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How do lifestyle habits impact health insurance premiums?

If one were to single out a particular event in the 21st century that has underscored the importance of health insurance, it has to be the COVID-19 pandemic. For a sizeable portion of the Indian population too, the hospitalization costs ensuing from the pandemic have severely dented household savings and brought focus on the aspect of having an adequate health insurance cover for such medical exigencies. Yet, the subject of insurance premiums deters many Indians, especially the ones who need it the most, from purchasing health insurance to secure themselves against the financial impact of hospitalization. This makes it important to understand why premiums vary amongst individuals and which factors impact them detrimentally.

An unhealthy lifestyle is one of the leading causes of various ailments such as hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even heart-related ailments in India today. While bad habits like smoking, drinking, or chewing tobacco can lead to life-threatening diseases like cancer, the more short-term impact include higher chances of infections resulting in more frequent hospitalization. Thus, people with such unhealthy habits have higher risks of falling ill, and the same is factored into the pricing of the health insurance product purchased. It is therefore advisable to quit habits that are bound to increase medical risks and insure oneself adequately at the earliest.

Pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid, asthma and even depression also bump up health insurance premiums. While a few companies provide insurance cover for individuals with such conditions, there may be additional riders like a minimum waiting period before a claim is admitted. However, it is absolutely important to declare all such existing illnesses while purchasing a health insurance cover to ensure maximum coverage in the event of hospitalization. If required, policyholders can opt for add-on to cover the exclusions and get the protection they need.

A high Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the leading precursors to chronic diseases related to vital organs and can even lead to other issues like joint damage that will require hospitalization. Those with a high BMI are therefore subjected to relatively higher insurance premiums due to the heightened risk of serious illnesses that will lead to long periods of hospitalization. It is highly advisable that even seemingly healthy individuals do regular medical checkups and take precautionary action to keep their weight in check before it escalates quickly.

Hereditary ailments or immediate family member's medical history may also contribute to higher health insurance premiums. Usually, diseases like diabetes, cancer and even heart ailments can be passed on through generations. While not limited to the diseases mentioned above, it is best to disclose all known diseases in one's immediate family while purchasing a health cover and secure yourself.

The insured's profession may also impact the insurance premium applicable, especially for those employed in risky conditions or hazardous environments. This is relevant for those employed in industries including coal extraction, mining operations, shipping aviation as well as specific professions like pilots, who are at a higher risk of either bodily harm or developing complications over a period of time. Insurers, therefore, necessitate that the policyholders declare their correct profession and the industry in which they operate in order to calculate the risk of indemnification in the scenario of a health complication.​