While disability rights groups demand insurance instruments for the disabled, there was not much movement, until recently, on an instruction of the Delhi High Court, the IRDAI issued orders asking private insurers to design instruments for the disabled.
"In the light of the above provisions incorporated in the respective Acts, and with the objective of making available an appropriate product offering health insurance cover for certain vulnerable sections of society, like persons with disabilities (PWD), persons afflicted with HIV/AIDS, and those with mental illness, all general and health insurers shall offer a specific cover for persons with disabilities (PWD), persons afflicted with HIV/AIDS, and those with mental illness," the letter said.
The policy tenure of these insurances would be for a year and be renewable and the price will have to be set according to provisions, the letter added.
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While India has made strides in including PWDs in government health schemes and programs, such as the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, ADIP and Nirmaya Health Insurance, there are still significant challenges and gaps in the healthcare system in terms of disability inclusion. The disabled are still not entitled to health insurance.
This is even more crucial given the health risks and additional costs endured by the disabled.
Why insurance for the disabled?
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Present status in India
On June 2, 2020, IRDAI issued a circular directing insurers to develop an underwriting policy for persons with disabilities so as to enable them to obtain health insurance coverage. All insurers (life, general and health insurers) were directed to comply with the instructions by October 1, 2020.
However, nothing moved substantially till recently. After the intervention of Delhi High Court in December 2022, on February 27, 2023, IRDAI issued a circular mandating all the insurers to provide annual health cover to all PWDs, HIV- positive persons and mentally unwell people.
The order came after a disabled person filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court.
The IRDAI asked all insurers to design a product which will cater to all the basic recommendations of the disabled for them to be inclusive in the health insurance cover of disabled people.
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Insurance for the disabled: Global scenario
There are many countries, like the Philippines, Germany, Ireland, Japan, France and many more, that have health policies for disabled people. For instance, the Philippines' health coverage, PhilHealth, automatically covers all disabled people under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) of the Philippines Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Going ahead: Initiatives by NCPEDP
NCPEDP, an organization working for disability rights for the past 26 years, has been constantly advocating for health insurance coverage for disabled people. With the objective of bringing forth the challenges and concerns of the disabled people in front of IRDAI, the team met with Rakesh Joshi, Member (Finance & Investment), IRDAI, and apprised them about the challenges faced by the disabled and the way forward.
Now, NCPEDP is set to organize a workshop with the health insurance stakeholders along with the representatives of IRDAI to customize the product according to the needs of disabled people. It is scheduled to be held in Mumbai this month.
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