The launch of universal health coverage is credit positive for India's insurers because it will help grow health premiums and provide insurers with cross-selling and servicing opportunities, according to Moody's Investors Service.
An article in yesterday's edition of Moody’s Credit Outlook notes that on 15 August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Ayushman Bharat, or National Health Protection Mission (ABNHBM), will launch on 25 September 2018. The AB-NHBM aims to provide more than 100m families up to INR500,000 ($7,100) of health insurance coverage each year and total INR50trn of coverage in aggregate.
However, 23 of India's 29 states have chosen to run the scheme as a trust model, which will diminish insurers' growth prospects.
Trust models entail government funds being allocated to a trust fund rather than to insurance premiums, and the trust fund making disbursements for claims, rather than insurers disbursing claims. When the trust fund is depleted, the government will need to provide additional funds. This differs from the insurance model, under which the premiums paid would be the maximum limit of exposure for the government and insurers take on all of the coverage risk.
States can chose a hybrid model wherein there is insurance protection purchased for claims in excess of particular limits.
“As a result, we expect that health insurance premiums will increase, albeit by only INR100bn for the additional coverage of 100m families (approximately 500m people). This is much lower than the current INR304bn of coverage for 440m.
Health insurance contributes around 23% of general insurance premiums and is one of the main drivers of growth for insurers. Health premiums have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 18% during the 2012-17 fiscal years. The fiscal year in India ends on 31 March.
“When the Indian government first announced AB-NHBM as part of the 2018 budget as a move towards universal health, we had expected that premium growth would accelerate as the government sought to expand healthcare coverage to India's 1.32 billion population. As of fiscal 2017, only 440m people were covered, and we expect that AB-NHBM will increase that number by 500m,” the report said.
Under the insurance model ,the increased coverage would have resulted in significant growth opportunities for insurers over the next two to three years, particularly for large healthcare and general insurers. Large insurers would have been able to benefit from their scale, resulting from superior claims management, strong provider networks and capacity to cross-sell other products.
“Although providing the health coverage as a trust model will diminish insurers' growth prospects, we still expect that insurers with scale advantages and track records of managing large insurance schemes will benefit from the health programme. Additionally, the programme will provide these insurers with opportunities to cross-sell other products and services to this new customer base,” the report added.
The writers of the report were Mr Mohammed Ali Londe, AVP-Analyst, Mr Antonello Aquino, Associate Managing Director, and Ms Sally Yim, Associate Managing Director, all three from the Financial Institutions Group of Moody's Investors Service.