Key financials of the insurance sector in 2020-
- Total investment in the insurance sector was Tk48,208 crore
- Investment in life insurances was Tk36,054 crore
- Investment increases 6.57% in life, 92.16% in non-life
- Premium collection stood at Tk13821 crore
- Premium collection down by 3.47%
- Penetration rate stood at 0.49%
- Out of 78 insurance companies, 50 are listed on stock exchanges
Although more than a year has passed since the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh, insurance companies have not yet come up with a separate insurance policy to provide health protection against the deadly disease.
Under current circumstances, people have to think of treatment expenses even before getting infected with Covid-19.
Coronavirus patients recovering after treatment at private hospitals have to come up with a large amount of money. And the cost of hospitalisation for critical Covid-19 patients is very high, depending on the hospital.
The ICU bill at a private hospital is between Tk50,000 and Tk1 lakh. Apart from this, people have to buy medicines, all of which has become a crisis and cause for concern for lower and middle class families.
Insurance companies say they are providing health coverage for Covid patients under regular health insurance policies which few people avail in Bangladesh. Though there were plans to tailor an insurance policy for coronavirus, it has not materialised yet.
Green Delta Insurance Company Limited has launched a pilot policy called Covid Insurance.
But, Bangladeshi insurance companies in general have not yet launched a separate insurance policy for Covid treatment. Currently, a health policyholder will receive health coverage if he is infected with Covid-19 and receives treatment at a hospital.
Md Moniruzzaman Khan, head of Digital Business at Green Delta Insurance Company, said affordable health insurance can play a critical role in ensuring access to the best medical facilities by reducing the burden of growing health expenditures.
"We are providing Covid-19 insurance, where an insured can be protected from all kinds of SARS-CoV diseases alongside personal accident coverage," he added.
Md Moniruzzaman Khan said accidental death and death due to infectious disease, accidental emergency medical expenses, and hospital cash allowances, are also covered under this policy.
"Our group and corporate health insurance also covers Covid-19 treatment as part of the regular process," he added.
SM Nuruzzaman, chief executive officer of Zenith Islami Life Insurance Ltd, said they had plans to launch a separate policy for coronavirus.
"We have sought an actuary's opinion on the matter. The board of the company will take the next decision after availing the opinion of an actuary," he added.
"We are now offering Covid coverage under health insurance," said SM Nuruzzaman.
Rubayat Salahin, head of communication at Guardian Life Insurance Ltd, said the number of personal health insurances has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"There is a growing awareness among people about health insurance. Many are buying health insurance policies, but we have not yet introduced any separate Covid policy," he said.
He said, "We are providing health coverage to policyholders according to their premiums, putting emphasis on Covid. The rate of health insurance policy has increased in the pandemic. Earlier, health insurance was 5-10% of all our insurance policies, but now it has gone up to over 20%."
On Monday, MetLife Bangladesh announced a new initiative in response to the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh.
The programme titled "Sathe Achi – Tele-Doctor Service" provides unique health support to MetLife's individual policyholders.
Some of the features include free of charge 24/7 online doctor consultation via chat or video calls for Covid-19 or any other health issues.
The new programme will remain open for registration till June 15, 2021.
The Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (Idra), and the Bangladesh Insurance Association, are encouraging insurance companies to launch new Covid-centric services.
Idra Chairman, M Mosharraf Hossain, said, "Under existing health insurance coverage, Covid patients will get insurance benefits if they seek treatment at a private hospital. But, with Covid-19 in mind, there should be separate health insurance policies."
He said not just the treatment and death of coronavirus patients is of concern, but that many people also have kidney, heart, and nervous problems after being infected with Covid.
"That is why we are encouraging companies to launch Covid-centric insurance products," he added.
Regarding the introduction of universal health insurance, he said, "There is still no progress in this regard. There was even an initiative to officially ensure government employees and their family members. Although there have been several inter-ministerial meetings on this issue, it is stuck as the decision has not been finalised."
Sheikh Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Insurance Association, said, "We are also advising insurance companies to launch new Covid related insurance products. Right now, those who have health insurance will get insurance coverage if they are treated for Covid infection at a private hospital."
Asked if anyone would get insurance benefits if he died of Covid, Md Zahurul Haque, managing director of Jiban Bima Corporation, told TBS, "We have sought the opinion of an actuary in this regard. As there is a crisis of actuaries in the country, we take the opinion of an actuary from Australia who formulated our guidelines. But so far no feedback has been received. It will not be possible to take any decision in this regard without his opinion."
In June 2020, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) directed the country's insurance companies to introduce Short Term Health Insurance.
Under this, Reliance General Insurance Company Limited of India launched a Covid-19 insurance scheme. Anyone from three months old to 60 years old can avail this insurance.
Earlier, Star Health and Allied Insurance Co Ltd of India also launched the "Star Novel Coronavirus Insurance Policy."
Anyone between the ages of 18 and 65 can avail this insurance.
ICICI Lombard General Insurance Ltd has also introduced the "Covid-19 Protection Cover" policy.
IME General Insurance Limited of Nepal is providing free coronavirus insurance coverage for journalists. Under this scheme, every journalist affected by coronavirus will get one lakh Nepali rupees.
In Pakistan, EFU Life offers Covid-19 Tahaffuz, a health insurance scheme designed to provide coverage against Covid-19. This scheme provides complete end-to-end coverage from diagnostic tests and hospitalisation, to term-life protection.
Currently, there are 78 insurance companies – 32 life and 46 non-life – in the insurance sector of Bangladesh. Of them, 50 companies are listed on both the Dhaka and Chattogram stock exchanges.