Health insurance for NRIs!

While most of you know that health insurance plans are available for Indian citizens, many of you might not know that NRIs too can avail of the coverage. Non-resident Indians, who frequent India, can invest in a health insurance plan for their medical emergencies. They can buy the plan from an Indian insurer and secure their finances.

Does it make sense for NRIs to buy health insurance in India?

It does. According to a research study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an average family floater coverage costs around USD 20,576 in the USA and AED 33,500 in the UAE. These convert to an annual premium of Rs.14 lakhs and Rs.6.7 lakhs respectively. Do Indian health plans charge the same?

No, they do not. Insuring oneself in India is exponentially cheaper than in foreign countries, so NRIs seek health insurance coverage in India. So, buying health insurance in India makes sense if–

  • You frequent India and expect to seek medical attention here
  • You are planning to shift back to India shortly.

Eligibility to buy health insurance in India

When it comes to the eligibility parameters, there is no specific set of requirements for NRIs. NRIs fulfilling the basic eligibility parameters set by the health plan can buy the policy. You would have to submit specific documents for proving your Indian citizenship. The documents include your passport, income tax returns, etc. 

However, the underwriting rules would differ. NRIs usually fall under a “risky” category as against resident Indians when it comes to underwriting them for health plans. As such, the premiums might be higher and/or there might be restrictions on the sum insured.

Plans available for NRIs

Many health insurance companies provide policies that NRIs can choose for their coverage needs. NRIs can invest in the following types of policies –

  • Indemnity health insurance plans – both individual and family floater policies
  • Fixed benefit health insurance plans like critical illness plans
  • Senior citizen health insurance plans for their parents living in India 
  • Disease-specific health insurance plan

Things to keep in mind

While NRIs can buy health insurance in India, here are a few points that they should keep in mind when buying the policy –

  • When it comes to coverage, there is a restriction to be within the geographic boundaries of India. That means that if NRIs buy health insurance in India, they can avail of coverage only on hospitalisation within India. Treatment in a foreign country, where they reside, is usually not under the terms and conditions.
  • However, some health insurance plans allow worldwide coverage as a part of their benefits, either inbuilt or optional. 
  • In some plans with worldwide coverage, certain countries might be excluded
  • In some plans with worldwide coverage, coverage might be extended only in the case of life-threatening diseases or illnesses
  • Other plans offering worldwide coverage might impose a co-payment in the case of international claims
  • International hospitalisation and treatments are quite expensive (perhaps that’s why the premiums are so high). So, if you are buying a health plan in India, opt for a high sum insured for optimal coverage 
  • You can pay premiums in INR or a foreign currency.
  • When it comes to claims and repatriation of the claim amount, FEMA guidelines state that claim repatriation is allowed only up to the amount of premium paid for the plan in foreign currency. The remaining claim amount would have to be used in INR
  • You would be eligible to claim a deduction under Section 80D on the premium paid. The limit is Rs.25,000 if you are below 60 or Rs.50,000 if you are older. 

Choosing the right health plan as an NRI

For an NRI, a health plan which offers worldwide coverage is advisable. If the coverage is only within India, what would be the sense of buying the plan in the first place?

Also, with worldwide coverage, check the policy wordings to know the exact terms and conditions about such coverage. Check if there is any restriction on the type of claim, the co-payment involved (if any) and any other restricting clauses. 

Buy the plan when you are planning to return to India in the coming years. This would help you wait out the waiting period so that when you are in India, you can avail yourself of comprehensive coverage. 

Health plans for parents

NRIs can also invest in health plans for their parents who stay in India. Senior citizen plans and normal indemnity-oriented plans are available for parents. NRIs can invest in a comprehensive policy and also claim a deduction under Section 80D on the premium paid. 

So, if you are an NRI, know that you would be eligible for a health insurance policy in India. Look for a policy with worldwide coverage and understand the coverage’s terms and conditions. Also, opt for an optimal sum insured for complete protection against medical emergencies.