HEALTH INSURANCE SECTOR GROWS 30% TO TOUCH 6.5K CR

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HEALTH insurance industry in India witnessed a growth of about 30% for the year ended March 31, on the back of greater awareness and rising healthcare costs. The industry is estimated to have touched about Rs 6,500 crore in revenues, compared to about Rs 5,000 crore in fiscal 2007-08, as per senior executives in the business.
India's healthcare insurance market is grossly under-penetrated with only 2% of the country's billion plus population possessing a health insurance cover. General insurance firms such as ICICI Lombard and Iffco Tokio, along with standalone health insurers, confirmed a robust growth rate for the sector in the last fiscal and offered a positive outlook for the current year.

Iffco-Tokio executive director (marketing) NK Kedia added: "There is immense potential to be tapped in the health insurance space, especially because it is grossly under-penetrated currently. I expect the growth momentum to continue in the years to come."

Healthcare insurance sales can be classified under retail, corporate or government categories. In the retail category, which constitutes 40% of the total healthcare insurance in India, the insurance cover is purchased by individual consumers. Corporates as well as the government buy insurance covers in bulk for their employees. Sales have primarily gone up in the individual category.

ICICI Lombard health vertical head Sanjay Datta said, "Demand for health insurance has gone up significantly over the last few years. With corporatisation of the healthcare sector, average spends on hospitals have gone up, which has led to more people buying health insurance cover."

Apollo DKV, a standalone health insurer that forayed into the market recently, saw its portfolio grow at a healthy rate last year. Apollo DKV chief executive Antony Jacob said he expects the health insurance business to grow 30-40% this fiscal. General insurance firms are aggressively looking to tap the healthcare insurance space as rising awareness prompts more consumers to buy an insurance cover.

ICICI Lombard, Bajaj Allianz and Reliance General are some of the general insurance firms which are prominent in the health insurance space. In the standalone category, there are three players— Apollo DKV, Max Bupa and Star Health & Allied Insurance. Anticipating health as the future growth engine, even life insurance firms have started offering selective health insurance products.

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