Budget Expectations Health Insurance: Budget 2022 is expected to provide some relief to the common man by bringing in positive changes to the health insurance policies. Two important steps may be considered by the government to make health insurance plans more popular and preferable for individuals. One, the GST being applicable on the premium paid towards health insurance plans needs to be reduced and secondly, the income tax benefit on the premium paid may be increased. With more people buying health covers, the financial impact on one’s savings gets curtailed.
The cost of hospitalization measured in terms of medical inflation is constantly going up. With high treatment costs owing to Covid-19 pandemic, there is a huge impact on one’s personal finances. It has been seen that the cost may run into a few lakhs to get treated for Coronavirus infection in most hospitals. In the absence of adequate health insurance coverage, one may have to dip into one’s savings or borrow from banks.
The best possible way to meet hospital costs is to buy a health insurance plan. However, for that one needs to pay a premium to the insurer in order to get coverage. Currently, there is a 18 per cent GST levied on the health insurance premium calculated after factoring in the age and sum insured (coverage amount) of the plan.
“Health insurance is an essential commodity and needs to be slotted in the 5% GST tax slab to make it more affordable to access quality healthcare. A significant reduction in the GST on all personal lines of products—from the existing 18% to 5% will encourage more people to buy health insurance. For senior citizens, it should be exempted,” says Anup Rau, MD & CEO, Future Generali India Insurance
Doing away with GST is also something that has been suggested by some insurers. “Health insurance penetration in India is abysmally low. To encourage more people to purchase health insurance and to ensure that they purchase the appropriate quantity of coverage, section 80D income tax exemptions should be raised, ideally doubled in light of higher medical expenses post Covid. Another thing that can be done is to eliminate GST on health insurance premiums. It is essential to make it more affordable in order to increase penetration especially in the rural markets,” says Pankaj Arora – MD and CEO, Raheja QBE General Insurance
Apart from the reduction in GST, the insurers also expect the tax benefit on health insurance premium to be enhanced from the current limits. “The increase in tax deduction limit in Section 80D of the Income Tax Act can further help in penetration of health insurance. Under Section 80D, an individual can claim up to Rs 25,000 deduction for self and family. This limit should be increased to Rs. 1,50,000. The rising medical costs and the increase in the incidence of critical illnesses make it an unmanageable expense for middle-income and lower-income groups. So, a higher tax deduction limit for health insurance plans is the need,” adds Rau.
As per the current income tax rules, under section 80 D, for those who are below age 60, the deduction may be availed up to a limit of Rs 25,000. This includes self, spouse and children and the health cover could be a Mediclaim, Family Floater, Critical Illness etc. the premium paid towards any of these schemes gets deducted from the gross income under section 80D. For those who are above age 60, the limit is Rs 50,000.
For those who still haven’t purchased health insurance plans, buying it as the first thing to protect savings is the way forward. Still, what if someone doesn’t have a health cover but had to incur expense on treatment of Covid-19. “The government should provide tax relief to the people who are paying for medical treatment of Covid-19 on their own. Extended tax relief should be provided for the expenditure on medical treatment of the Covid affected to those who didn’t have medical insurance. These individuals have carried the devastating financial impact of Covid-19 on their own,” suggests Neeraj Dhawan, Managing Director on behalf of Experian India.