The General Insurance Council, the apex industry lobby of the 44-member strong non-life insurers, on Thursday said almost all health insurance policies cover epidemics, including coronavirus.

The statement comes after the regulator Irdai on Wednesday asked insurers to cover coronavirus cases in their existing policies and also to ensure that they expeditiously attend to the coronavirus claims.


"Almost all the existing health policies cover almost all epidemics, which includes the coronavirus too. What the regulator (Irdai) said was not to frame a new policy but asking the industry to treat coronavirus cases expeditiously," said A V Girija Kumar, chairman of the General Insurance Council, on the sidelines of an industry event to launch an awareness campaign to increase adoption of general insurance policies.


There are 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the country as of Thursday, of which 16 are Italian tourists.


On Wednesday, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai) asked insurers to expeditiously settle hospitalisation claims related to coronavirus disease under health policies. It also instructed insurers to come out with policies to cover treatment costs for coronavirus infection, which has impacted thousands of people worldwide.


"For the purpose of meeting health insurance requirements of various sections, insurers are advised to design products covering the costs of treatment for coronavirus," Irdai said in a circular.


To increase awareness about non-life insurance, GI Council, the apex body of general insurers, with support from the Insurance Regulatory Authority of India (IRDAI), has launched an awareness and education campaign – Faayde Ki Baat.


Under this campaign, GI Council aims to increase awareness about General Insurance and at the same time educate people on how to safeguard themselves and their assets especially their health, home and motor vehicle.


Kumar, who is also chairman of the state-run Oriental Insurance Company Ltd, said the industry is on course to close the current financial year at Rs 2 lakh crore and the industry is eyeing to double the size to Rs 4 lakh crore by 2024-25.


He also said the industry has set a target of increasing the adoption of non-life insurance policies to 2.5 per cent from the current 1 per cent by 2029-30.


He said the campaign is funded by the 44-strong industry — 25 general insurance companies, six standalone health insurance and two specialised insurance companies, along with 11 reinsurers — to drive awareness about the importance of non-life insurance. 


Kumar, said that the idea is to help deepen the reach of personal lines of business of non-life insurers and focus on smaller towns


He said that over the past two decades — since the privatisation of the industry — the non-life insurance industry has grown at a compound annual growth rate of about 17 per cent and the premium is expected to be Rs 2 lakh crore this year, up from about Rs 10,000 crore in 2000-01.


Though the penetration in this period has increased from about 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (in 2000) to around 1 per cent now, this is far below the penetration of 1.85 per cent and 2.8 per cent in Asia and globally, respectively.


According to the latest Irdai data, only about 4.2 crore individuals have a retail health policy, leaving out-of-pocket spends at about 65 per cent as compared to global average of 18 per cent.


In motor, about 50 percent of vehicles are uninsured. The home insurance penetration is very low. The share of Indian non-life insurance premium to global premium is at about 1.1 percent and India is ranked 15th in global non-life insurance markets.


Both motor and health insurance have a gap between what it is needed and what is purchased.


IRDAI's last published data shows that only about 4.2 crore individuals have a retail health policy. India's health spends are under 4 percent of GDP compared to global average of ~10 percent. At the same time, out-of-pocket spends are ~65 percent compared to global average of ~18 percent