If you had contracted covid-19 and are now looking to buy a health insurance policy, you may not be able to do so immediately. Moreover, even if you are vaccinated, you might have to wait for two weeks to three months to buy a health insurance policy.
Many health insurers such as ManipalCigna, Max Bupa, HDFC ERGO and ICICI Lombard have introduced a ‘cooling-off’ or waiting period to buy a health plan for people who suffered from covid-19.
The cooling-off period is a time during which a person affected by a certain disease may not be able to buy health cover. This may vary from a few days to a few months.
Industry experts say in the case of covid-19, the cooling-off period is being applied for various reasons. First, it is a novel disease, and information, as well as understanding of it, is still evolving. Second, the accuracy of the test results is also in question, as in many cases one found that there has been a variance in the results of the same person depending on many factors.
“We do not treat covid-19 as a pre-existing disease. For us, it is an infection and a three-month cooling-off period, post-testing negative, allows a reasonable time for the emergence of complications, if any, which may have a bearing on the issuance of the health policy. Once we issue a policy, covid-19 will not be treated as a pre-existing condition. This is to avoid any challenges during claims,” said Bhabatosh Mishra, director, underwriting, products and claims, Max Bupa Health Insurance.
Echoing similar views, Priya Deshmukh Gilbile, chief operating officer, ManipalCigna Health Insurance, said people who have contracted covid-19 have to wait till their symptoms fully abate and the chances of relapse are minimized. “This is to ensure that the correct base health condition of the member is being identified. In our case, the cooling period is 90 days,” she said.
Many experts believe that the cooling-off period is an essential tool to ensure the customer’s health is evaluated fairly and accurately. For instance, many times a person is asymptomatic, and he doesn’t get to know that he is suffering from covid-19. However, down the line, he can get diagnosed with the virus.
“The idea of a cooling-off period is to make sure that even if you don’t know about symptoms, you are clear about the fact that the infection is not a pre-existing disease, and hence, you won’t get any issue while getting any claims settled in future,” said Sanjay Datta, chief, underwriting, claims and reinsurance, ICICI Lombard General Insurance. “In our case, the cooling period is 15 days.”
Generally, insurers have specific underwriting guidelines for covering infections, which help them evaluate and decide on the application acceptance. “Patients with co-morbid conditions who had mild to a severe disease requiring high flow nasal or non-invasive ventilation, we provide cover 28 days after discharge with the exclusion for all post covid-19 consequences,” said S. Prakash, MD, Star Health and Allied Insurance.
Infectious diseases are normally not covered for the first 30 days from the inception of the policy. “A patient who has been diagnosed with covid will have to wait for 45 days from the date of diagnosis to apply for cover,” said Ravi Vishwanath, president, accident and health business, HDFC ERGO General Insurance.