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Health insurance plans at pharmacies soon

Business Standard, Niladri Bhattacharya, Mumbai, Inida  - 17 January 2012

Soon, you would be able to buy a health insurance plan from a neighborhood pharmacy, or be advised on such a plan by your general physician. Cigna TTK Health Insurance, the most recent entrant in the Indian health insurance space, plans to set up an innovative distribution network through which simple health insurance products would be sold over the counter.

"It will be a box product, and the buyer would be able to get a policy kit across the counter. These might be simple products for which medical tests are not essential, and the documents needed may be submitted online, once the customer reaches home," said T T Jagannathan, chairman, TTK Group.

The company plans to leverage its network of pharmacies and physicians to sell its health insurance plans. "We have active business relationship, with more 100,000 pharmacies and an equal number of physicians across the country. We are already in talks with some of them regarding this concept," Jagannathan said.

However, for complex products, these outlets would collect the data and information from interested customers and generate the lead for the company for follow-up procedure.

"Being a late entrant, we must have an innovative direct distribution channel, apart from traditional ones, to make a mark," said Sandeep Patel, man-aging director, Cigna Health Solutions, India.

Cigna TTK Health Insurance Company is a joint venture between US-based Cigna Corporation and India's TTK Group. Cigna has 26 per cent stake in the company, while the Indian partner holds 74 percent. Bangalore-based TTK Group, which operates across several segments, including consumer durables, pharmaceuticals and supplements, bio-medical devices and healthcare services, also plans to leverage its 400 'Prestige' outlets to sell health insurance products.

Selling and marketing insurance products at a retail level has been under consideration for a long time. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority is finalising the guide-lines to facilitate `monoline' insurance agents—agents who would be authorised to sell only a single type of an insurance policy, for which they would be trained. The move is aimed at taking insurance products to the doorsteps of customers.

Pharmacies are allowed to sell health insurance products in most developed insurance markets, including the US, the UK and Japan. "We already have experience in selling health insurance products through pharmacy chains in the United States, and we would bring that expertise to India," said David M Cordani, president and chief executive, Cigna Corporation.

Some health insurance companies have marketing tie-ups with pharmacy chains, through which product information and brochures are available. However, these counters do not sell insurance products.

According to industry estimates, the health insurance business constitutes more than 25 per cent of the general insurance industry, and over the last year, premiums rose 25 per cent. During the April-September period of the current financial year, health insurance premium collection rose 21.3 per cent to Rs. 6,721.53 crore from Rs. 5,540.34 crore in the year-ago period.

Content Source: Business Standard


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