More women need to buy health insurance

Deccan Chronicle.  | Adhil Shetty

Business, In Other News

Health insurance ideally must be tailor-made to suit specific needs. this makes a case for women having special insurance cover.

A woman may have personal health risks. For example, there may be a history of ovarian cancer in her family.

As per recent studies, more than 80 per cent of Indians are without health insurance coverage of any kind. This is a startling number. Hospitalisation and critical illness can be expensive. One episode can drain a family's hard-earned wealth while a low-cost health cover may protect and augment a family's income. Here’s a look at some reasons why women don’t get themselves adequately covered-and what can be done to remedy it.

Dependence on male members
While more women in India are educated today, a large majority of them rely on the male members of their family to make money-related decisions. Before the marriage, it may be the father making these decisions and after marriage, it's the husband. This may mean that sometimes, the personalised insurance needs of female family members are not given adequate weig-htage. Therefore, wo-men also need ownership of insurance purchase decisions.

Different needs
A woman may have personal health risks. For example, there may be a history of ovarian cancer in her family. She may be part of an employer-provided group cover or a family floater plan. These are basic-level protections and may be inadequate not just in covering her specific health risk but also in terms of the monetary size of the cover. An additional, personal cover may reduce her risks.

Lack of awareness
There is a broad lack of awareness about why health insurance is an absolute necessity for every family. There is an even poorer understanding of why women in particular need health insurance. With medical and hospitalisation costs increasing with each passing year, it is important for women to recognise their own individual health risks and buy the appropriate health insurance. 

Not employed? No insurance
Often, the only form of insurance that people have are the group covers provided by their employers. The employer — be it a public or a private sector company — provides an umbrella, one-size-fits-all coverage to its employees. Since women form a smaller part of the formal work force, not being employed may sometimes mean not having this safety net. Also, women may also remain in the formal workforce for shorter periods of time than men. This means having irregular coverage. 

Greater longevity
Women have longer life span. As per statistics, in both rural and urban populations, women outlive men by at least 2-4 years on average. The longer lifespan warrants longer requirement of healthcare. Buying insurance at a later stage in life is expensive and challenging. To beat these problems, health insurance should be bought early in life and renewed annually for life. Additionally, the coverage should be topped up periodically to beat medical inflation.

Insurance isn't tax sop
It is a mistake to buy health insurance to save only taxes. A hospitalisation, surgery, or incurring a critical illness such as cancer, may bleed a family's wealth rapidly. It is essential to buy insurance first to adequately cover health and life risks and only then weighing any tax benefits. 
(The writer is CEO of