The most susceptible part of the population just got a lifeline, literally. With the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) announcing that it has plugged the lacunae in the insurance system that had prevented the aged from sourcing the kind of policies they needed, the dawn of a new era has begun for all those who have suffered the depredations of age-related ailments without the safety net of an insurance cover.
Under the current dispensation, what was available for the aged was either prohibitively expensive, taking them out of the reach of most people, or there was nothing at all. Now, due to the IRDA ruling, senior citizens can get health covers, without having to empty out their pockets.
The insurance regulator has made this possible by asking insurers to allow people to enter the insurance system by making them eligible to take up any health policy of their choice, until the age of 65 years till July 1, 2009.
To make sure insurers actually follow the rules and not shirk their responsibilities, IRDA has made it compulsory for them to list all the reasons in writing citing why they have refused insurance to any one.
In case insurers target some policies at a particular age group, or there is an entry-level age specification, then it must be clearly mentioned in the policy paper.
The IRDA was forced to take this step as all insurance companies were unwilling to cater to the needs of the old as they are generally infirm and most likely would require a tremendous amount of medical care as they aged further. Insurers cited the view that it would be very difficult, nigh impossible, to make any kind of money by insuring this particular class of people.
But the IRDA argument that leaving a huge chunk of the population uninsured, not by choice, but by neglect, would tantamount to shirking responsibilities by the sector. Needless to say, the regulator itself was under tremendous pressure to make sure that the sector that it oversaw delivers some kind of succour to the elderly. Complaints of senior citizens too added to the strain.
Going a step further, IRDA has also insisted that the insurers must not overcharge this vulnerable section of the society. It has said that policies and the charges thereof have to be fair and transparent and, most of all, not lead to undue hassles in times of emergencies.
To make sure all these tenets are adhered to by insurers, IRDA has said there will be penalties imposed.
Steps like these by authorities at all levels, from policy-making, courts and even society at large, has seen a social security system gradually coming to life to cater to the needs of the population at all levels. This is encouraging in as much as it is leading to the building of a holistic care-giving arrangement that is attuned to the needs of individuals.