Mar 16 2021

Importance of health insurance for women and how they should plan it

By Priya Deshmukh Gilbile

It is International Women’s Day today! A lot of conversations you will hear all through this week, issues related to women’s health, financial well-being, workplace diversity and so on  that often get discussed around this time. However, Health Insurance for women remains a challenge. Numerous studies have shown that despite contributing to the household and sharing work responsibilities, women are underinsured. The answer to this ultimately comes down to the need for insurance personalization. When it comes to insurance, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Health Insurance plans need to be customized to cater to the life stages and health needs of the women policyholders.

Men and women have very different health challenges and treatment needs, so ideally, women should opt for health insurance plans that are highly customizable and provides them  extensive coverage like Breast Cancer Screening, Ovarian Cancer Screening, Osteoporosis  Screening, Psychiatric and Psychological Consultations, Cervical Cancer Screening, Gynecological Consultations, Cervical Cancer Vaccination and other such healthcare benefits thus keeping them and their family clear of any financial burden.

Culturally, women tend to prioritize the health and wellbeing of their families over their own, resulting in their health issues getting ignored or treatments delayed.  Because today, women are so busy juggling home and office, they tend to forget themselves. They generally tend to procrastinate when it comes to taking a financial decision. They are mostly covered in family floaters in policies held by a parent or husband. Single, divorced or widowed women rarely even consider taking a health insurance plan. And that's why today we need to talk about the importance of having insurance coverage for everyone, including women.

This year’s the theme for International Women's Day is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. As more and more women assume leadership roles in organizations, it’s important  more than ever before for women to prioritize their own physical and financial wellbeing, as the only way women can continue to break the glass ceiling is to focus on their health needs as well. Therefore, a customizable health insurance plan for women along with wellness programs and other plus factors is the need of the hour in a COVID-19  world.

Why is it important for women to buy health insurance plan?

As per the World Cancer Report, in India, many women were diagnosed with cancer compared to men. One of the reasons women need more healthcare services than men is because maternity healthcare and maternity treatment costs have increased rapidly. Also, women have become more prone to hypertension, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome due to changing lifestyles over the past few decades, and thus medical treatments can be a financial burden unless you have a comprehensive health insurance plan that provides extensive coverage and access to quality healthcare around the world and keeps them clear of any financial stress.            

What should an ideal health insurance plan for women cover?

Many health insurance plans cater to specific needs. But one should look out for comprehensive coverage that includes, maternity expenses, personal accident cover, hospitalization and post hospitalization expenses, women specific critical illness cover - breast cancer, fallopian tube cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and so on, and it is also important to look for benefits like loyalty bonus or a premium waiver benefit in the insurance plan, because if God forbid that one suffers permanent partial or total disablement, or is diagnosed with critical illnesses, then such comprehensive health plans mostly waive off one year’s renewal premium if  the primary insured who is also the proposer suffers from any of the covered contingencies.

They say health insurance is a family matter. Why is it so?

Because an entire family can be affected by any member's lack of insurance. Uninsured families are less likely to use any medical services, and those who do, use fewer services on average. So when a family member is affected by illness or injury, they are also more likely to have high health expenses. Moreover, and uninsured women and their newborns receive, on average, less prenatal care and fewer expensive perinatal services. And these women more likely to have poor outcomes during pregnancy and delivery as compared to insured women.

So, to cut a long story short,

As more and more women are shattering stereotypes and scaling new heights of success, they need to be even more cognizant of the need to plan their financial future and ensure financial security for themselves. While a family floater plan or an employer insurance is always a good option, women need to explore health insurance plans that are highly customizable to secure not just the current health needs but also the ones they are likely to require at different stages of their life, and, most importantly, that looks after their health and financial well-being for a lifetime.

The author, Priya Deshmukh Gilbile, is Chief Operating Officer at ManipalCigna Health Insurance Co Ltd.