About 7.5 lakh Corona Kavach policies, or the standard cover for COVID-19 the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) mandated all health insurers to offer, have been sold in a little over a month since introduction. About 12.86 lakh people have been covered and the premium collected is ₹215 crore, said IRDAI Member (Non-Life) T. L. Alamelu said, sharing details of Corona Kavach policies sold from the time of their launch on July 10 to August 14.In contrast, only 72,000 policies of Arogya Sanjeevani, the standard health insurance policy which insurers unveiled on April 1, had been sold. The premium collected under the policy, that also covers COVID-19, was about ₹33 crore, she said, urging insurers to consider offering disease-specific policies.The demand for Corona Kavach is evident of a fear factor at work, panic and people finding lot of value in the short term COVID-19 specific policy. Many of those who bought the policy have opted for the 9.5 months tenure possibly because they realise the virus could “go on and on,” Ms.Alamelu told a ‘Virtual Health Insurance Conference 2020 -Innovation for Bridging the Gap’, organised by FICCI on Wednesday.Noting that the way insurance industry responded to COVID-19 is something it should consider for the other diseases as well, she said before March, the number of health products approved, over two decades, was about 500. Since March, the number of products approved is 131 as health insurers look for a better product. Health insurance has become biggest segment of the general insurance business overtaking motor insurance and expected to go ahead of the latter by huge leaps and bounds, she said.Protection gap, however, remains a cause of concern, Ms.Alamelu said. While the number of COVID-19 positive cases was 27.7 lakh on Wednesday morning, the insurance claims intimated, upto August 18, was about 1.25 lakh. In other words, 96% were not covered, she said.It has to be addressed, especially in context of COVID as any out of pocket expenditure, even for those with health insurance, “becomes financially stressful not only for the BPL but even for middle class. The middle class today could be pushed into a worse situation… [with] economy contracting, people losing jobs, [some] getting only part of their salary,” she said. The protection gap is likely to become more pronounced as COVID-19 spreads to tier II and III and even villages, Ms.Alamelu said.
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