Global reinsurer Swiss Re hopes to partner with the central and state governments in health insurance.
Robert Burr, its head of life & health, Asia, said the health insurance gap in this continent was estimated to be $197 billion (Rs 12.2 lakh crore).
He said Swiss Re was exploring opportunities with state schemes. “Insurance should provide protection. It is a social obligation of governments to provide healthcare to citizens, around the world. We would look at mass market healthcare schemes and the emerging middle class who require better quality of care. There should be more partnerships between Swiss Re, governments, pharmaceutical companies and insurers. State governments are also looking for collaboration and we would like to partner with them,” he said.
For Swiss Re, the largest Asian market is Japan. The fastest growing ones are China, Indonesia and India. Burr said this would mean 30-40 more hires in this country over the next couple of years.
India has the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana as a central government-sponsored scheme. It was launched to provide health insurance coverage for below poverty line families. Beneficiaries are entitled to hospitalisation coverage up to Rs 30,000. They need to pay only Rs 30 as registration fee; the state government selects the insurer after competitive bids, it and the central government then paying the premium.
On reinsurance premium rates, Burr said on the non-life side, in the property and casualty segments, there was a lot of capacity; so, rates were flat or slightly down. On the medical side, he added, there were companies which tried to undercut. “In the reinsurance business, we can compete on price or on value. We (his company) don’t compete on price,” he said.
With respect to the areas of growth, he said that Swiss Re will expand in the insurance segments of life, health, agriculture, natural catastrophe and infrastructure. “We are interested in the medical insurance space and in long-term risks. Here in India, the tenure of products is 3-5 years and is short-term in nature. We like products that have duration of 10 years and more,” he said.
Swiss Re is also looking forward to getting a reinsurance branch license in India, since the insurance regulations do not permit them to do so presently. Robert Burr said that they are committed to investing in India and added that de-regulation of the reinsurance market would enable them to hire more people. While the global reinsurer is also engaged in a prospective health insurance joint venture with a large Indian corporate, Burr clarified that whatever investments Swiss Re does in any company or JV, it is passive in nature.
“We invest in countries to stay and don’t hit and run. The regulator has his concerns, with respect to flight of capital. First, let the capital in and then regulate it. If we get a branch license, people can come here and we can increase a bigger pie for everyone. It is good for the industry,” he said.
India, which is one of the fastest growing markets for Swiss Re in India, contributed 10 per cent of profits for their life and health business in Asia in this year.
Source: Business Standard
Date: 25th September 2013