20-30% of the Indian population suffers from allergic rhinitis and 15% from asthma annually. Allergy epidemiology also implicated an increasing trend of allergic diseases in India. Despite the rising rates of allergy in India, not many insurance providers cover the allergy in their insurance plan. Currently, there are no insurance companies in India that provide a medical coverage plan for the allopathic treatment of allergic conditions. However, in recent years Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH) has been widely supported by the government and insurance companies (Narula, 2016). Private insurance companies have therefore started AYUSH treatment health insurance coverage.
AYUSH treatment statistics
AYUSH treatment is gaining attention for treating spondylitis, arthritis, epilepsy, gallstone, and varied allergies. Its treatments are significantly higher in treating skin, muscular-skeletal related ailments, and persistent allergic conditions. Moreover, they are cost-effective because they have a property of low or no side effects. The medical expenditure per treated AYUSH person is Rs. 270 and Rs. 378 in both rural and urban areas respectively (Rudra et al., 2017). However, allopathic medicine and other treatment expenditures are quite higher, unlike AYUSH treatment, especially in urban areas. The use of AYUSH treatment in rural and urban areas for acute diseases is still less in comparison to allopathic. However, in recent years there has been a steady shift of treatment options towards AYUSH. As per statistics in 2016, 6.9% of people irrespective of the urban or rural area used outpatient AYUSH care in a time frame of 2 weeks (Rudra et al., 2017).
Patients with chronic illness such as asthma and allergic rhinitis reported greater use of AYUSH care both across rural (8.8%) and urban India (8.1%) as in 2016. Chhattisgarh (15.4%), Kerala (13.7%), and West Bengal (11.6%) indicated the highest rate of AYUSH treatment cases. In total, over fifty thousand patients are reported to choose AYUSH based treatments as of 2016, which is expected to rise by 1 lakh by 2020 (AYUSH, 2017). This is attributed to increasing AYUSH treatment facilities, doctors and specialists. There are at present over 7.7 lakh registered AYUSH doctors practising in India (Chandra and Patwardhan, 2018). Ayurveda registered doctors in India as of 2016 are 428884 (55.4%), Unani 49566 (6.4%), Siddha 8505 (1.1%), Naturopathy 2242 (0.3%) and Homoeopathy 284471 (36.8%) registered doctors as of 2016 and rising. Moreover, there were approximately over 1000 AYUSH wellness centres during 2014-2015 and rising.
Need for AYUSH treatment health insurance
The statistics from the previous section indicates the increasing popularity of AYUSH based treatments. AYUSH based treatments cover co-morbid cases of chronic illness. For instance; ayurvedic treatment for asthma help in treating co-morbid cardiovascular conditions. Asthma caused by pollens and dust are allergic in nature and is easily treatable using Ayurveda. Therefore, it is possible that insurance companies provide with AYUSH treatment health insurance coverage. Moreover, in the latest update of the IRDAI guidelines suggest the provision of medical coverage to AYUSH treatment, although not mandated (IRDAI, 2017). This raises the need for AYUSH treatment health insurance. Another factor that influences the need is low cost and a low side effect of AYUSH treatments. However, these factors along with an increasing rise of AYUSH patients, and government backup has led a few insurance companies towards AYUSH treatment health insurance coverage.
AYUSH treatment health insurance plans
There are currently 18 insurance companies from the private and public sector that provides AYUSH treatment health insurance. ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company Ltd is one of the leading private insurance providers in India and has health insurance coverage plan for AYUSH treatments (AYUSH, 2017). The company provides in-patient AYUSH treatment mandatory coverage in Health Protect, Health Protect Plus, Health Smart, Health Smart Plus, and iHealth plans (ICICI Lombard, 2018). The AYUSH treatment health insurance coverage is provided for in-patient hospitalisation expenses along with AYUSH treatment procedures. Unlike other insurance companies, ICICI Lombard Health Insurance policy covers AYUSH with no additional charges and the premium rates are also low (ICICI Lombard, 2018).
The table displays the name of a few insurance companies that provide AYUSH treatment health insurance.
|Cholamandalam MS Insurance||Chola Healthline Plan||Offers up to 7.5% coverage of the ayurvedic treatment as well as AYUSH treatment|
|Apollo Munich health insurance||Easy Health Executive plan||Offers up to 25000/- benefit for AYUSH treatment if the insurance sum ranges between 3-10 lakhs. Benefits of 50000 for AYUSH treatment if the insurance plan is for 15 to 50 lakhs|
|HDFC Ergo||Health Suraksha Plan||Reimbursement of 7.5% of the sum insured|
|Tata AIG||MediPrimePlan||Rs. 25000 reimbursement in AYUSH treatments|
|Religare Health||–||Insurance of Rs. 15000 to 50000 coverage for AYUSH|
AYUSH treatment insurance for allergies
Governments’ promotion for AYUSH treatment has indirectly helped in the improvement of allergic conditions of the public in India. Increasing AYUSH wellness centres, doctors, R&D, and government expenditures have motivated patients to shift from allopathic treatments towards non-allopathic treatments methods. Majority of the AYUSH patients either suffer from chronic illness or persistent and repetitive conditions such as allergies. Thus, it may be considered that these factors have motivated insurance companies to offer AYUSH treatment health insurance.
Even though insurers do not directly offer treatment coverage for allergic conditions, but via AYUSH treatment health insurance for co-morbid conditions allergic condition made treatable and insured. However, insurance provided in cases of in-patient hospitalization for AYUSH treatment plan. Most of the cases of allergy in such cases are in-patient with co-morbid conditions like skin infections, cardiovascular conditions and respiratory problems. Thus, it may be considered that allergic conditions are being medically insured indirectly.
- AYUSH, 2017. National Ayush Mission. [online] Available at: http://ayush.gov.in/sites/default/files/4197396897-Charakasamhita%20ACDP%20%20english_0.pdf
- Chandra, S. and Patwardhan, K., 2018. Allopathic, AYUSH and informal medical practitioners in rural India–a prescription for change. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine.
- ICICI Lombard, 2018. ICICI Lombard complete health insurance. [online] Available at: https://www.icicilombard.com/health-insurance/complete-health-insurance-brochure.pdf.
- IRDAI, 2017. Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority
(Health Insurance) Regulations, 2013. [online] Available at: http://ayush.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette%20IRDA%202013.pdf
- Nair, P., 2018. Tough rules for AYUSH treatment make health cover difficult. [online] Available at: https://www.rediff.com/business/report/tough-rules-for-ayush-treatment-make-health-cover-difficult/20161019.htm.
- Narula, H., 2018. Unveil the scope of AYUSH under the health insurance policy. [online] Available at: https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/personal-finance/unveilscopeayush-under-health-insurance-policy-931762.html.
- Rudra, S., Kalra, A. and Joe, W., 2018. Utilization of alternative systems of medicine as health care services in India: Evidence on AYUSH care from NSS 2014. PloS One, 12(5), p.e0176916.
- Thompson, P., Salvi, S., Lin, J., Cho, Y., Eng, P., and Abdul Manap et al., R., 2013. Insights, attitudes, and perceptions about asthma and its treatment: Findings from a multinational survey of patients from 8 Asia-Pacific countries and Hong Kong. Respirology, 18, pp.957-67.
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