Comparison of Health Insurance Schemes for Senior Citizens

It is absolutely vital that as one approaches old age, one has a substantial health insurance cover. The probability that one’s health care expenses would increase substantially is almost a given. In this piece we look and compare the different health insurance plans that are available in the market for senior citizens. While every health insurance company wants to insure the young (and almost by definition, more healthy), there are very few plans which provide health insurance to people beyond 60. Another interesting thing to note here is that most of the health insurance plans for senior citizens is offered by the public sector general insurance companies.

The health insurance plans available for senior citizens are:

Varistha Mediclaim by National Insurance
Senior Citizen plan by Oriental Insurance
Mediclaim for Senior Citizens by New India Assurance
Senior Citizen Plan by United India Insurance
Red Carpet Plan by Star Health Insurance

Varistha Mediclaim by National Insurance: This policy can be bought by anyone between 60 and 80 years of age. Renewals can be done upto the age of 90. Between the age bands of 76-80, premiums have an added factor of 10% and between 80 to 90 years of age, premiums are grossed up by 20%. The sum insured under this policy for hospitalization is Rs 1 lakh. For critical illness, the sum insured is Rs 2 lakhs. Under the critical illness cover, diseases such as cancer, renal failure, stroke, organ transplants etc are covered. If the person has already been insured for 3 years through a health insurance policy, then he or she does not have to undergo a medical test, else there has to be a medical test under the prospective customer’s costs. For domiciliary treatment, the maximum claim is fixed at 20% of the sum insured. Ambulance charges upto Rs 1000 are covered under this policy. For a mediclaim cover of Rs 1 lakh and a critical illness cover of Rs 2 lakhs, the premium varies between Rs 6200 (for a 60-65 year old) to Rs 9200 (for a 75-80 year old). One interesting feature of this policy is that pre existing hypertension and diabetes are covered from the 1st year itself of the policy by paying 10% additional premium for each of the two diseases. Pre existing is of course not available for the critical illness policy. Other pre existing diseases are covered after 1 policy year. Dialysis, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for preexisting ailment is never covered. Claims are paid only for events that occur within India. Claims which occur within the first 30 days of the commencement of the policy will not be covered, unless in the case of the person being insured with an Insurance Company without break for the past 12 months. For the purpose of this policy, pre existing diseases such as cataract, piles, fistula, hernia, benign lumps, joint replacement etc will not be covered in the first 12 months. War related medical claims, vaccination, spectacles cost, plastic surgery, corrective dental surgery, venereal disease, vitamins and tonics which are not part of the treatment, nuclear disaster related health claims, alternative treatment like homeopathy etc are excluded.

Opinion: We think it is one of the best policies for senior citizens, except that the sum insured is low. They are quite generous as far as the norms for entry age and pre existing diseases are concerned.

2. Senior Citizen Specified Disease Plan by Oriental Insurance: In this plan, the policyholder has the option to choose sum insured of Rs 1 lakh, 2 lakhs, 3 lakhs, 4 lakhs or 5 lakhs. One restrictive feature of this policy is that 20% of any claim amount has to be co-paid by the insured. Cashless payment through TPA is restricted to Rs 1 lakh. This plan covers 10 specified diseases: cancer, renal failure, heart diseases, liver related diseases, COPD (lung ailment), stroke, prostrate, orthopaedic disease, ophthalmic disease, accidental injury and knee replacement. The amount that one can claim for a particular disease is restricted as a percentage of the sum insured (for e.g., 50% of the sum insured can be claimed for cancer, while 20% of the sum insured can be claimed for stroke). A sum insured of Rs 1 lakh will cost Rs 4500 for a 65 year old, while it will cost Rs 6400 if one is eighty years old or beyond. While this may seem cheaper than National Insurance’s Varistha medical scheme, it is less wide in scope. This policy has an interesting refund of premium clause if one withdraws from the policy: if the policyholder gets out of the policy within the first month, 75% of the premium is returned and if he opts out between 3 to 6 months of the policy, 25% of the premium is returned. In this policy, pre-existing diseases are not covered for a period of 2 policy years. Other exclusions are very similar to those of National’s Varistha medical scheme.

Opinion: a good scheme in terms of the level of sum insured and price, but the scope of diseases covered is restrictive. Another issue is that pre-existing is covered only after 2 policy years.

