The concept of delivering healthcare services at home is fast catching up in India. From setting up ICUs at home to delivering chemotherapy, from looking after the needs of an ageing population who cannot afford going to a hospital for physiotherapy, from post-delivery care to post-operative recuperation, home healthcare in India is fast emerging as a viable and sustainable alternative to India's struggling traditional healthcare delivery system which relies on hospitals alone.

The need and urgency for home healthcare is more in India. Hospitals in India are bursting at their seams. There is an acute shortage of beds and the physicians at hospitals are overbooked. The government's new health insurance policy announced in the recent Union Budget for nearly 500 million households is laudable, but it might lead to an increased pressure on hospitals.

In such a scenario, home healthcare becomes a sustainable solution. Along with reducing burden on hospital infrastructure, home healthcare offers improved and personalized care to the patients as well. The biggest advantage is that caring for patients at home can become cost effective and advantageous to both the sick and the family. 

With such huge advantages and with demand and popularity of these miniature, mobile and highly functional hospital like set ups being provided by home healthcare firms, policy makers and insurance companies have started evincing keen interest. This is a significant change from just a few years back when home care was not even on the radar of insurance companies. However, with a sea change happening in this sector with respect to organized set ups and delivery of world-class services like ICU at home, chemotherapy at home, critical care at home etc., insurance companies have started extending policy cover to home healthcare.

Some insurance companies already cover home care services deemed as a logical and seamless extension of hospitalization - pre & post hospitalization expenses. Domiciliary treatments or treatments done at home, which otherwise need hospitalization, are at times covered if the patient is physically incapacitated to go to a hospital or due to non-availability of rooms in a hospital. For example, home care services for the elderly get covered by a few insurance companies if recommended by the treating physician. 

A few insurance companies have started extending cover for certain day care treatments and OPD procedures like haemodialysis, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Under the Global Health Group Plan, Cigna TTK Health Insurance covers home nursing up to the full sum insured irrespective of whether it is associated with hospitalization or not. ICICI Lombard covers few home care treatments under OPD such as physiotherapy, consultation, routine diagnostics. Bajaj Allianz Health Insurance offers discounts to policy holders who avail services of some home care service providers with whom the company has tie-ups. SBI General Health Insurance covers pre and post hospitalization expenses for 30 days before and 60 days after hospitalization including home care. Magma HDI has taken a significant leap by covering home healthcare in the ambit of its health insurance plan.

All these indicate that there is a big surge in interest of health insurance players in the home care sector. With more insurance companies set to hit the ground running when it comes to covering homecare under health insurance, the Indian healthcare scenario is ready for a breakthrough in terms of reduced economic burden on the patient and the country at large. – Business Standard 

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