COVID situation not sustainable for insurance sector, says Max Bupa; co may take call on premium rates

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New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) The second wave of COVID-19 has put further pressure on insurance companies, a senior official of Max Bupa Health Insurance Company said, adding the firm may take a call on premium rates depending upon the evolving situation.

Meanwhile, an analyst said there could be premium increases of up to 25 per cent in the sector if the coronavirus cases rise more than expected.

The medical inflation since the onset of the pandemic has been the highest the company has ever witnessed, Bhabatosh Mishra, Director Underwriting, Products and Claims, Max Bupa, told PTI.

He said any changes in the premium amount of health insurance products are dependent on various factors.

'We have settled COVID claims of more than Rs 150 crore with an average claims size of Rs 1.45 lakh. The claim requests being raised to insurers due to the second wave of COVID is bound to further impact the portfolio of insurance companies,' Mishra said.

Many claims which were deferred due to COVID-19 are expected to be back once the pandemic is under control, he added.

Max Bupa took a conscious decision not to increase premiums last year as the company did not want to burden its customers at a time when the pandemic had impacted most of the people financially, he said.

'We were adversely impacted even during the first wave. The second wave has been far more intense than the first one and claim ratios, which were already worse than planned, is under further strain.

'Whether or not and how much premium revision will be needed will depend on how the pandemic goes and how much can we absorb. One thing is for sure, the current trend is not sustainable,' Mishra added.

The gross premium underwritten by the company during 2020-21, however, witnessed a jump of nearly 42 per cent at Rs 1,750.78 crore, as against Rs 1,242.89 crore in the previous fiscal year, according to data of insurance regulator Irdai.

Max Bupa is a standalone health insurance company. Its market share as on March 31, 2021 stood at 0.88 per cent.

An analyst with market research and investment firm Emkay Global, who tracks the insurance sector closely, said discussions are underway in the market regarding rise in insurance premiums.

'We expect nominal or inflationary kind of surge in the premium prices, not very exceptional increases. But if the COVID cases continue to remain elevated, then there will be a surge in prices which can be somewhere in the range of 20-25 per cent also,' said the analyst. PTI KPM KPM ABM ABM