Mediclaim for Senior Citizens by New India Assurance: This policy is available for senior citizens between 60 and 80 years, and the sum insured can be Rs 1 lakh or Rs 1.5 lakhs. Pre existing diseases are covered after 18 continuous months of coverage, while for diabetes and hypertension to be covered, additional premium needs to be paid. Pre hospitalization is covered for 30 days, while post hospitalization is covered for 60 days. An insurance of Rs 1 lakh for a 65 year old will cost Rs 3850 while it will cost Rs 5150 for an 80 year old. Thus, premiums are very competitively priced. If one wants to extend beyond 80 years, then loading of 10% or 20% has to be paid. For pre existing diabetes or hypertension, an additional premium of 10% each has to be paid. One interesting feature is that there is a 10% discount if one’s spouse is also covered under this policy. This policy also has the same partial refund norms on cancellation as Oriental’s Specified Disease Plan. Claims would be paid only for medical treatment in India. The exclusion conditions are standard, and are very similar to National’s Varistha Mediclaim.

Opinion: Attractively priced. Sum insured ceilings are low. The product brochure is silent on co-pay, and thus there is no co-pay requirement in all probability.

United India Insurance’s Specified Disease Plan: In this policy, sum insured of Rs 50,000 to Rs 300,000 is available to people between 60 to 80 years of age. Sum insured of Rs 1 lakh will cost Rs 3715 for a 65 year old, and Rs 8613 for an 80 year old. So while it is cheaper for the younger age bands, it is a bit expensive for the older age groups. An interesting feature of this policy is that there is a hospitalization cash payment from the 3rd day of hospitalization on payment of a particular additional premium. While other exclusion features of this policy are comparable to that of the previous 3 policies that we have discussed, the biggest problem of this policy is that this has a pre-existing waiting period of 4 years.

Opinion: Pre -existing waiting period of 4 years is restrictive

Star Health’s Red Carpet Plan: This plan has been a good marketing success. While one barely gets to hear about the reasonably broad, well priced schemes of the 4 nationalised companies, the market is quite excited about Star Health’s Red Carpet scheme. The sum insured under this policy can be for Rs 1 lakh, Rs 2 lakhs, Rs 3 lakhs, Rs 4 lakhs or Rs 5 lakhs. Age of entry is restricted between 60 and 69 years. Pre existing diseases are covered from the 1st year itself, except for those preexisting diseases for which the insured received payment in the preceding 12 months. Subsequently, these pre-existing diseases are covered. There are sub limits under this policy wherein different diseases have different limits as a percentage of the sum insured. Sum insured of Rs 1 lakh will cost Rs 4900 at entry, while a sum insured of Rs 5 lakhs will cost Rs 20000.. The biggest catch in this policy is that there is a 50% co-payment for pre existing diseases and 30% co-payment for other diseases!! Other exclusions are very similar to what is there for the nationalized companies.

Opinion: Simple, well marketed claim. But the co-payment terms are a huge negative! The ceiling for maximum age at entry is quite low (69 years), though the guaranteed renewal feature is a big positive. Also, the sum insured levels of Rs 5 lakh is quite high and attractive in these days of escalated medical costs.

In summary, we feel that National’s Varistha Plan is the widest in scope. The only issue with the plans of the Nationalised Insurance companies is that the sum insured levels offered might not be adequate for today’s high healthcare costs. On the other hand, they are at least offering senior citizen health plans. It is very difficult to locate any meaningful health insurance scheme for senior citizens offered by any private health insurance company, except Star Health. The only problem that we see with Star Health’s Red Carpet plan is that of the Co-pay restriction.

The Pros and Cons of Group Health Insurance

The health insurance marketplace is certainly challenging, but count your lucky stars that at least you have choices. To that end, this article is going to explore the pros and cons of group health insurance.

