Public sector general insurance company, New India Assurance (NIA), is looking to launch one of the cheapest health insurance policy, with the yearly insurance premium for a minimum Rs 1 lakh sum assured for less than Rs 1,000.
The insurer is hoping to keep the price of the policy low by restricting the choice of hospitals, and covering only major illnesses.
"By restricting the choice of the insured, we will see how the premium could be brought down. We can also look at sum insured at more than Rs 1 lakh. We hope to file the application with the regulator in the next one month," said M Ramadoss, chairman-cum-managing director, New India Assurance.
The initiative comes at a time when almost all general insurance companies have raised their health insurance premiums by 20-30 per cent over the last year.
At present, for a person of up to 35 years, the minimum premium rates for up to Rs 1 lakh sum assured is Rs 1,000 or more.
Also, with SBI general insurance slated to enter the market this year, the competition in the industry is likely to intensify.
"The entry of SBI in the general insurance industry can make a dent in the market," said Ramadoss.
New India Assurance is the largest general insurance company with gross premium last year at about Rs 6,200 crore.
General insurance companies have been trying to reduce the loss ratio in the health insurance companies by reducing exposure to corporate health policies or repricing them upwards.
The overall growth of the health insurance portfolio has come down to about 5-6 per cent in the financial year 2008-09, against about 30 per cent in the previous year, said Ramadoss.
This financial year, New India Assurance is looking at a growth rate of about 16 per cent in terms of gross premium, at Rs 7,250 crore (with Rs 6,000 crore from India, and the rest from foreign branches).
Ramadoss said, the general insurance industry was likely to grow at about 10-11 per cent, with the gross premium collection at Rs 34,000 crore. In the last financial year, the gross premium collection was Rs 31,000 crore.
Last year, New India Assurance had a net profit of Rs 270 crore. This year, there might be a reduction in the net profit to about Rs 250 crore, due to lesser investment profit, said Ramadoss.