Life insurance companies have so far received 2,18,084 COVID claims amounting to Rs 16921.70 crores, according to data provided to Business Today by Life Insurance Council, an umbrella body of life insurers. Insurers say the death claims rose drastically in 2021 amid deaths during the second COVID-19 wave.
“During the 2nd wave, all insurance companies observed multifold increase in the death claims under Covid and Non-Covid categories. All claims in which death was confirmed due to Covid 19 basis the medical documents and / or hospital records, were considered as COVID claims. A positive RTPCR & RAT test and subsequent death is also considered as Covid death," says Rushabh Gandhi, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at IndiaFirst Life.
Gandhi adds, “IndiaFirst Life also observed a rise in death claims during the same time. In FY22 we have settled 4785 individual life death claims of which 845 death claims are directly attributed to COVID. IndiaFirst Life Insurance has paid 159.51 crore of COVID claims since the start of the pandemic.” The figures include the individual, group as well as Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) figures.
Further, the Indian government in 2020 launched a life insurance scheme for covid warriors offering insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh per health worker fighting COVID-19 under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP). The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has been alleging that the families of less than half the medical practitioners who lost their lives while they were involved in providing care for COVID-19 patients have been able to avail of the benefits of the government’s scheme.
According to data shared by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there have been total 5,24,190 COVID deaths in the country. The numbers suggest that 41 per cent of the people who died had a life insurance policy. However, according to data shared by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the penetration of the life insurance sector was 3.20 per cent in 2020-21 compared to 2.82 per cent in 2019-20.
The actual tally of COVID-19 deaths has been a matter of debate for last one year, with several research studies showing a much higher number than what the government has issued.
The Indian government last week refuted a World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report that indicated an underestimation of COVID-19 deaths in the country. The WHO release last week claimed that there were an estimated 4.7 million deaths in India in 2020 and 2021, directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19. The apex global public health agency said that these numbers are the highest so far for any country and constitute around a third of the 15 million Covid-19 related deaths at the global scale.
While, as of December 2021, India officially recorded around 4.8 lakh deaths related to covid-19. As of May, India has officially counted over COVID-19 deaths as 5.2 lakh. The WHO’s figure is around 10 times the government tally.
India has however been consistently objecting to the methodology adopted by WHO to project excess mortality estimates based on mathematical models. Public health experts have said that it is very difficult to get the actual number of Covid-19 deaths in India amidst the pandemic.
“It is very unlikely we will have a definitive number ever because data collection in the middle of the pandemic is not going to be complete. Every independent assessment of mortality shows that the numbers are several folds higher than the official figures,” said Gagandeep Kang, noted Microbiologist and virologist who is the Professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.
According to a study published in the latest issue of the PLOS ONE journal—the absence of reliable registration of Covid-19 deaths in India has prevented proper assessment and monitoring of the coronavirus pandemic.
The findings of the PLOS ONE study point to a death toll of approximately 3.2–3.7 million persons by early November 2021. Once India’s age structure is factored in, these figures correspond to one of the most severe cases of COVID-19 mortality in the world. India has recorded after February 2021 the second outbreak of coronavirus that has affected the entire country. The accuracy of official statistics of COVID-19 mortality has been questioned, and the real number of COVID-19 deaths is thought to be several times higher than reported, the study reads.
“The results imply that only one out of 7–8 deaths appear to have been recorded as a Covid-19 death in India. The estimates also point to a very high COVID-19 mortality rate, which is even higher after age and sex standardisation,” the study said recommending an improved surveillance system to monitor the progression of the pandemic and its spread across India’s regions and social groups.
Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) in its draft prospectus also had stated that alone for the sixth month ended September 2021 the company paid death benefits worth Rs 21,734 crore compared to Rs23,926.89 crore paid in the whole fiscal year 2021. The insurer paid Rs17,527.98 crore covid claims in the previous financial year 2020.
“Our insurance claims by death increased during the pandemic. For Fiscal 2019, Fiscal 2020, Fiscal 2021 and the six months ended September 30, 2021, our insurance claims by death in benefits paid (net) were Rs 171,288.42 million, Rs 175,279.87 million, Rs 239,268.94 million and Rs 217,341.50 million, respectively, on a consolidated basis, which were 6.79, 6.86, 8.29 and 14.47 per cent of our total insurance claims, respectively,” according to LIC draft prospectus.
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