Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cost-effective way to cut your healthcare bills


GROWING healthcare costs, coupled with awareness initiatives by various stakeholders has, over the years, led to an increase in the number of people buying health insurance policies.
   However, since health insurance primarily takes care of hospitalisation and related costs, policyholders have to spend out of their pocket for preventive or regular, overthe-counter medical expenses. The cobranded card launched by Aditya Birla Money, in association with Indian Health Organisation, seeks to plug this need gap.


Named Aditya Birla Money–IHO Health Plan Card, it allows cardholders to avail of services such as health check-ups, consultations, treatments, medicines at a subsidised rate.

   For instance, if a card holder goes for an oral hygiene check-up, all the examinations/consultations are offered at no cost. For any dental treatment, the discount could range between 25-30%. Buying medicines at IHO-empanelled pharmacists would fetch discounts of 8-12%. The card does not exclude pre-existing illnesses. Primary card holders are also entitled to a personal accident cover of Rs 50,000 (provided through a partnership with IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance).


When card members need to get in touch with a doctor, they would need to call the IHO helpline number, and the representatives will direct them to the empanelled doctors, based on their requirement and location. The benefits will accrue to them upon flashing the card at the clinic or pharmacy.


The card is available in several variants. Under the one-year validity programme, an individual health plan (one card and two health check vouchers) would cost Rs 1,400 (excluding service tax). For a couple, the cost would work out to Rs 1,900. Similarly, you will be charged Rs 2,400 for a family health plan, which covers four individuals. Twoyear validity programmes are also available.


According to Aditya Birla Money, the card will prove to be useful to senior citizens who do not have a health cover. Other target groups include families with young kids requiring frequent visits to the dentist, and pregnant women.

   The discounts on offer could offset the card membership fee over a period of 1-2 years, particularly for families with kids and elderly individuals. However, if you happen to rely on your family doctor for advice and s/he does not happen to be on the IHO's panel of professionals, this card may not be of help.
   Likewise, if your neighbourhood pharmacy does not feature in the list, you may not find the card attractive from the convenience perspective. Also, one needs to remember that the card cannot be deemed to be akin to a health insurance policy and IHO is a private limited organisation, not regulated by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA).


Subsidised rates for regular medical expenses — many of which are not covered by health insurance — could make buying the card cost-effective.


Discounts are offered only if the services of IHO - empanelled medical professionals are availed of, restricting the card holders' choice.