October 2019 was a trying time for our family. An aunt was turning 80 years old, a major milestone for this family matriarch.
In our wisdom, we chose an outdoor venue in the cold chilly month of August to celebrate. A week later I got a call from my sister that our aunt was unwell and was going to see her general
practitioner. I continued with my day without much thought to it. In the evening, I called my aunt to check on her, and she told me she was waiting to be admitted.
If you have ever been hospitalized, you know how daunting the hospitalization process can be. Luckily, my background in medical insurance came in handy, but that still did not relieve me of the worry of having an unwell relative. We got her a private room, and she got the best specialist and nursing care, which eventually facilitated a smooth discharge process. You see, this was easy for me as I had done this for many clients before.
However, I am alive of the fact that not many Kenyans are lucky to have a relative in the medical insurance space and not many are aware of the benefits of having a solid medical cover,
especially in their senior years. A few months later the country faced one of the worst pandemics
the world has ever known: COVID-19. 2020 – famously referred to as the Covid year – saw many Kenyans battle the pandemic. It was also the year I received the most inquiries about medical insurance, especially for the vulnerable in our community.
For some, the inquiries came in late when their parents had already been admitted with bills accumulating. The year tested all our combined experiences in administering medical insurance schemes.
Covid-19 not only taught us the importance of having a medical insurance cover but also having a partner beside you that understands the ins and out of medical insurance; how hospitals work and how to get a bed (with oxygen) when all hospital wards are full.
It was also during this time that we recognized the value of counseling. Our contact center had
never received as many calls from clients requesting counseling services as we did during and after the pandemic. Mostly from patients stuck at home alone with no one to consult, members who had lost a loved one and were dealing with grief, and clients who panicked about the unforeseen outcome of their diagnosis.
One of the challenges we faced at the time was to come up with a medical scheme that responded to all the needs we were witnessing. Covid-19 had been declared a pandemic and most insurance companies considered pandemics as exclusions. You can imagine the horror of having a loved one in the hospital, with a cover that cannot take care of their bills. Luckily, all medical insurance policies are currently inclusive of Covid-19 cover.
We are all aware that the population that got affected the most were senior citizens and people with comorbidities, yet most covers have clauses that exclude these groups. It was indeed a time of reflection for the industry on the inclusivity of these groups in comprehensive covers. Especially our senior citizens who, most times, live alone or are fully dependent on their children for support.
The insurance industry must challenge itself, to create inclusive products for all age groups (senior citizens included), and consider enhanced benefits such as critical illnesses, personal accident covers, funeral covers, and free annual checkups. After all, these were our parents, and we are all headed in the same direction as we age.
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