`Compassionate Visit’ Covered Too

Parents worried about inadequate insurance cover for their children studying abroad, or the cost of buying a comprehensive policy from a foreign provider, have more options now.

Indian insurers such as ICICI Lombard, Bajaj Allianz General and Tata AIG General Insurance offer plans that cover unexpected expenses on almost anything that a student could face abroad ­ bail bonds and drug and alcohol rehabilitation to abortion, suicide attempt and even an emergency visit by a parent to take care of an unwell child.

Until few years ago, Indian companies provided bare-bone medical and travel insurance. Universities abroad demand much more, and students often had to buy insurance plans from foreign insurers who have partnered with their institutes. Premiums were usually high.

Student travel insurance isn’t yet a big business for local companies, but it is growing fast and they didn’t want to lose on that. They launched policies that are comprehensive to meet the demands of foreign institutes. For par ents, costs were as low as half the premiums paid to foreign companies. From 2011 to 2014, the number of students opting for local insure rs increased from 30% of the total to 60% be cause of the expanded plans and lower cost, say industry executives.

Hemant Ashar of Mumbai, whose 18year-old son studies in the US, wants to shift his insurance cover from a US based insurer to an Indian company. His son joined University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business last year for a BBA degree. The initial policy included a study-interruption cover.
This year, he found that he could get similar cover from a local insurer for much less.

“ICICI Lombard is one such company that has a study interruption provision,“ said Ashar. “While I paid Rs 1 lakh for an international one, the domestic ones are available for a premium of around Rs 60,000 per year.“

Sanjay Datta, chief of underwriting and claims at ICICI Lombard, said local insurers had to “up our game“ after universities started demanding wider coverage from 2012. “We marketed aggressively with education counsellors, travel agents and global universities to convince that we can provide similar policies too.“ According to Datta, out of the company’s entire travel insurance portfolio, student travel insurance constitutes approximately 8%, and with the added covers, he expects it to grow 15% year-over-year. In 2012, the company brought in the ICICI Lombard Gold Plan, which included medical emergencies along with stay and trip-related covers like bail bond, study interruption, sponsor protection, two-way compassionate visit and loss of checked-in baggage.

Student insurance is predominantly sold in July and August as new academic sessions start in September. Premiums charged by Indian insurance firms is at times one third to half of what insurers tied up with universities charge.

Indian general insurers now offer student travel policies which also cover expenses on cancer screening, organ transplant, sports injuries, childbirth and physiotherapy. The `compassionate visit’ clause takes care of parents’ travel and lodgings to attend an unwell son or daughter studying abroad. Also gaining popularity is the study interruption cover, where a student’s repeat semester fees are paid for in case he misses studies because of an accident or illness.

Bajaj Allianz General Insurance this year introduced a suicide cover to take care of any hospitalisation bills or other costs from suicide attempts.

“There was an increasing demand from local universities (in the US) that new batches get suicide cover and 80% of our student clients study in the US,“ said Renuka Kanvinde, assistant vice-president of health and travel insurance at Bajaj Allianz.

Tata AIG plans to roll out an insurance plan with a $500,000 cover that will include maternity benefits and physiotherapy costs along with drug and alcohol rehabilitation, cancer screening, pregnancy termination and sponsor-protection programmes. Until now, the limit was $250,000. Provisions like maternity and physiotherapy were added because universities demanded more, said M Ravichandran of Tata AIG General Insurance.

These companies have been introducing new polices as more and more Indians are travelling abroad for studies. The Council of Graduate Schools International Graduate Admissions Survey, Phase I, said there has been a 32% increase in applications from India to US colleges in 2014.

According to PolicyBazaar.com, the student travel insurance market in India deals with 70,000-90,000 transactions a year and the online insurance marketplace has already seen a 50% increase in the number of polices sold since last year. Expansion of coverage is expected to add to the numbers.


Source: The Economic Times

Date: June 20, 2014 

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