Group Health Insurance Pros

Group health premiums are subsidized by the employer. Generally, an employer must contribute at least 50% of the “employee only” premium. As such, if you are the employee, you can likely get a richer health plan for less premium than you would pay in the individual health marketplace. However, the cost to add your dependents to the employer’s plan, may be cost prohibitive. In this case, and assuming that your dependents can qualify, then you may want to put them on an individual health plan.
Group health premiums for large families are the same as for small families; whereas in the individual market, you pay a separate premium for every family member. So, if you have a large family, you may be able to get a better deal by adding them to your employer’s plan. As with any insurance change though, don’t make any changes without consulting with an experienced insurance advisor in your state.
Group health insurance in most states is guaranteed issue – meaning that you can’t be turned down because of pre-existing health conditions. This is a real blessing if you or a family member has a medical condition that prevents you from qualifying for a individual plan. But, this is a double-edged sword. While being guaranteed issue is a huge benefit for those with pre-existing medical conditions, it does come at a price. This one feature alone accounts for most of the disparity between group and individual insurance premiums. Yes, that is right – in most states, individual health premiums are almost always less expensive than group health premiums.
Most group plans cover maternity. So, if you are planning on having more children, you should definitely consider hopping on to a group plan. While you can add a “maternity rider” to individual plans, these riders tend to be expensive, restrictive, and otherwise provide less value than the coverage you can get in a group health plan. That being said, if you are considering having more children, we recommend that you contact a health insurance advisor in your state for advice about what is best for your family. The right answer is different for each unique family.
Economies of scale can benefit employees of large employers. It is true that the larger the group, the larger the risk pool is in which to share the risk which CAN result in lower premiums than are available in the individual health market. However, the guaranteed issue “issue” CAN wreak havoc on this type of plan. For example, a large employer with good benefits tends to retain employees for long periods of time. Eventually, the average age of the group starts to creep up and so do premiums. In addition, people with large medical needs (expensive medical conditions) tend to be attracted to large plans because they are guaranteed issue with good coverage. And so, over time, not only is the group’s average age increasing, but the group is also attracting employees with large expected health costs. This is the dilemma that we see with large health plans like the U.S. auto-makers and even government plans. Eventually, those with lots of medical needs begin to outnumber those with little or no needs and so premiums are driven higher and higher.

Group Health Insurance Cons

Group health insurance can be more expensive than individual health insurance. ln fact, if you don’t factor in the employer’s contribution towards premiums, then individual plans are almost always more affordable than group plans. However, as we discussed earlier, not every one can qualify for an individual plan.
What happens if your employment is terminated (by you or your employer)? Yes, you will likely have some benefit continuation rights (through COBRA or state continuation programs), but these benefits can be very expensive and the term limited. So, eventually, you either have to secure another job with benefits, an individual health plan (assuming you are insurable), or possibly join a government health insurance program for the uninsured (if you are not insurable). Let me emphasize, that you should NEVER be without some form of major medical health insurance. Being without this insurance puts you and your family in serious financial jeopardy. In fact, a recent Harvard University study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcy filings were partly the result of medical expenses.¹ To the same point, every 30 seconds in the United States, someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem. Don’t let this happen to you.
Group health insurance premiums are rising faster than individual health insurance premiums. Why? Because most group plans are guaranteed issue and since they accept “all comers”, they tend to attract those with high medical costs. On the other hand, most individual health insurance plans are medically underwritten. This means that the insurance company can say “no thanks” to any application that it deems to not be in its interest. Put yourself in their shoes – would sign a contract to provide $30,000 in annual benefits to someone that was only going to pay $3,000 in premiums (for a net loss of $27,000) if you didn’t have to? Hmm…let me me think about that one. The answer is a resounding “NO!”. Because of this underwriting process for individual health insurance, insurance companies can control their risk and more effectively manage their profitability, resulting in more stable prices.

As you can see, there is no clear cut answer as to which type of insurance is the best. The answer depends on a number of factors and is different for every unique situation. The best advice I can give you as you consider your health insurance options — get good advice from an experienced health insurance advisor.

All About Affordable Health Insurance Plans

While consumers search for affordable health insurance, they have price in their mind as the top priority. A general conception among the consumers is that cheap health plans should not be costly-the cheapest health plan available in the market is their target. However, this approach is not good. Sometimes, paying for a cheap health insurance plan but still not getting the required level of coverage results only in wastage of money.

With the implementation of the affordable care act, the reach of affordable health plans is set to increase. Or at least, this is what is believed to be the objective of healthcare reforms. However, lots of consumers are still in confusion about how things would work. In this article, we will discuss some detailed options that consumers can try while looking to buy affordable health plans.

