Sunday, February 6, 2011

Problems of the elderly - part 3: Remove the upper age limit for medical insurance

By Syed Akbar
The Central government as well as insurance companies treat the old with contempt when it  comes to providing them with medical insurance. The Centre, which calls itself a welfare state, and the general 
insurance firms owned by it do not have special schemes to meet the medical needs of the elderly population.
There's a bar on the upper entry age into an insurance scheme. The scheme too has a  limitation on the maximum age up to which medical insurance cover is provided to an individual. In India the medical 
insurance cover is forcibly withdrawn when a person attains 80 years of age. The insurance firms have little regard  that the individual had paid premium all through his life till he turns 80. Insurance cover is not issued to people  who have crossed 55 years of age.
"It is understandable if some private insurance firms do this. The firms owned by the  Central government too are rigid when it comes to providing medical insurance cover to the old. Ours is a welfare state, and the government should channelise funds from other sources to protect the elderly. It should extend the 
cover and in fact, subsidise it," argues Vijayawada-based social activist V Satyanarayana.
Helpage India, which has been fighting for the cause of the elderly people, has  represented to the Central government several times that it should prevail upon the Insurance Regulation and Development  Authority to enforce "a uniform policy on all insurance companies, particularly government-owned,  to continue medical 
insurance for whole life at a commensurate premium."
The World Health Organisation has suggested establishment of specialist facilities for  the elderly like geriatric units and institutions, and free or highly subsidised medical insurance for the needy elderly.
The importance of medical insurance for the elderly gains significance in the backdrop of  the ever-increasing
population of the old. According to WHO, in 2000, the global population of people aged 60  and over was 60 crore. And by 2025 there will be 1.2 billion and, by 2050, almost two billion. India,  incidentally is the home to the second largest population of old people, next only to China. The proportion of the global  population aged 60 will double from 11 per cent in 2006 to 22 per cent by 2050.

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