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Published in Mint on 19th Aug 2015, Written by Abhishek Bondia

What is the best time to switch between health insurance policies? The one I have has many useful features but is too expensive. I think I can get similar features with a collection of policies at a lower cost.
—Kasturi Bhanuj

The best time to switch a health insurance policy is 45 days before the renewal date. You should switch under a process called health insurance portability. The scheme will allow you to carry the waiting period lapsed in the current policy to the new policy. Inform the new company about your intention to port. They will ask you to fill a portability form and provide previous years’ policy copies. Do note that portability can be carried to only one policy and not a collection of policies.
My husband and I have employer-provided health insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakh each that covers us, our daughter and my husband’s parents. Do we need to buy additional cover? If yes, then should it be only for us or should it include our parents as well? Should we buy critical illness insurance as a separate policy?

Though employer-provided insurance is a great relief in terms of costs and benefits, it comes with uncertainty about coverage continuity in event of a job-change or change in the company’s human resource policies. A parallel personal cover provides certainty. Waiting periods will lapse while you are covered by the employer. You could start with a cover of Rs.2 lakh and if anything changes at your employer’s end, then enhance coverage. This is important for senior citizens. With age the need for cover increases but it becomes much harder to buy good insurance.
Critical illness policies are fixed benefit plans, so the payment is made irrespective of the expenditure. Even if you claim under your employer’s plan, you will still get the full benefit amount. The purpose of a critical illness plan is to provide for liquidity, cover a part of loss of income and non-hospitalization expenses. Current critical illness plans are value for money. Buy a plan that covers at least 10 illnesses.
My wife has an employer provided cover of Rs. 30,000 for maternity related expenses, while my company provides a cover for the same of Rs. 50,000. What is the procedure to claim the benefits?

You should check if either of the insurers covers your desired hospital in their network. If yes, you can take a cashless service from that insurer. At the time of discharge, you will get a claim settlement letter with a break-up of the amount paid by the insurer. Submit this, along with all other original documents, to the second company. If the hospital is not part of the network of any of the two companies, you will have to do the same process on a reimbursement basis.