Do schools provide health insurance to staff?

A large private non-life insurer received three calls for group health insurance in one week last month. While this may seem like a regular request to outsiders, the insurer was perplexed because all three requests came from schools in Haryana and sought only Covid-19 insurance for all the teachers.

“Considering that there would be risks involved with only covering Coronavirus hospitalisation since teachers had come back from their respective home locations, we quoted a 25 percent premium. Only one school agreed while the other two declined,” said the underwriting head at the insurer.

Amidst the pandemic, schools are turning to insurance companies to seek Covid-specific group insurance for teachers since physical classes have slowly resumed. School authorities told Moneycontrol that such covers are in demand due to requests from teachers.

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Why group covers?

“We cannot afford to buy individual insurance covers for each teacher. Hence group covers are being opted for the teachers,” said Akhil Amuktha, trustee at Ananda High School in Hyderabad.

The central government allowed schools across India to reopen from October 15 but has put the responsibility on enforcing physical distancing and hygiene on school managements across the country. States such as Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand are among the first ones to go ahead with school reopening.

Teachers, who are among the first to return to physical classes from inter-city and intra-city travel, want to stay safe.

Insurers said that close to 50 schools across the country have purchased group health policies since October. This number may look small but schools typically don’t buy health insurance for staff.

“This is an additional expense and it is surprising that schools are coming forward to buy health insurance. We understand that this is primarily because teachers are demanding a medical cover,” said Mumbai-based insurance broker Pradeep Tiwari.

He added that as schools plan to resume in Maharashtra from the last week of November, private schools have also started sending queries for health insurance specifically for Covid.

India has 1.5 million schools but only about 0.3 percent of these schools provide insurance for their staff, including teachers. Industry executives said that only a handful of international schools across the country actively provide health insurance to all their staff.

What will the product cover?

Schools are negotiating covers that will have a co-pay element in the group health cover. This means that the teacher would have to pay a certain sum of the medical expenses in case he/she contracts Covid-19.

The co-pay ranges from 5 percent to 15 percent. This means once hospitalisation expenses are incurred, the teacher pays 5-15 percent of the amount while the rest is borne by the insurance company. The annual premiums are paid by the school.

“We are offering the cover only for one year right now. We will also have to conduct a medical examination of the teachers to verify if they had contracted Covid-19 before. Those who have been Covid-19 positive will need to pay a higher premium,” said the head of distribution at a standalone health insurer.

Though individuals who have contracted Covid-19 are said to develop antibodies, there is no clear research to show as to how long these antibodies exist. Insurers are concerned about recovered patients re-contracting the virus.

“We still don’t know for how long exactly the virus stays in the body and if the person who tested negative is still at risk. Hence, the product is priced higher,” said Delhi-based insurance broker Anuja Pradhan.

Pradhan added that schools are also covering senior citizen parents and spouses/children of teachers, but on partial payment of premium. Here, the teacher pays 20-40 percent of the annual premium while the rest is paid by the school.

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