Max Bupa Health Insurance Company Ltd is in talks with regional rural banks, co-operative banks and post offices to strengthen its distribution network and reach out to the rural masses across the country.

“Bancassurance is a good model for distribution of insurance products. Regional and co-operative banks have the kind of reach and expertise in this area so we want to tap them,” said Mr Neeraj Basur, chief financial officer, Max Bupa.

The company currently distributes its products through corporate agents, telemarketing, direct sales channel and the Internet. To begin with, the company plans to tie up with regional and co-operative banks in Maharashtra.

As per IRDA (Insurance Regulatory Development Authority) norms, a commercial bank is permitted to distribute products of only one life and one non-life insurance company each at present. This was a big stumbling block for standalone health insurance companies, said Max Bupa's Chief Executive, Dr Damien Marmion.

Talks with IRDA

“We are in talks with IRDA to allow banks to sell products of standalone health insurance companies alongside those of the life and non-life companies. The industry is in talks on this issue and something could emerge soon,” Dr Marmion said.

Max Bupa is bidding for tenders for distributing products under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana in three States. “We have some low-value products suited for the Bima Yojana. We have placed our bids for rolling it out in three States.

Over the next few months we want to study more about the unorganised market and design appropriate products,” he said. Dr Marmion, however, refused to divulge further details about the tender process and the States for which they have applied.

The Swasthya Bima Yojana is a scheme announced by the Union Government to provide insurance cover to Below Poverty Line families in the unorganised sector to protect them from major health shocks that involve hospitalisation.

(This article was published on October 18, 2011)
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