By Modnath Dhakal
Kathmandu, Sept. 18: In the past five months since the announcement of the COVID-19 Insurance, the product has undergone multiple amendments creating confusion among the insured.
People who were happy to hear about the launch of the COVID-19 Insurance announced by the Nepal Insurance Board (NIB) on 19 April 2020 with an objective to help the people in the treatment of the virus, are now suspicious about whether they would be able to obtain the insurance payment in reality.
The insurance product had two options Rs. 100,000 and Rs. 50,000 which could be bought at Rs. 600 and 300 respectively.
But an amendment to the COVID Insurance provisions on14 September reduced the payment amount making it Rs. 25,000 for those getting treatment in home isolation and Rs. 75,000 for those who are admitted to a hospital just covering the cost of medicines and treatment.
The decision has given rise to a huge outcry as the people can’t buy an individual insurance policy for the coronavirus from 13 September and the amount has also been reduced drastically.
“This is an injustice to people. Rs. 25,000 is not justifiable for those getting treatment in home isolation. If a member in a family is infected, every member gets affected as they all stay in isolation and can’t go for work,” said Satish Kumar Bohra, Managing Director of Bohra Group.
A COVID-19 infected youth who is in home isolation in his rented apartment said that the insurance amount was insufficient even to cover the basic expenses on fruits and other immunity boosting foods.
However, a senior official of an insurance company said that the abrupt increment in the number of coronavirus infected people had made it difficult for the insurers to make the payment in a profitable way.
He said that the initial decision was made in haste as a popular move without considering the future prospects and the size of business the sector would witness.
About 1.26 million people were covered by the COVID Insurance by 10 September. Total 20 non-life insurance companies collected Rs. 724.2 million from the policy sales. But had all the infected 59,573 people, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health and Population till Thursday, were to be paid, it would require about Rs. 5.95 billion.
The rapidly growing number of patients and liability forced the insurance sector regulator to amend the provisions for multiple times. On 4 September, the NIB, citing the COVID Insurance Procedures’ provision, issued other directives to the insurance companies not to make payment of the insurance claim from the patients that presented coronavirus positive report issued by a private laboratory.
The directives were issued amidst the doubts of people obtaining fake COVID-19 infection reports from the private labs and hospitals. However, the decision was reversed, and private tests are also being accepted now.
Some insurers suggested that it would be better if the government had offered free treatment to every affected instead of selling the insurance policy.
Executive Director and Spokesperson of the NIB Raju Raman Poudel said that the product was announced with a good intention . However, citing to a case filed at the court challenging the board’s decision, he declined to make further comments.