After any kind of natural calamity, insurance companies usually get jittery on the huge amount of claims they may have to pay. But following the recent floods in Uttarakhand, in which thousands lost their lives, general insurance companies have hardly seen any claims related to medical emergencies. This is because Indians don't believe in taking travel insurance, especially if they are travelling within the country. Even when travelling overseas, most Indian travellers take insurance only if it is mandatory.
But given the small premium, it is advisable to buy insurance while travelling anywhere. For instance, for a 10-day trip to the US, for a 30-year old male, for a sum assured of $50,000 (approximately Rs 29 lakh) the premiums range between Rs 800 and Rs 1,020. For a 10-day domestic trip, for a 30-year old male, for a sum assured of Rs 60,000 the premium is around Rs 600. This amount is for medical reimbursement. In addition, the policy benefits also include additional amounts for medical evacuation, accidental death, transportation for family and accommodation for extended stay.
Since the Uttarakhand incident was a large scale disaster, most of the preliminary medical and emergency services were taken care of by the government.
But if you are caught in a similar situation and had taken travel insurance, it would have covered the cost of your transportation to the nearest hospital, medical and hospitalisation costs, expenses on account of extended stay, as well as travel and accommodation for your relatives to the place where you are hospitalised.
While a medical insurance will cover your hospitalisation due to an accident, it will not cover repatriation in case of an accident.
Some benefits vary depending on the company. For instance, ICICI Lombard General Insurance provides home insurance coverage which protects the home of the insured while they are travelling. For domestic travel, Bajaj Allianz offers a daily cash benefit in case of hospitalisation due to accident, which is a maximum of Rs 1,000 per day for a period of seven days. For overseas travel, it offers a separate add-on cover for those going for adventure sports where the premium is higher, called Travel Elite. In this case, the premiums depend on the country where you are travelling to.
How quickly the claims are settled depends on the nature of the claim, says Renuka Kanvinde, assistant vice-president, health insurance, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. "If you are claiming for hospitalisation or evacuation to the nearby hospital, you will be reimbursed immediately. But if you are claiming reimbursement for permanent disability, then you will have to produce a certificate from the hospital where you have undergone treatment and that could take some time,'' she says.
At all companies, the cover extends to any incident or calamity that takes place at the residence of the insured or at the destination the insured visits during the trip. The premiums usually vary based on factors, such as sum insured, age, duration of travel and geographic location of the destination. The longer the trip, the higher the sum assured.
Sanjay Dutta, chief-underwriting and claims, ICICI Lombard, says premium is not a deterrent because it is not very high. It is the mindset of the travellers that nothing can go wrong during a short domestic travel, as a result of which they tend not to take insurance.
While the level of awareness and penetration of travel insurance is very high among international travellers, in India, there is a need for higher awareness, says Ravinder M, national head-rural, accident and health, Tata AIG General Insurance.