In order to manage such expenses, people opt for secondary health insurance which has OPD cover. However, the options are restricted in this space and the few options which are present are expensive. Besides, the OPD spend on such health covers come with a cap, meaning only a certain amount can be claimed every year. The question then arises if there is a better alternative to combat the ever rising healthcare expenses.
Where can the benefits be availed? Companies offering health cards collaborate with hospitals and clinics in the country. This is similar to network hospitals which are covered by insurance plans. The health card will only work if the member avails services from the hospital, clinic or diagnostic centre which is covered by the scheme. Different companies have tie-ups with different hospitals.
What is the fee? This again depends on the provider one chooses to go with. The fee varies depending on the plan and the number of members. It can vary from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 8000 a year. Logically, the plan which charges Rs. 8,000 covers a wider range of services compared to lower priced plans. There are options for an individual, couple and large families as well, and the fee varies accordingly.
Who are the players? The health card scheme is offered by both independent companies and hospitals. Hospitals offering health cards allow a person to use them only in their chain or in a group facility. As a result, the use of such cards is restricted. However, if a person visits only one hospital in the vicinity for all the medical needs of his family, then such a loyalty card may be beneficial. So, one can check out if the nearest hospital offers a scheme like this. Hospitals which are a part of a large hospital chain like Max, Fortis or Apollo are more often seen to offer a loyalty card like this. Independent companies also offer health cards. This may be better compared to standalone cards offered by hospitals, as the user has more choice on the back of tie-ups with multiple hospitals. This increases options for the card holder. Some such providers are the Indian Health Organization (IHO) which is a part of Aetna Inc US, Sharak Healthcare, Wizzcare and EasyLife Care which have various plans in place. In 2013, E-Meditek Global, the holding company of E-Meditek TPA launched a prepaid card for medical needs in association with VISA and Ratnakar Bank.
What are the drawbacks? While everything looks good, a health card also has some drawbacks. An important aspect to keep in mind is that unlike the health insurance sector which is regulated by the IRDA, this is not a regulated industry. So if one has a problem with the services of a health card provider, he can only approach the consumer court for solving the dispute. Also, the network of hospitals and clinics may be limited when compared to insurance providers. Further, if one opts for hospital promoted loyalty cards, the options will be even more limited.
Should one consider a health card? A health card definitely looks cheaper when compared to health insurance offering OPD benefits. However, one must do an analysis of the individual needs before deciding on a health card. Remember that in most cases, the member will only get a discount on the bills and not a full reimbursement. So it is important to first estimate the family’s annual medical expenses on medicines and doctor consultations, apply the discount and then calculate if the savings will be more than the annual cost of the health card. If this is not the case, it is better not to opt for a health card and only take a secondary health insurance to cover hospitalization expenses. Further, before choosing a provider, the background of the company must be checked, if it is an established name in the healthcare sector. An experienced company is always better than an unrelated provider. It is also important to check the hospital network of the provider and how this suits individual requirements.
Disclaimer: Information about the health card offer has been taken from various online sources. Individual company products will need to be checked before opting for a scheme.
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