The IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) has recently issued a notification to insurance companies that they should cover treatment by the Indian System of Medicine under their health insurance policies. As per the notification, the inclusion of the alternative medical techniques like Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) method of treatment has been added through part 5(1) regulation of the IRDA. The change came into force on the 18th of February this year.
The only clause it has is that the patient should avail treatment in either a government hospital or an institute recognized by the government. Another option for patients is that they may choose to be treated in centres recognized by the QCI (Quality Council of India) or NABH (National Accreditation Board of Health) or any other suitable institution.
Dr GS Lavekar, senior consultant and former DG at the department of AYUSH, says that in the previous years the inclusion of Ayurveda, Homeopathy and other forms ofmedicine into the health insurance policies was impossible, but today, the IRDA has recognized the potential of these types of treatment modalities. He further added that this result is an outcome of a joint effort taken by the industry, the Ministry of Health and Department of AYUSH, especially by the then secretary of the department, S Jalja.
Though the industry is very happy, insiders feel that the inclusion may take some time to be added into the current insurance covers as the medical and insurance companies might not want the inclusion to be made. Prabodh Shah, president, Gujarat Ayurvedic Aushadh Manufacturers Association (GAAMA), said, ‘This is a great news for us, especially since more and more patients now will be able to take the benefit of Ayurvedic treatment, giving more credibility and recognition to our industry. But at the same time, we fear that the insurance company will take their own time in adopting this regulation creating problems for us.’
Although practitioners feel that including the AYUSH system of medication into insurance policies may take a bit of time, there are a few companies that have already taken a step towards implementing the new inclusion. Companies like National Insurance Company, Star Health and Allied Insurance, L&T General Insurance have already started offering insurance cover for patients wishing to get treated under AYUSH . Click here to read more about the hospitals that will offer this service.
The new inclusion may be the best thing that has happened to health insurance policy holders in a long time. Being able to avail of treatment under alternative medical practices could be a boon for many. It has been seen in a number of cases that those ailments that usually require surgery or some other drastic intervention under the allopathic method, are cured almost painlessly by alternate systems of medicine. With all the positives outlined in this policy, there are a few drawbacks as well. For starters, finding an AYUSH hospital or center that is QCI or NABH accredited is going to be tough for the common man. Secondly, a number of government hospitals do have functioning Ayurveda and homeopathy centers, but what quality of care can the consumer hope for? Lastly, there are a number of centers that are highly recognized for providing exemplary treatment but are not accredited by any of the mentioned bodies. Will this inclusion in the mediclaim policies see a sudden increase in the number of requests to be recognized by the NABH? All in all this inclusion is a welcome change in insurance policies, but how much and how quickly will this change really help the common man, is yet to be seen.