As Indian states consider yet another un-lock and the rising fear of a COVID19 “third wave” looming large, companies big and small across India are faced with an HR topic to deal with — their ‘Employee Healthcare Benefits’ program. At least for those companies that have such a program in place. For those that don’t, well it’s about time.
In a time of growing consciousness around healthcare, companies can no longer just focus on traditional business metrics. The ‘Organizational Health Index’ is a real thing. As are, better health outcomes for employees and their families.
With a workforce of nearly 500 million, India’s working-age population is rising exponentially. A projected 62% rise between now and 2050, rising to 800+ million employed Indians by then. Each one of them expecting almost entirely that their Employer will care for theirs and their family’s healthcare. What used to be a fringe benefit offered by some organizations is now the key benefit employees expect.
With rising Medical costs; health insurance is a titular financial backup for employees and has often been the ONLY definition of an ‘Employee Health Benefits’ program for companies. Tragically though, it has paid for less than 40% of an employee and their family’s actual healthcare expenditure. Can you imagine a hapless individual blissful in their ignorance that their company’s insurance will pay for their hospitalization, only to find out that they won’t — at least not for what they want or where they want or when they want.
Indian Employees either rely on a Group Health Insurance (GHI) policy provided by their Employer or Indian government-supported care i.e. Employee State Insurance Scheme (ESIS) or other government schemes for public healthcare. Although touted as “employee welfare” schemes, ESIS and GHIs have arguably failed their potential beneficiaries, especially in the aftermath of this pandemic. Just look at the $45 Billion per year spent by Indians from their pockets to pay for healthcare not covered by either of the above-mentioned programs.
As per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, from the 500 million working individuals in India, 36% are government workers, and 24% work in the private sector (the rest are self-employed). This translates to 180 million working in government jobs and 120 million in private sector jobs, collectively 300 million employed Indians collectively, who depend almost entirely on their employers to care for the healthcare needs of themselves and their families.
Imagine the pressure on HR teams then, when they realize that their best bet of an employee health insurance policy as “employee health benefits” is going to leave their employees exposed to the financial risk of over 60%. I would be a very nervous HR manager or possibly a very worried employee.
But, Does The Indian Employer Care?
As mentioned earlier, India is seeing a massive rise in people belonging to the “salaried class” (800 million by 2050), which will only continue to rise. This, coupled with enough studies showing that as a civilization we may have to continue to live with Covid and its variants, means HR teams at employers have to pivot their Employee Health Benefits plans to “Family Health Benefits” plans that go BEYOND Insurance.
By definition, health insurance manages health risk, but by the way these policies are structured, they can never cover 100% health risk. A fully comprehensive employee health insurance policy is most likely something that a company can never afford to pay. The insurance premiums of such a policy would put a massive frown on the CFO’s face, even as the HR pleads with all sincerity.
Any Employer-provided, employee-healthcare program will necessarily need to cover medicines, counseling, physiotherapy, ambulance, doctor consultation, elective procedures (cataract, Lasik or even cosmetic procedures), pregnancy (IVF, Pre & Post-Natal care, etc.), and surgeries. If you find a health insurance policy provided by any employer in India that covers all these, let me know. I will buy one for my entire team.
Do Indian Employers care? I think they do. They just don’t know what are their options. Options, that achieve the following 3 things:
1. Keep their employees happy.
2. Keep their CFO happy.
3. Keep their lives easy (well, at least in their role as an HR manager responsible for implementing employee health programs).
More about Employee Health Benefits Programs in India in the 2nd part of this piece, coming up next week.