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We have witnessed a steep increase in sale of health insurance offering has grown by 100%: HDFC ERGO

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Ravi Vishwanath, President - Health Business, HDFC ERGO General Insurance, talks about digital business amidst the new normal, new trends, and more

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Have you witnessed a discernible uptick in your digital business amidst the new normal? What initiatives have you launched to cash in on it? 
The pandemic has raised awareness and demand for health insurance and Corona specific products like Corona Kavach among customers. We have witnessed a steep increase in our website traffic and online sale of health insurance offering has grown by 100% vis-a-vis last year.

Also, with financial uncertainty around, we have seen larger uptake for our EMI based health insurance product, myHealth Suraksha. The product provides interest-free EMI options for tenure of 1-3 years of policies. Also, the pandemic has forced the customers to think about larger sum insured policies. We have witnessed increased demand for our super top-up health product which offers sum insured of INR 20 lakh for an approximate premium of INR 2500 for customers below 45 years of age. 

Additionally, we have launched various services through our digital platforms for our policyholders to ensure seamless service as well as ensure their well-being while they stay home in this pandemic, such as Offering TeleClinic Service on mobile App, Online submission of claim documents, Motor Self-inspection, Pre-repaid motor claim settlement and Claim registration on WhatsApp Business.

The Motor industry and Motor Insurance industry has hampered in the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Customers have faced issued with normal functioning of the vehicles. We at HDFC ERGO identified challenges around the same and came forward to offer additional benefits to policyholders and boost adoption of motor insurance in India. We introduced a bunch of offerings which ensured customers smooth navigation through challenges they faced especially during the lockdown, such as Fast Track Theft Settlement and Door Step Repair, among others.

Do you foresee a much higher Incurred Claims Ratio for Health Insurance products this fiscal? How has COVID 19 impacted the General Insurance business, at a very broad level? 
It is too early to predict the Insured Claims Ratio for Health insurance products for this fiscal year, given Insurance is a related industry. Some part of our business depends on how other industries perform. Demand for our core products is dependent on the kind of demand the related industries experience. For instance, demand for motor insurance will see growth if auto sales go up.
Overall, insurers have witnessed a positive up-take for Health and Corona specific offerings, but we have also witnessed higher COVID-19 & Non-COVID-19 claims. Travel insurance is at a halt but travel premiums from an industry perspective are not very significant in terms of volume. It would not add up to even 1% of the overall industry volumes. But, incremental travel business will drop to a flat zero now. 

Even for other non-health products, the growth is slow currently but because this is an evolving situation we'll really have to watch out for what's going to happen. Having said this, given the fact that the pandemic will have an impact on the economic growth rate, there will be corresponding impact on insurance segments such as motor, corporate premiums, marine, property insurance and so on.

Tell us about some trends that you have witnessed in the Health Insurance space, in 2020. How do you see these new trends shaping up over the next decade? Flash in the pan or here to stay? 
Year 2020 has seen an increase in the awareness and the need for health insurance and accordingly, new products catering to the customer needs have been developed by insurers developed. Moreover, Insurers have been investing in developing and enhancing digital platforms to offer products and service which has helped us, as well as customers in the current situation.

The regulator, IRDAI, also introduced a standard product -Arogya Sanjeevani with common features and policy wording's, which is offered by all insurance companies to increase penetration of Health insurance among the masses. Disease specific products like Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak with shorter policy duration were developed to provide protection against the increasing cost of treatment of COVID 19 pandemic.

The increase in awareness and demand for Health products due to the pandemic had eventually increased the adoption of the digital platform which has resulted in customer purchasing policies online. Additionally, customers are also encouraged and observed to take up self-help services through the website for changes to their policy, submitting claim intimations, submit claim documents, among others. Over the next decade digitalization and process automation will be the key to the success of any insurer.

Tell us a bit about Corona Kavach. Is it necessary to take, for an individual who already has a comprehensive Health insurance plan in place? 
The Corona Kavach policy indemnifies policyholders for medical expenses on hospitalization for the treatment of the virus and includes the expense incurred on treating co-morbidity along with COVID-19. The policy will also cover road ambulance expenses, in case the service is opted for the purpose of hospitalization due to COVID-19. Home Care Expenses benefit (upto a period of 14 days) will also be covered in the policy for those seeking treatment within the comfort of their own homes, on the advice of a medical practitioner. Additionally, expenses incurred for inpatient care treatment taken under Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) systems of medicines will also be covered under the policy. Policyholders will also be liable for Hospital daily cash, which will be 0.5% of sum insured per day for a maximum up to 15 days, during a policy period. 

Most comprehensive health policies, as well as Arogya Sanjeevani, already provide protection against the cost of COVID-19hospitalization treatment. Consumers should ideally opt for a COVID-19 specific policy to further supplement their health insurance policy or to secure oneself specifically against COVID-19 for affordability reasons.

Are you continuing to work from home? If yes, until when do you intend to keep doing so? After all, it’s unlikely that COVID is going to go away anytime soon. How have you adapted your business model during these difficult times? 
As a business, we adopted a digital-first approach for our business a few years back and transformed ourselves as a ‘Digital Insurer’. Not only are our sales processes completely digital but our self-help tech platform has empowered our customers to avail more than 80% of the services digitally in a self-service mode, 24x7. The pandemic was a litmus test of our digital capabilities.

As the lockdown began there was anxiety in our customers, and our first responsibility was to ensure that all our service channels were available. Within 48 hours we were able to shift our entire workforce to work from home. We observed greater adoption of our digital service channels like the website self-service portal and mobile app.

On the Agency network front, physical distancing being due to the lockdown was the biggest hindrance as the Agency Channel thrives on personal engagement with their clients and hence meeting clients at their homes or offices was been the biggest challenge. However, the agent community embraced digital platforms to engage with both clients and insurers. This further boosted new policy issuance as well as renewal of existing policies. Furthermore, under normal circumstances, organising a weekly meeting or training was always a logistical challenge; however, limited mobility during the past months allowed agents to join the trainings from the comfort of their homes. While the engagement index moved northwards, both the insurers and agents started feeling confident to embrace the new normal. Engagement moved from physical to digital - both with agents and customers. 

With the unlock phase initiated, we are keep a close track of the regulation and guidelines issued by the State Governments and accordingly keep our employees updated of the situation on working from home. The safety and security of our employees and their families is of utmost importance to us at HDFC ERGO.