article published in Times of India
on Oct 30, 2002 which reads following:
Snags in overseas medical insurance
TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2002 11:10:51 PM ]
NEW DELHI: A spat between the General Insurance Company (GIC) and its international service provider Mercury International has resulted into an embarrassing breakdown in providing claims to international medical insurance policy holders.
While there are no definitive numbers, at least 1,500 policy holders across the country are running from pillar to post to get their claims honoured. This covers those who have taken the Videsh Yatra Mitra Policy from GIC?s subsidiaries ? New India, National, United and Oriental ? between April and July 2002.
Thanks to alleged late payments by Mercury, many hospitals in the US refused to accept policies sold by GIC. The problem began early this year when Mercury increased its commission from 4 per cent of premium collections to 6.5 per cent, as well as 20 pounds per claim. This was unacceptable to GIC, and the relationship deteriorated as Mercury stopped payments to overseas hospitals that accept GIC policies.
On their part, executives at GIC admitted that they too owe Mercury money, accepting a standoff with the UK-based service provider. ??We hope to resolve the problem with Mercury soon,?? says a senior executive at Oriental. Mercury could not be reached for comments. From July 2002, the GIC companies terminated their 16-year relationship with Mercury and have tied up with Paris-based Coris International.
Every year, over 300,000 overseas medical insurance policies are sold in the country. The premium collections hover around $125 million. Insiders say only 2 per cent of the policy holders file claims, which approximate as much as $90 million.
Take, for instance, 65-year-old SK Srivastava, who fell ill in May 2002 while visiting his son, a software professional in Los Angeles. The Stanford Hospital where he was admitted for intestinal bleeding politely refused to accept his Videsh Yatra policy issued by United India. Srivastava?s son had to shell out the total hospital bill: $28,000.
GIC officials maintain it?s business as usual. ??When we sell a policy, it is a contractual obligation to honour claims. We hope to clear all claims by November,?? said a United India official. To start with, GIC plans to clear all claims up to $500.
??There is no problem since we changed to the new service provider from July 2002. People continue to buy overseas medical insurance policies from us,?? said an Oriental official.
That?s not much solace for consumers running around to get their dollar medical bills claims. ??If government-backed insurance companies can make me to run around for their inefficiency, what can we expect from private insurance companies,?? says Srivastava.