With Rising Costs, it may Pay to Buy a Separate Maternity Cover
Experts, however, advise one to be careful about riders like waiting period, sub-limits and restrictions on the number of child births or terminations, says Preeti Kulkarni
Many insurance companies are offering maternity covers as a part of their regular health policies these days. Earlier, maternity benefits were extended only as a part of employers’ corporate health insurance policies. However, companies like ICICI Lombard, Max Bupa and Apollo Munich have started offering this cover, with sub-limits ranging from .` 15,000-50,000. However, these products are costly and have a long waiting period of up to six years. Does it make sense to buy them? “Individuals can buy maternity cover if their employer’s insurance doesn’t cover it. Even selfemployed people should consider buying it. However, they should evaluate whether the cost and waiting period, after which such a cover is available, are reasonable,” says Arvind Laddha, CEO, Vantage Insurance Brokers.
What Does it Cover?
Maternity cover takes care of expenses related to delivery (normal and caesarean section) or the lawful medical termination of pregnancy during the policy period. However, there could be conditions limiting the number of deliveries or terminations, either during the lifetime of the insured person or the policy period, says Antony Jacob, CEO of health insurer Apollo Munich. Pre- and post-natal expenses per delivery or termination are also covered. Depending on the insurer and the product variant, WHO-approved vaccinations and medical treatment for the new born till 90 days or the next renewal will also be paid for. If your policy entitles you to daily cash hand-outs, you can use it to take care of your sundry expenses too. “If the insured person chooses the room type wisely, an additional sum as daily hospital cash can be used for other related expenses like medicines,” says Jacob.
According to Max Bupa, a rise in maternity claims points to the relevance of the policy. “We have noted an almost 50% increase in claims related to maternity in the last year. Coverage for maternity-related expenses is gaining importance with
Read the Fine Print
increase in medical costs as well as maternal age and greater incidence of lifestyle diseases that may lead to complications at the time of pregnancy,” says Manasije Mishra, CEO, Max Bupa. Sanjay Datta, chief, underwriting and claims, ICICI Lombard General Insurance, also believes that the policy is worth its premium because “it not just takes care of the hospitalisation costs, but also the insured’s pre and post-natal expenses.” The company’s claim figures indicate a sharp increase in maternity claims in 2013. While delivery-related claims went up by 36.52% from 2012, claims paid out for treatment of complications in new born babies shot up by nearly 46%. “Generally, maternity covers are restricted to maximum 10% of the overall sum insured and the cover is available only in the third year of continuous coverage. Waiting periods extend to over two years. The insured should evaluate whether the premium is worth the benefit of taking this cover,” says Laddha. Prospective buyers should examine sub-limits, or ceiling, for maternity cover closely. Most insurers impose caps of .` 15,000-25,000 for normal deliveries and .` 30,000-Rs 50,000 for caesarean section deliveries. Similarly, admissible preand post-natal expenses, too, could be limited to .` 1,500-5,000. Waiting period — when maternity benefits are not paid — usually ranges from two to six years. “If the waiting period is low, there is a higher cost associated with the plan,” says Jacob.
Policies that offer maternity covers are still costlier than regular ones. For example, under Max Bupa’s family floater product, the annual premium for a 30-year-old woman seeking a cover of .` 5 lakh with maternity benefits will be .` 14,816 (in a family of two adults). Without this component, it will be cheaper by around .` 2,000-3,000. Similarly, in case of ICICI Lombard, the floater cover without maternity benefits will be cheaper by around .` 7,000, while the difference is .` 1,000 under Apollo Munich’s individual policy.