Smoking habits typically have a bigger impact on life insurers as many cancer-related deaths are caused due to smoking or drinking, says Dr Pankaj Shahane, Vice President – Health Claims, Digit Insurance.
In an interview with MintGenie, Shahane said that insurers usually encourage policyholders to stay fit and offer a host of wellness benefits to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Q. Smoking habits kill. Yet, so many people smoke. On average, how many health insurance claims does your company settle against smoking-related disorders?
Smoking is known to cause different types of cancers including mouth and throat, lung, and stomach, among others. However, insurance companies typically do not capture the cause of cancer when settling claims. It is also difficult to determine one root cause of ailment or disease. Hence, it will be difficult to determine how many health insurance claims are settled due to smoking-related ailments.
Q. Do your prospective clients reveal their smoking habits?
We ask for a declaration of smoking habits from the customer to issue a health insurance policy. We also offer an additional discount of 5% on premiums to non-smokers and non-drinkers. Smoking habits typically have a bigger impact on life insurers as many cancer-related deaths are caused due to smoking or drinking. Hence, such details are typically looked at more stringently by life insurers.
Q. Does your insurance company take cognizance of e-smoking habits too?
We do not seek details of the e-smoking habits of individuals when issuing a health insurance policy.
Q. Lifestyle habits affect health insurance premiums. Despite this, people continue to indulge in tobacco-related addiction. What would be your advice to your customers?
Smoking cigarettes is known to cause multiple avoidable health ailments including cancer, heart-related diseases, lung diseases, tuberculosis, and chronic bronchitis, among others. It also affects the immune system of the body. If you already have a pre-existing disease (PED), an insurer might charge a higher premium to issue a policy. A waiting period ranging from two to four years is also applied before you can avail of treatment related to your pre-existing diseases.
Insurers usually encourage policyholders to stay fit and offer a host of wellness benefits to lead a healthy lifestyle. For example, Digit Insurance under its health insurance policy offers wellness benefits to its policyholders, which include a discount on the “Quit Smoking” programme. It also provides other wellness benefits like discounts on health check-ups, online consultations, and chronic care programmes, among others.
Q. How much difference do you think "World No Tobacco Day” makes in awareness?
According to WHO, 27 percent of the country's cancer cases occur due to tobacco-related cancers. Government bodies, NGOs, etc. work constantly to make the general public aware of the harmful effects of smoking. Various campaigns are launched from time to time, including advertisements in movie halls and other public spaces to raise awareness.
Celebrating “World No Tobacco Day” worldwide is another way of communicating to the public the deadly effects of using tobacco and tobacco-related products. It surely does raise awareness – both online and offline – about the health risks. However, individuals too should take cognizance of such messaging and look at ways of leading a healthy lifestyle.