“If a hospital isn’t involved, I’m healthy enough.” Women’s World Banking spoke with women in India to better understand their views on health, health emergencies and the role of insurance. By understanding their attitudes on health issues, Women’s World Banking will work to increase uptake and usage of microinsurance in India.
Health insurance is complicated. It is full of financial jargon, and it can be confusing to understand even for those who can afford it and are paying premiums for it. Now imagine trying to explain and then sell health insurance to low-income women in India – women that largely live on credit, who are just getting to know the formal financial system and who have never used health insurance before.
Microinsurance was developed specifically for the low-income sector, to support them during financial emergencies at a much lower and more affordable premium. In India, microinsurance was introduced in 2000, and industry regulators have created targets to make sure that microinsurance is prioritized by insurance companies. Products such as Hospicash, which reimburse lost income (a small flat rate) for each night of hospitalization, have been available to the lower-income sector largely through microlending institutions, and more recently through digital channels and telecom providers. The product is available, but uptake and usage is low.
Women’s World Banking spoke to 25 women in India to better understand their attitudes towards health, health emergencies, and how they manage emergencies.
Women’s World Banking found that women care deeply about health, especially the wellbeing of their families. They practice good hygiene and do what they can to ensure their family’s health, but ultimately know that not everything is in their control. Even though chronic diseases such as diabetes are rampant, as long as hospitals are not involved, it is considered ‘healthy enough’. In women’s minds, bad health and health emergencies equal hospitals. Women actively avoid thinking about health emergencies that might happen to them because they believe that going to the hospital isn’t in their control. Although everyone said that health is very important to them, no one wants to think about preparing for health emergencies that might have a high cost.
When Women’s World Banking asked women about paying for recent hospital stays, insurance was not in their choice set. Insurance is competing with moneylenders, borrowing from friends and family, money from pledging gold – these ways are much more familiar, uncomplicated and easy to fall back to during the moment of crisis. This did not mean however, that awareness of insurance was low. In fact, almost everyone Women’s World Banking spoke with had heard the word before but was understood differently by everyone depending on their experience. Largely, women connected insurance to life and death, and to LIC (Life Insurance Corporation) but not to health emergencies.
When trying to tackle product uptake, Women’s World Banking delves into the woman’s purchase journey. And that first step is to include moments in the purchase journey that nudge women to think about planning for health emergencies and make microinsurance a real choice in that decision. Women’s World Banking will continue to work in India to design and position microinsurance to meet women’s needs as a critical risk mitigation tool in their arsenal.
This work is generously supported by the Visa Foundation.