To get a hand on affordable health insurance plans, consumers need to take of certain things. First among them is about knowing the options in the particular state of the residence. There are lots of state and federal government-run programs that could be suitable for consumers. Knowing the options is pretty important. Next would be to understand the terms and conditions of all the programs and check the eligibility criteria for each one of them. Further, consumers should know their rights after the implementation of healthcare reforms, and something within a few days, they may qualify for a particular program or could be allowed to avail a particular health insurance plan. If consumers take care of these steps, there is no reason why consumers can’t land on an affordable health plan that could cater to the medical care needs.

Let’s discuss some options related to affordable health insurance plans state-wise:

State-run affordable health insurance programs in California

While considering California, there are three affordable health insurance plans that are run by the state government. Consumers can surely get benefitted by these if they are eligible for the benefits.

• Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (MRMIP)

This program is a very handy one offering limited health benefits to California residents. If consumers are unable to purchase health plans due to a preexisting medical condition, they can see if they qualify for this program and get benefits.

• Healthy Families Program

Healthy Families Program offers Californians with low cost health, dental, and vision coverage. This is mainly geared to children whose parents earn too much to qualify for public assistance. This program is administered by MRMIP.

• Access for Infants and Mothers Program (AIM)

Access for Infants and Mothers Program provides prenatal and preventive care for pregnant women having low income in California. It is administered by a five-person board that has established a comprehensive benefits package that includes both inpatient and outpatient care for program enrollees.

Some facts about affordable health insurance in Florida

While talking about affordable health insurance options in Florida, consumers can think about below mentioned options:

• Floridians who lost employer’s group health insurance may qualify for COBRA continuation coverage in Florida. At the same time, Floridians, who lost group health insurance due to involuntary termination of employment occurring between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 may qualify for a federal tax credit. This credit helps in paying COBRA or state continuation coverage premiums for up to nine months.

• Floridians who had been uninsured for 6 months may be eligible to buy a limited health benefit plan through Cover Florida.

• Florida Medicaid program can be tried by Floridians having low or modest household income. Through this program, pregnant women, families with children, medically needy, elderly, and disabled individuals may get help.

• Florida KidCare program can help the Floridian children under the age of 19 years and not eligible for Medicaid and currently uninsured or underinsured.

• A federal tax credit to help pay for new health coverage to Floridians who lost their health coverage but are receiving benefits from the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program. This credit is called the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC). At the same time, Floridians who are retirees and are aged 55-65 and are receiving pension benefits from Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), may qualify for the HCTC.

Some facts about affordable health insurance in Virginia

While talking about affordable health insurance options in Virginia, consumers need to consider their rights:

• Virginians who lost their employer’s group health insurance may apply for COBRA or state continuation coverage in Virginia.

• Virginians must note that they have the right to buy individual health plans from either Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield or CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield.

• Virginia Medicaid program helps Virginians having low or modest household income may qualify for free or subsidized health coverage. Through this program, pregnant women, families with children, and elderly and disabled individuals are helped.

• Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) helps Virginian children under the age of 18 years having no health insurance.

• In Virginia, the Every Woman’s Life Program offers free breast and cervical cancer screening. Through this program, if women are diagnosed with cancer, they may be eligible for treatment through the Virginia Medicaid Program.

Some facts about affordable health insurance in Texas

While talking about affordable health insurance options in Texas, consumers need to consider their rights:

• Texans who have group insurance in Texas cannot be denied or limited in terms of coverage, nor can be required to pay more, because of the health status. Further, Texans having group health insurance can’t have exclusion of pre-existing conditions.

• In Texas, insurers cannot drop Texans off coverage when they get sick. At the same time, Texans who lost their group health insurance but are HIPAA eligible may apply for COBRA or state continuation coverage in Texas.

• Texas Medicaid program helps Texans having low or modest household income may qualify for free or subsidized health coverage. Through this program, pregnant women, families with children, elderly and disabled individuals are helped. At the same time, if a woman is diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer, she may be eligible for medical care through Medicaid.

• The Texas Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers subsidized health coverage for certain uninsured children. Further children in Texas can stay in their parent’s health insurance policy as dependents till the age of 26 years. This clause has been implemented by the healthcare reforms.

• The Texas Breast and Cervical Cancer Control program offers free cancer screening for qualified residents. If a woman is diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through this program, she may qualify for medical care through Medicaid.

Like this, consumers need to consider state-wise options when they search for affordable health coverage. It goes without saying that shopping around and getting oneself well-equipped with necessary information is pretty much important to make sure consumers have the right kind of health plans.