The younger you are, the lower the cost of a Star basic health plan: A 30-year old would pay Rs 1,200 for a cover of Rs 1 lakh from Star against Rs 1,310 for a similar cover from a PSU insurer (See table: Cheaper for the under-40). Once you've crossed 40, you'll find it difficult to get your health insured. Star offers you a cover at a slightly higher cost than most other companies. It also offers you a 5 per cent discount on premiums (instead of bonus) for every no-claim year, subject to a maximum of 25 per cent.

But Medi Premier, the critical illness plan, is expensive (See table: Critically costly). Buy only if Bajaj Allianz, the only other insurer in this space, refuses you a cover.

Accident Care is cheaper. For instance, for persons in administrative jobs, a Rs 1 lakh plan covering death, permanent partial and total disability and temporary disability costs Rs 125 against Rs 150 from PSUs.

Health cover is also available as a floater policy, which considers a family as a single unit and provides a joint cover, instead of a separate policy for each member. The sum insured is not split across family members, so the entire amount can go towards the treatment of one person. Currently ICICI Lombard offers floater policies. However the age limit in a Star floater is 40 years. Explains Jagannathan, In a floater, we insure not just the individual but the entire family and the cost of insuring people above 40 years is high. To keep the premiums reasonable we have not gone beyond that age.

Medi Premier, the Star critical Illness policy, covers you against three illnesses: stroke, renal failure and cancer. A maximum of Rs 4 lakh is paid in lump sum if a person is diagnosed with these illness, after which the policy terminates. The policy offered by Bajaj Allianz is better, as it covers ten major critical illnesses like major organ transplant, paralysis and heart attack and offers a cover of up to Rs 10 lakh.

Accident covers typically offer an income stream for the period you can't work due to a temporary or permanent disability. They also pay the survivors the sum insured if the insured dies in an accident. Star's Accident Care also makes a one-time educational grant of Rs 5,000 if the deceased policyholder has one child (Rs 10,000 in case of two children) and pays up to Rs 3,000 for transportation of mortal remains.

Typically a health plan pays for all hospitalisation costs (including boarding charges) as well as some expenses incurred on medicines, tests, etc., within a specified period, say, 30 days before or after hospitalisation.

These costs have led to ambiguity in the past with insurers paying for a standard room instead of the suite in which the patient availed treatment.

Star has injected transparency by setting limits on such expenses. The room rent, for instance, will not exceed 2 per cent of the sum insured, (maximum of Rs 4,000 per day).

Star Health also does not have third party administrators, and collaborates directly with medical institutions. This allows it to cut costs and stay closely connected in the process of claim settlement.

We have launched four policies in the south basic health, critical illness, personal accident and micro health insurance. In the north, we currently have only personal accident. We will take our health plans there and elsewhere next year, once our infrastructure is in place.

We focus on hassle-free settlement. We do not have any third party administrators for our medical policies and collaborate directly with hospitals. We have tied up with more than 100 hospitals across the south and have doctors available on a 24-hour basis on our toll free number. Settlements would be cashless and would take place between the hospitals and the company. In addition, we would have extended features and our prices would be among the most competitive in the industry.

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