In India, air pollution continues to pose a significant threat to public health, especially in metropolitan regions such as Delhi and Mumbai. A plethora of factors, including vehicular emissions, industrial activities, stubble burning are contributing to this escalating hazard.
The recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi crossed the 400 mark in early November, signifying alarming levels of pollutants in the air.
The detrimental effects of pollution encompass a wide range of health issues, including asthma, cancer, and heart diseases, accounting for 12% of the global disease burden.
Hospitals, particularly in Delhi are witnessing a rise in patients with respiratory conditions, some requiring ICU admissions too.
Talking about insurance to fight air pollution, Indraneel Chatterjee, Co-founder of RenewBuy, an InsurTech platform, said, “If we talk about insurance, most health insurance plans are all-inclusive and the usual airborne ailments like bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and COPD that require hospitalization, are covered under most health insurance policies (under T&C). However, in many cases, patients do not require hospitalization. They might need regular OPD consultations, medications and diagnostic tests, during this time. The ailments at OPD level are usually not covered in standard health insurance policies. A health insurance policy with good OPD cover/teleconsultation cover plans can help consumers sail through.”
Many insurers have recently introduced, low-cost/ customized health insurance policies, which provide coverage for diagnostic tests and OPD / teleconsultations, which can legitimately help people for pollution-related ailments, Chatterjee said.
“Go for low cost/ customized health insurance product, which is highly beneficial to people for pollution-related tests/ treatments and medications and has received increased demand from consumers, especially from the smaller cities post the pollution-related weather conditions,” Chatterjee added.
“In severe cases, a consumer and his/ her family might require immediate hospitalization or even ICU support; in such cases, a family health insurance with ICU expenses covered and a cashless claim is highly recommended. Many health insurance policies acknowledge pollution-related ailments, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and COPD (to name a few), for claim processing.
However, it is recommended that the policyholder reads the terms and conditions carefully before buying any policy. In many policies there are hidden clauses, which consumers get to know only during the claim settlement process, and many times, end up paying the treatment cost from their pocket. Insurance companies might deny a claim due to reasons such as insufficient medical documentation, undisclosed pre-existing conditions, or policy exclusions. However, if a disclosed pre-existing condition worsens due to pollution, it is generally expected to be covered,” Chatterjee continued.
The smoker community has also increased in the country, and such people are usually more prone to lung-related illnesses, during pollution. Talking about this issue Chatterjee said, “There are many health insurance plans today, which cater to consumers (who smoke), and provide financial protection, especially when it comes to suffering from bronchitis and asthma.”
“Given the severity of the situation, it is important for consumers to adopt protective measures, so there is less scope for pollution related illness. Wearing masks; maintaining indoor air quality, especially when AQI exceeds 151 and ensuring the safety of individuals already vulnerable due to pre-existing respiratory conditions are some of the basic preventive measures, one can take. Coming to insurance, consumers must look for optimum health coverage, which includes common diseases and critical illnesses. It is always suggested that they take the route of digitally enabled insurance advisors so that they can get proper guidance on health insurance policies as per their individual/ family needs and requirements,” he signed off.