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6th Feb 2024
Senior Health Insurance

Why Health Insurance is important for Senior Citizens in India?

India is witnessing a rapid increase in its elderly population. As per Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons (aged 60 years or above) in the country, constituting 8.6% of the total population. This number is expected to rise to 173 million by 2026.

In this context, health insurance for senior citizens becomes a critical tool for ensuring that India’s elderly have access to necessary healthcare services without the burden of financial strain. The importance of health insurance for senior citizens in India cannot be overstated, as it provides a safety net for this vulnerable segment of the population, allowing them to access quality healthcare with greater ease and financial security.

Why Health Insurance is Essential for Seniors?

With advancing age, the incidence of health problems like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cataracts etc. rises substantially. Hospitalization costs for the elderly are significantly higher due to chronic ailments, longer recovery times and complications.

As per a National Sample Survey Office report, the average medical expenditure for hospitalization among the elderly was Rs. 17,000 compared to Rs. 15,000 for the general population. Also, over 63% of the elderly have to pay for healthcare expenses out of their personal savings. Out-of-pocket healthcare costs can thus burn through retirement savings quickly.

Having adequate health insurance ensures senior citizens can meet exorbitant medical bills without draining their lifetime savings. It provides cashless hospitalization by covering room rents, ICU charges, surgeon fees and other hospital expenses. Top-up plans with high sums insured (Rs. 5-10 lakhs) give extra coverage for critical illnesses like cancer, renal failure etc. which require prolonged hospitalization. Some policies also cover pre- and post-hospitalization expenses for 30-60 days.

Specialized Health Insurance Options for Seniors

Many general insurers like National Insurance, New India Assurance and Oriental Insurance offer tailored plans like Varishta Mediclaim Policy exclusively for senior citizens aged 60-80 years. These plans have no pre-existing disease waiting period, no medical tests up to sum insured of Rs. 50,000 and easy renewals up to lifelong. The premiums are also lower compared to regular health plans.

However, the regular Mediclaim policy still remains the most comprehensive coverage for seniors. It has no age limit for entry and can be renewed lifelong. The premiums are higher but it covers pre-existing conditions after 4 years and has add-ons for critical illness and OPD coverage. One can also opt for family floater plans to cover spouse and dependent parents.

Top-up plans from insurers like Max Bupa and Apollo Munich provide extra coverage of Rs. 3-10 lakhs over and above your base Mediclaim policy. These plans are cheap yet give substantial financial protection against catastrophic illnesses in old age like organ transplants and cancer which cost lakhs of rupees nowadays.

Many life insurers like LIC, SBI Life and ICICI Prudential also offer health plans tailored for the elderly like Jeevan Arogya and Health Premia. These provide cover till age 80-85 years and include unique features like recovery benefit, transportation allowance and caregiver expenses. Critical illness riders can also be attached for added protection.

Must Read: 5 Best Mediclaim Policies for Seniors Citizens in 2022

Key Factors to Consider When Buying Health Insurance for Seniors

When buying health insurance for seniors, factors like pre-existing disease cover, lifelong renewability, lower waiting periods and minimum exclusions should be considered. The plan should have cashless hospitalization across major cities and towns.

Adding top-up plans and critical illness riders provides comprehensive coverage against the high costs of geriatric care and chronic diseases.

Tax Benefits and Government Efforts Needed

Tax benefits up to Rs. 25,000 can also be availed on health insurance premium under Section 80D, enhancing affordability.

Overall, adequate health insurance ensures the elderly can access quality geriatric and critical care without facing financial difficulties. It prevents precious retirement savings from getting depleted due to unexpected medical crises. This provides great mental and financial relief to both seniors and their families.

As the elderly population surges, specialized geriatric healthcare and health insurance will become imperative in India. Health plans covering assisted-living facilities for long-term elderly care are also the need of the hour. The government should aim to increase health insurance penetration among India’s elderly to 50% over the next decade. Insurance regulator IRDAI can introduce standard and comprehensive health plans for senior citizens at affordable premiums. Tax incentives can be provided to family members who buy health plans for their elderly dependents.

India’s elderly worked hard all their lives to support the next generations. Now it is the duty of younger family members to take care of their health insurance needs for an active, dignified and financially secure life in the golden years.

Must Read: The Top 10 Health Concerns for Seniors in 2023

 Here is a summary of the key points:

  • India’s elderly population is rising rapidly, leading to greater healthcare needs and expenses. Health insurance is critical for them to access quality care.
  • Hospitalization costs are much higher for seniors due to chronic illnesses, longer recovery and complications. Health insurance provides financial protection against high medical bills.
  • Specialized health plans like Varishta Mediclaim offer tailored coverage for seniors. But regular Mediclaim with add-ons provides the most comprehensive coverage.
  • Top-up plans give extra coverage for critical illnesses requiring prolonged hospitalization. Critical illness riders also provide additional protection.
  • Factors like lifelong renewal, low waiting periods and cashless hospitalization should be considered while buying health insurance for seniors.
  • Adequate health insurance prevents depletion of retirement savings due to unexpected medical crises in old age.
  • As the elderly population rises, geriatric healthcare and health insurance will become imperative. The government should increase insurance penetration among elderly to 50% in a decade.

So in summary, comprehensive health insurance is a must for senior citizens in India to access quality geriatric care and lead a life of health, dignity and financial independence in their golden years.