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Talk Health First, Then Talk of Health Insurance: CEO Aditya Birla Health Insurance

Mayank Bathwal, the Chief Executive Officer at Aditya Birla Health Insurance (ABHICL), a joint venture between Aditya Birla Group and MMI Holdings of South Africa since August 2015, says good health of customers should be the most important focus of those engaged in the business of health insurance. He shares his views on the pandemic and its impact on the health insurance business with Ashish Sinha. Excerpts:

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Since IRDAI announced wellness guidelines last year, is ABHI witnessing any consumer preferences towards wellness uptake? What is your strategy to capitalise on the wellness offering?
As an organisation at ABHI, we have always believed in the health and wellbeing of our customers since the beginning of our operations. We believe Health insurance companies should talk about health first, and then the language of insurance. Good Health is finally what is important for customers, and driving that should be the focus of the industry because that also supports the sustained viability of the business also apart from happier customers. While IRDA has come up with some additional wellness guidelines now, it had the foresight to open the opportunity of allowing offerings like incentives for right health behaviour in health insurance products way back in 2016, just before ABHI started its operations. So we set up our business on the model of health first and about driving better health behaviour as a health insurance company. Wellness to us is about better health behaviour and better health outcome for our customers.

For us, it was not capitalising, but building on what we had started with. And it was a welcome additional enabler from a regulatory perspective.

What has been people’s view towards health and wellness rewards offering by insurers during the pandemic? What can the consumers do with these wellness rewards and how can they earn it?
At ABHI, incentivised wellness has been at the core of our offerings since the beginning. Our unique offering ‘HealthReturns’ helps consumers to earn up to 100 per cent of their premium back by real-time tracking and rewarding their health activity on a monthly basis. We are the only insurance company offering up to 100 per cent premium returns, i.e. HealthReturnsTM, rewards, and other health benefits like mental health counseling, nutritional counseling,etc through our ‘Activ Health’ policy. Customers can earn this benefit by being physically active/fit by whatever form of physical fitness they are used to and by managing their health well. The consumer is then rewarded through a cash-equivalent which can be used for either health-related expenses like buying medicines, paying for diagnostic tests, daycare treatment, out-patient expenses (OPD), and alternative treatments (which are traditionally excluded), or alternatively it can be used towards the payment of future premium.

 We have also started a Health management initiative that enables us to use data to help/ improve the holistic health status of a customer. This is done by tracking, monitoring, creating awareness of an individual’s health, holistic health scoring, hyper-personalised engagement, innovative intervention plan and establishing a complete health service ecosystem.

What is the role of incentivised wellness in the changing landscape? How will it benefit the consumer and the business?
At ABHI, we have focused on incentivised wellness since the beginning of our journey. Our ‘Activ Health’ product offers the benefit of earning upto 100 per cent premium back through HealthReturns. The incentivised wellness model caters to, firstly, people who are actively chasing health goals, thinking about leading an active life; seeking affordable and new-age medical facilities i.e.  ‘Health Proactive’. Secondly, for those continuously chasing success, thus leading stressful and hectic lives & have less time for health and fitness i.e who are ‘Health Anxious’.

We have also recently launched WellbeingScore, which is a holistic health & Well-being Score of an individual that includes existing diseases, clinical health markers, lifestyle choices, activity levels, medical events/ claims, investment in one’s health. This enables us to evaluate an individual’s health status basis available health parameters. With this individual score, we can provide a detailed plan to improve our customer’s health and live a healthy life.

As per recent IRDAI , around 15 lakh covid claims have been settled till date. How will this impact the growth momentum of the sector ? Are you experiencing a rise in claims and sales of Covid plans?
Covid has created an increase in the growth momentum because the need for health insurance has been felt more than ever before. Consumers have realised that they need to have protection is critical. We will have to wait and see how much of this growth momentum will continue, but the bar has been raised a bit from where it was earlier. This is definitely an opportunity for the industry to see that the trajectory is high even further by continuing to build on the awareness, bring in new products and create more value for the customers.

There has been a growth in claims, with the industry paying worth 15,000 crore of Covid claims. It has created a momentary challenge for the industry as it is over and above the regular claims being paid. But the industry has responded very well and has taken the entire hit on its book and paid the claims, even though it is a direct hit to its bottom-line.

Are you observing an uptake for digital renewals and purchases? Any observations on which target market and consumers are leaning towards this offering?
While digital renewals increased significantly from 78% in FY 20 to 92% in FY 21, digital policy issuance is at 98%. We have developed digital service journeys on multiple digital platforms including Web, WhatsApp, Chatbot and Voice Bot. Our WhatsApp Service is the industry’s most comprehensive service along with the launch of many new features this year including enablers like access to 80 D certificate and Health Assessment booking (Home visit). The digital approach and model have been very well adopted by agency distribution as well. While a large part of our customers are using it, millennials have been leaning more towards this offering.

With the introduction of National Health digital policy, how do you see this impacting the overall health insurance ecosystem ? What according to you are the benefits of digital healthcare for the entire HI ecosystem i.e. -  insurance, hospitals, doctor/ OPD network in the form of big data, analytics, efficiency in patient care?
Almost every category/ industry has seen growing adoption of digital. For eg., in healthcare, we have seen huge growth and demand for telemedicine, e-pharmacy etc. We are seeing a lot of focus in digital health right now. Consumers are also willing to adopt such offerings. We feel this trend is here to stay and the digital health infrastructure and ecosystem will be only becoming more comprehensive in the coming days. The Nation Health digital policy will help in adding a positive momentum for the different parts of a digital health ecosystem to come together and create a more digital integrated ecosystem.

Consumers are always looking for a personalized experience. How is ABHI using technology for providing personalized experiences to customers based on an individual’s behaviour /habit?
We recently launched WellbeingScore, which is a holistic health & well-being score of an individual that includes existing diseases, clinical health markers, lifestyle choices, activity levels, medical events/ claims, investment in one’s health. This enables us to evaluate an individual’s health status basis available health parameters. With this individual score, we can provide a detailed plan to improve our customer’s health and live a healthy life. Similarly, we track consumer behaviours through all engagements we have with them and as we know them better make the communication and engagement strategy more personalised covering content relevant to them, using the communication medium preferred by them and offering services needed by them. 

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