Kamalika Mukherjee, 37, who lives in New Delhi, is expecting her first child in a few months. She plans to use a private nursing home, where the cost is expected to be Rs 3.5-4 lakh, including surgery and post-operation care. Kamalika and her husband are worried about the expenses involved, especially since they do not have maternity insurance. As is often the case, the couple had not thought about having a child and, therefore, did not think about maternity insurance either. “Also, we are newly married and just starting our life together. We are trying to sort out our finances now,” says Kamalika.
With the cost of healthcare skyrocketing, many couples are worried about maternity expenses. A large part of the problem stems from lack of awareness and planning.
Especially in Covid times, when employment benefits may be curbed or there may even be job losses, it is essential to have personal health cover that, in addition to other things, also includes maternity. However, there are very few insurance policies that cover maternity expenses.
Maternity cover takes care of medical expenses up to childbirth, including complex deliveries and caesarean operations during hospitalization, and post birth. This eases the financial burden of new parents to a great extent. “Financial security is the foremost factor that a majority of couples worry about before starting a family. Today, the costs of maternity, baby care and parenting are only rising and hence require careful planning, especially for salaried individuals,” says Abhishek Poddar, co-founder and CEO, Plum, an employee health insurance platform.
Here are three reasons why one should take maternity insurance to avoid financial shock:
High cost of pregnancy related medical treatments: For to-be-parents, on one hand, there are pregnancy jitters, and on the other, there is the worry of hospital bills that may disrupt their financial planning. The cost of labor broadly depends on the type of delivery: normal or through caesarean section (C-Section). The average cost of childbirth (vaginal births) in tier 1 cities and metros in India at private hospitals ranges between Rs 45,000 to Rs 55,000. The cost of C-sections in private hospitals can range between Rs 70,000 and Rs 2,00,000, depending on the level of complications.
Having maternity cover will protect your finances and you can avoid dipping into funds you had kept aside for other purposes. “It (maternity insurance) will offer adequate financial coverage for treatment related to pregnancy and delivery costs. Available at a low cost, if wisely bought as a part of an add-on to your existing health insurance plan, this insurance is vital,” says Amit Chhabra, head-health and travel insurance, Policybazaar.com.
Cover for newborn’s medical expenses: A maternity insurance includes cover for antenatal and postnatal expenses. And with baby cover, claims for the medical treatment of the newborn are covered as well. In most retail policies, a baby cover kicks in only on the 91st day of the newborn’s birth. In group health insurance that provides health coverage to the mother and the baby, the cover for the newborn is from the very first day.
Financial support for future pregnancy-related complications or difficulty in conceiving: According to a report by Plum, ‘Maternity in India Under-Insured by Corporates’, in India, 20-30 per cent pregnancies are categorized as ‘high risk’. Some of these can lead to complications before, during or after labor as well.
Another challenge is the rise of infertility. “We have witnessed an uptick in the demand for inclusion of IVF treatment covers by employers for their employees, as the treatment is expensive and can go up to Rs 2.5 lakh per cycle,” adds Poddar.
Since maternity coverage is included in health insurance policies in India, a responsible policyholder should be aware of all the terms and conditions, including coverage limit and sub-limits for normal and C-section delivery. The treatments arising or traceable to infertility, sterilization, birth control, etc., are some of the common exclusions of maternity benefits. Infertility treatments, stem cell harvesting and storage, surrogacy expenses, are some of the other exclusions under maternity cover in India.
“The policy should have a feature wherein a couple who has difficulty in conceiving a baby should have the treatment for assisted reproduction technology also covered. Defining the expenses limit will be helpful but the maternity cover should be looked at more in holistic programs and corporate benefits programs. Moreover, the right maternity care will help to improve the quality of life for working mothers and empower women as a community,” says Yogesh Agarwal, founder and CEO of Onsurity, a healthtech and employee benefits organization.