The just-concluded International Yoga Day on June 21 and the attention it has drawn bring to mind our rich legacy of ancient Indian health systems.
While Allopathy is ubiquitous and has the first recall status when it comes to healthcare in large parts of India, traditional systems of medicine still have their rightful place. They have a range of effective practices for prevention and treatment of diseases and have been trusted for generations. Scoring on their side is easier access, lower costs and a reputation for purportedly negligible side effects.
They include Indian systems like Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani and Siddha, as well as Homeopathy. The overseeing government department formed in 1995 was renamed AYUSH in 2003, an acronym of the names of these systems and Sowa-Rigpa. The Ministry of AYUSH was formed in 2014.
When it comes to insurance, treatment under any system except Allopathy was not payable under hospitalisation policies for a long time. In 2016, insurance regulations were changed to allow insurers to cover AYUSH treatments in hospitals accredited by National Accreditation Board on Health, Quality Council of India or similar institutions.
Companies started offering AYUSH coverage but with stiff sub-limits. While some companies offer barely 10% of the sum insured, in the case of AYUSH claims in recent years, some companies have removed sub-limits for this aspect. Insurers have also selected accredited AYUSH hospitals to be empanelled in their network for cashless treatment. Here, basic norms set down by the regulator like quality accreditation, number of qualified and registered doctors, therapy infrastructure and number of beds are taken into account. Such norms, incidentally are laid down for allopathic hospitals as well.
The ministry has also published rates of therapies/interventions under Yoga and Naturopathy for instance, to be taken as benchmarks for calculating treatment expenditure to settle insurance claims with room rent as per the norms of the insurance company and the policy terms. Similarly, treatment expenditure guidelines for Ayurveda and Siddha have been published as well.
With increasing health awareness and costs, AYUSH is an attractive option again. Your insurance policy offers some support – just be sure to check your coverage clauses before you start hospital treatment.
(The writer is a business journalist specialising in insurance and corporate history)