Star Health Insurance is one of India’s leading health insurer with over 50 percent market share. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, the company had a steady growth trajectory. However, after March 2020, as people have become more aware of the requirement for health insurance, they are now keen to apply for health insurance by themselves. The dynamics of the health insurance industry, which was majorly influenced by insurers pushing the product through agents or other channels, is now driven by the demand of the customers, says Anand Roy, Managing Director, Star Health & Allied Insurance Co Ltd, in conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).
1. What opportunities do you see amidst the outbreak of Covid-19 for the insurance sector?
In the past, whenever there has been an outbreak of a pandemic, it has resulted in accelerated growth in the demand for health insurance.
The Covid 19 pandemic has been an inflection point in creating awareness for health insurance among all segments of Indian society and it will definitely help in increasing insurance penetration in a country like India which is parched of this security. We are seeing an increasing number of people availing of health insurance, including short term plans like Corona Kavach to tide over this pandemic. I expect most of these customers to avail comprehensive health insurance covers in the future.
Although the current health crisis is around the pandemic, there are risks of other diseases as well including mental illnesses. Our entire suite of comprehensive health insurance products are doing well including plans for senior citizens.
2. Is the industry witnessing growth, particularly among the younger generation? If yes, what is promoting that?
At Star Health Insurance, we have witnessed a significant contribution in current business growth coming from younger age groups. In fact, we had launched a specific plan called “Young Star Health insurance” about a year ago to cater to the millennials and this has taken off really well. This section of the population had a lower level of interest in health insurance earlier. However, the Covid 19 pandemic has made them more aware and influenced them to buying health insurance for themselves and their family. People in the 25-40 age group are signing up and we have seen a growth of 50 percent in premiums from the younger age group.
3. What is the scenario around claims? Do you see the rise in both covid and non-covid segments?
There has been a surge in the number of Covid-19 claims received, especially in the last three months. Initially, people were getting admitted to government-run hospital facilities, but after June, private hospitals have started taking in a significant portion of Covid patients leading to the rise in insurance claims. As of mid-September, Star Health Insurance has received about 42,000 Covid claims, more than 80 percent of which has been already settled. We have received the highest number of claims given that we do have the largest market share in retail health insurance in India.
In case of non-Covid claims, we had observed a steady decline during the months when the nation was in a complete lockdown. Nevertheless, there has been a rise in non-Covid claims in the past few months. As of September end, the number of non-covid claims is more or less the same as last year.
4. What are your views on Video-KYC? Do you think its implementation will ensure efficiency?
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has been extremely proactive in making customer services hassle-free since the beginning of the pandemic. Video-Based Identification Process (VBIP), suggested by the IRDAI, will not only allow seamless and non-intrusive on-boarding of customers but also reduce the turn-around time (T-A-T) significantly. This initiative will help in further enhancing the digitization of the insurance sector. With the initiation of the pandemic, the demand for health insurance has increased many folds due to the awareness of the need for health insurance, especially in such times. The VBIP would be beneficial in onboarding customers even in rural hinterlands at a minimum cost thus enhancing the much-needed health insurance penetration in the country.
5. What major prospects do you project post the pandemic period?
Due to the increased awareness created by Covid 19, even in the post-pandemic period I expect the growth of health insurance business to be significantly higher than Pre covid periods. Also, the means of doing business and customer services will continue to be digitally oriented. The use of technology while onboarding customers and also during claims settlement is bound to increase.
6. Given Covid-19, the uptake for health insurance is quite evident. Standalone health insurers, in particular, saw a year-on-year 25.85 percent growth in August. What has been the driving force for Star Health?
Star Health Insurance is the industry’s leading standalone health insurer with more than 50 percent market share. Even before Covid-19, we have had a steady growth trajectory.
However, after March 2020, as people have become more aware of the requirement for health insurance, they have started taking the initiative to apply for health insurance by themselves. The dynamics of the health insurance industry, which was majorly influenced by insurers pushing the product through agents or other channels, is now driven by the demand of the customers. Given the large distribution and network of branches that we have, we’ve been able to cater to demand across the country including tier II and III cities and also rural markets.
We have been able to pivot from a traditional model of doing business to digital means and today more than 75 percent of our business happens through online channels. We expect to close this year with more than Rs 10,000 Crore in health insurance premiums.