Earlier this year, The Blind Graduates Forum of India (TBGFI) wrote to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) to not discriminate between the disabled, especially those who are blind or have low vision, from others, say reports. The regulator's reply, "We are working on an exposure draft for the coverage of the disabled."
Senior Irda officials say this has been on the agenda for long, the pricing is difficult to decide. "The challenges are similar to those in the case of insurance for HIV-positive patients," the official says.
When asked, companies say they don't deny policies to any disabled persons. This is true. In 2010, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance had launched a product 'Ability Insurance'. There were a host of covers available under this scheme for the specially-abled. Like Assured Protection (unit-linked plan), Max Advantage (highest NAV product), Invest Gain (traditional plan), Child Gain from their life insurance stable. Motor and health insurance plans were also available for such individuals.
The company's release said there would be no extra loading charges in the life and health insurance products but any cost associated with treatment of the disability will be excluded. However, the product is not available on the company's website today.
This apart, insurers mostly don't have a dedicated product for the disabled, except LIC's products - Jeevan Aadhar and Jeevan Vishwas. The former is for those who have disabled dependant(s). The plan provides life cover throughout the lifetime of the policy buyer. After him, the handicapped dependant will get the money partly as lump sum and partly as annuity. Jeevan Vishwas is an endowment plan for the handicapped.
However, Deepak Yohannan of MyInsuranceclub.com feels there isn't too much merit in these products, as the premiums are very high compared to a pure term and hospitalisation product. According to LIC's website, both the products provide a minimum cover of Rs 50,000. So, if a 50-year old wants to buy a Rs 5 lakh cover for a 30-year old disabled dependent he will have to pay an annual premium of Rs 32,800 (Jeevan Aadhar). For a similar cover, with Jeevan Vishwas, a 30-year old disabled will have to shell out Rs 25,000 a year.
Life insurers say it is not difficult for a disabled person to buy a product until he/she is in a vegetable-like state. They also discourage those who don't have dependants/income to buy life insurance. But, online plans cannot be bought by such individuals as medical test is a must for them.
On the health insurance side, Segar Sampathkumar, deputy general manager of New India Assurance, says, "We don't say no to anyone who is disabled. But, the disability and any treatment related to it is considered pre-existing."
Experts say private health insurers are cagey about covering the disabled. In comparison, public sector companies are more open to the idea. "It is difficult to offer a personal accident cover to such individuals. A hospitalisation cover can be given easily until the person is permanently disabled," says Sanjay Datta, chief, underwriting and claims, ICICI Lombard General Insurance. Here also, it begins with a medical test. And, the cover and premium are decided based on that. There is no clear mandate.
For instance, partial disabilities like arms bent or fingers cut are offered health insurance without loading the premium. But, if an appendage was cut due to gangrene or polio, it could result in premium loading.
If this is due to a musculoskeletal or nervous system problem, getting a cover is difficult, says Akshay Mehrotra of policybazaar.com. So, if one cannot move (fully or partially) due to cerebral palsy or autism or any spine/head injury, it will be called brain/neuro problems and rejected.
Polio cases may be covered, sometimes also on co-pay basis. Amputation cases are largely covered.
Blindness is not covered, as the person is prone to accidents. One with low or poor vision will be covered for hospitalisation due to any other health problems than eye and related issues. These individuals are also high risks and are charged higher premiums.
This is not covered.
Speech and Hearing Disability
Speech problems are considered without much loading on the premium. Those using the hearing machine are considered over those who don't. The premium for those not using a hearing machine is more.
If due to brain injury, brain dysfunction or developmental aphasia (presumed to be due to brain injury) are not covered. But, dyslexia is covered.
These could be difficult to cover at times. A combination of low vision and hearing impairment may be risky.