumers.

Make digitalisation an ongoing journey: Digitalisation has assisted in improving the customer experience significantly and aided health insurers in effectively innovating, creating, and distributing simpler online solutions in a cost-effective manner. AI-driven consumer profiling, virtual assistants/chatbots, and other trends have improved the customer experience, which lies at the core of all services. We will continue the digital journey to keep up with the right digital trends and channels to serve customers across segments better.

With the rising costs of healthcare, what role are you playing in making healthcare more affordable for the average Indian citizen?

At Niva Bupa, we follow a strategy of introducing segment based customised products which are tailored to the varied healthcare needs of the average Indian citizen. In addition to that we provide specific riders, deductibles, and co-pay options to make healthcare more affordable.

We have over 10,000 hospitals across the country as part of our hospital network where we operate at pre-negotiated tariffs as part of the agreement. This not only provides convenience of cashless claims service but also leads to cost saving for our policyholders. Additionally, we offer discounts on renewals to our policyholders to encourage them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In order to do that, we track the number of steps they walk through our mobile app and depending on the number of steps taken, they can avail up to 30 per cent discount on renewals.

Our health policies provide the benefit of annual check-up which helps them regularly monitor their health status and reduce longterm healthcare costs. Some of our plans also offer unlimited tele-consultations with specialist doctors. This service helps our policyholders get in touch with doctors all over India from anywhere they are, thus making healthcare more affordable as well as convenient.

One of the unique policy benefits we offer with our flagship product, ReAssure 2.0 is Lock the clock in which the age at which the consumer enters the policy gets locked, until the customer makes his first claim in the policy. Hence the customer gets to pay the applicable premium as per the entry age, till the first claim comes. This would result in significant savings for the customer on policy premium, thereby making healthcare more affordable.

The symbiosis between the banking and insurance sectors can be transformative. Could you shed light on how collaborations between these sectors can be harnessed to champion the cause of health insurance penetration in India?

Banking and insurance sectors work hand-inhand to offer a full suite of solutions to the customer to manage the investment needs cover as well against risks. A healthy financial planning model takes care of both savings and long-term returns, as well takes care of financial risks in case of an emergency. Hence the collaboration between banks and insurance companies becomes extremely important as both can borrow from each other’s experience and tap into each other’s customer base to cross sell.

At Niva Bupa we work with over 20 bank partners across India which gives us a reach of over 40,000 bank branches to distribute our products. The wide reach offered by the banks helps us reach out to customers across the length and breadth of India and increase penetration of health insurance beyond metros in smaller cities as well.

Given the rapid technological advancements and their integration into the insurance sector, can you share some upcoming innovations or strategies you are considering to further empower its customers and ensure they receive the best care possible?

At Niva Bupa, we are focusing on using digital technology to provide a frictionless and customer centric experience. We have invested in building digital expertise across the entire value chain. Everything from onboarding customers to settling claims is becoming digital with the advancement in technology. Today we sell almost 90 per cent of all policies digitally.

Niva Bupa is using new age technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve areas including process automation and fraud mitigation. We have a real time fraud analytics capability for claims processing which uses advanced machine learning algorithms. This digital approach brings a more customer centric experience adding more quality and efficiency to the processes, shorter turnaround time, and delivering a frictionless customer experience. Digital technology is also changing the game in the clinical side of the business. A customer can use a mobile app to book a teleconsultation, physiotherapy or order medicines.

Niva Bupa has an intuitive chatbot, which can answer customer enquiries regarding policy details, claims, renewal and payment, among others. In terms of process automation, we have deployed AI/ML solutions to read digitised documents in our customer onboarding journey and apply our proprietary rule engine for decision making. Today we auto-adjudicate about 15 per cent of cashless claims and process 25 per cent of Cashless Cases through a one-touch process. With time, we intend to increase these percentages and make these processes more efficient. Similarly, we are also working towards same day adjudication for reimbursement claims as well. We also plan to build a Virtual Point of Care (VPOC) to assist our customers.

As the healthcare landscape evolves, how does Niva Bupa envision its role over the next decade? Moreover, how are you planning to ensure its services remain sustainable in the face of potential challenges?

Good health is paramount if one has to achieve any goal and realise any dream. For India to march towards the ambition of a 5-trillion economy we need to broadly focus on three areas – Job creation, training people to acquire the right skill set, and most importantly ensure that people are productive from a health standpoint. Healthcare for all is therefore an important and a necessary goal for the country. Niva Bupa is playing its role in keeping the nation healthy by democratising health insurance and giving Indians the confidence to access the best healthcare.

One of the challenges is to increase the penetration of health insurance beyond metros. Niva Bupa recognises the potential of Tier 2 and Tier 3 regions as emerging health insurance markets. Almost 60 per cent of India’s population lives in villages and non-metros. As a company we have been aggressively expanding our footprints beyond metros and foraying into Tier 2, 3 and 4 markets in the past couple of years. We have opened as many as 100+ new offices since FY20 in Tier 2 & Tier 3 markets.

Product innovations catering to different segments of customer’s needs has always been part of our DNA and we will continue to do so to stay relevant. In keeping with our product offerings, the value-added-services we offer bundled into our health plans helps us maintain a competitive advantage in the face of potential challenges.

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