Saturday, April 07, 2007

What is it about health insurance?

And its low penetration in India? Health insurance in India beyond the regular Mediclaim or life insurance is low. (Even with them, penetration is low, but thats a different point altogether.) I used to visit this doctor who had his dispensary in a slum colony in Mumbai - I havent seen a better doctor than him yet.

First, our visits to the doctor (and leave the bloggers and self styled rich middle class out of this) is only when patience, denial, self medication, home remedies, prescriptions of the pharmacist -not necessarily in that order - fail to have any effect. So, by the time someone reaches the doctor, the case is usually pretty severe.

Two, there are many quacks than there are doctors. So, going to them is really cheap, cheaper than any insurance than anyone can think of (perhaps expensive in the long run, but...)

People rely on friends for medicine. "Lets see, last time I had a stomach ache, my doctor prescribed me this - infact I have some of it left - would you like to have it?"

People often walk up the neighbourhood pharmacist and ask him for advice - usually on the pretext that the doctor is unavailable - so thats another avenue for medication.

And of course, our alternative health systems and home remedies. These are good - very effective for many routine illnesses. Systems like Ayurveda work for many other illnesses - but these are long term and holistic - unlike allopathy which is as close to quick fix as it can get.

My prediction is that health insurance will not be a sunrise industry for many years to come - the only to penetrate it is through micro insurance (like Yeshasvini) or through corporates. If you still dream of individuals buying insurance, its a day dream, snap out of it. So, what about life insurance - thats for another day.

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