A slew of products and ‘insurtech’ have made the process of buying a plan as well as claims settlement easier and faster
The process of buying an insurance policy is unrecognisable today compared to two decades ago. Competition and a flood of products and options have combined with the galloping awareness and needs of the insuring public. Insurtech, or technology in insurance, has stepped in to reduce much of the friction in buying insurance or getting claims.
Contrast this to the early days of life insurance when underwriters met every six months to consider the handful of life insurance proposals received and to determine whether to write the risk or not! Timely premium collections and claims payments were always a challenge in the offline world. But, no more.
In India, by the early nineties, credit cards had become commonplace and Internet banking entered the scene by the late nineties. In 200,1 The Insurance Act, 1938 was amended to allow various methods of payment of premium, including credit card and Internet banking.
Mobile app payments
What technology offered was a godsend in times of crises. If demonetisation saw us paying our household staff through Internet banking, the pandemic pushed almost all purchase and payment to mobile apps.
In the last 20 years, almost the entire process of buying insurance has gone digital. The way I bought my policy last week is a case in point. Filled a proposal form online, fulfilled know-your-customer (KYC) formalities digitally and paid using an app on my phone. Almost instantaneously
I could download the policy complete with electronic signature. What is more, all my policies can be stored in an e-insurance account for easy retrieval and transaction. The e-insurance account also eases renewals with KYC and other compliances.
Yet, some physical processes will always be involved because we live in a physical world. So, a medical evaluation or a vehicle inspection before issuing a policy may be needed, as will similar formalities for paying claims, even if cashless.
Buying insurance begins best online with the research based on your unique awareness of your needs and constraints. Product information and premium calculators on insurance-company websites should be your stop in this journey.
On the websites of insurance brokers and web-aggregators, you can go one step ahead and do comparison shopping, deciding between insurance policy options on coverage and other terms, including premium and zeroing in on the company to buy from.
You can buy most policies on company or intermediary websites by filling in the proposal form and uploading supporting documents such as KYC or vehicle papers.
There are advantages in sticking to an insurance company you have earlier policies with. On the other hand, going to an aggregator opens up your options on policies and also future purchases as you build up a new relationship.
Payment for a policy is the easiest bit, and straightforward renewals are only easier. If you need enhancement of coverage or changes in the policy, budget the time and effort for these to get processed in time to meet your renewal deadline. The offline processes, if any, will be facilitated by the company representative.
The e-insurance account earlier makes renewals way more easy. Not only do they add to the swell of your SMS or email inbox with reminders to renew and sometimes offers, they provide their own payment mechanism as well.
A word about renewal links. This is where you go to make payments. Exercise caution to ensure that you are visiting an authentic link.
Look for safety certification on the website where you intend to pay, like the ‘https’ protocol on the payment site / page. For absolute safety, instead of clicking on renewal payment links, type out the URL of the site yourself.
Many good products don’t catch up that fast. One such is the e-insurance account mentioned earlier. A digital account carrying all your insurance policies is such a convenience in a world of characteristic hypermobility of the working-age population earlier or the contrasting work-from-home ‘hyper-immobility’ in recent times!
This is one account worth signing up for and my surmise is that it isn’t popular because it is free!
It is not just buying insurance and paying for it that has gone digital. Cashless claims, introduced in the early 2000s, have stepped up convenience of health insurance immensely.
Cashless claims are available for motor insurance too with insurance company-affiliated network garages, usually vehicle-dealer workshops. This has eased the many headaches of the process of estimating the damage and repair costs and ensures you get authentic spares and service, plus a much faster return of your vehicle with damages fixed.
The cashless process is mostly invisible to the insured. In the case of a health insurance claim, the hospital deals with the service provider of the insurance company (the third-party administrator or the TPA) for the documentation and the payment. We can all remember times when these were more painful than the health condition itself!
Remember, the hospital has to give you information about what you are being charged under various heads for your cashless claim. This is so that you can verify that you are not being double-billed for the same expenses.
Pre-approval of claims has added to the ease of the insured and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has even mandated that COVID-related claims should be pre-approved in 60 minutes!
That, if anything, qualifies as insurance at the speed of light!
(The writer is a business journalist specialising in insurance & corporate history)
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