Several insurance companies say they have witnessed a spike in claims related to vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria in the last year. Interestingly, the claim figures reveal that younger policyholders are more prone to such illnesses than the elderly.

Insurers contend that this should prompt youngsters to buy health covers. Youngsters typically postpone buying health cover due to the popular notion that illnesses and hosptialisation strike only the middle-aged and senior citizens.

"Contrary to the popular perception, we have seen that the younger policyholders — in the age group of 26-35 years — are most prone to such diseases. This trend has been continuing since the last fiscal," says Renuka Kanvinde, assistant vicepresident, health, Bajaj Allianz General. She attributes this trend to low immunity levels of the young.

"They are more susceptible to such diseases since they are usually on the move and in close contact with unhygienic conditions," she says.

The company recorded a 10% spurt in such claims (corporate and individual policies) in metro cities. Standalone health insurer Max Bupa has seen a 25% jump (5% in case of Malaria and Dengue) in claims linked to vector-borne diseases.

"With the increase in hospitalization costs, the average claim amount for such diseases is also on the rise, with most claims crossingRs 40,000," says Manasije Mishra, CEO, Max Bupa Health Insurance. The average claim size for vectorborne diseases is estimated to be around Rs 30,000-40,000.

Now, the general perception is that health insurance is needed primarily for serious illnesses, and only for the elderly population. These figures, however, suggest it might be time to rethink. But that doesn't mean that youngsters should rush to buy a large health cover blindly.

They should consider various factors, including affordability, cover from employer and family cover, if any, among others.

Experts say, if a young person can afford a standalone health cover, he/she should just go ahead and buy one. This should be done irrespective of whether one is already covered under your employer's group health insurance scheme.

"An independent policy will come to your aid in case you are making a claim when you are in between jobs," Divya Gandhi, principal officer and head, general insuranceEmkayInsurance Brokers. Also, it is easier and cheaper to buy a health cover at young age, as the probability of any ailments is low.

However, some experts don't think that youngsters should buy a large cover simply because the premiums are cheaper. They suggest youngsters to start with a lowvalue cover, especially if affordability is an issue. "To start with, they can buy a cover of Rs 2 lakh.

They can look at enhancing it later, if required," says Kanvinde.

Next, one can choose between an indemnity-based policy (where costs incurred by you are reimbursed, within the sum insured limit), a defined benefit policy (where you get a fixed sum, irrespective of actual costs) and an accidental death and disability benefit policy.

If you have enough money, you can look at indemnity and fixed benefit policies to cover yourself and your family. If it is not affordable, you can do without a health cover, but you must buy an accidental death and disability policy, say experts.

"Those who are in their early 20's and have just started their careers should make buying personal accident policy their priority," says Tanwir Alam, founder and CEO of financial planning firm Fincart.

Finally, do not forget to take stock of your insurance coverage at regular intervals. "Every three to four years, one should review and revise the cover based on the changing needs of the family (like marriage, children, and aging parents)," says Mishra.

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