Monday, March 31, 2008

LIC Health Plus : Scaring The Hell Out of You

Brand : Health Plus
Company : LIC

Brand Analysis Count : 318

Indian health insurance market is nascent but with huge potential. With only 10% of the population having some form of health insurance, Indian Insurers have seen just the tip of a gold mine. In a very wise move to unleash the potential of the Indian health insurance market, IRDA gave license to many life insurers to enter the market with new innovative health insurance products.

Surprisingly LIC also got itself into this lucrative market. Reports suggest that there are 315 million insurable persons in this market with an estimated market size of over $ 812 million . The market is estimated to reach $ 5 Billion by 2010.

The major issue facing health insurance market is the lack of awareness. Even in the urban market, the awareness about health insurance is very low.

It is not only the lack of awareness about the insurance policies but also the need for having a health insurance policy. This blind eye towards the need for health insurance is rampant in the middle-class who really needs such kind of insurance cover.

The basic reason behind this lack of awareness is because of two reasons :

a. The availability of inexpensive health care. Historically health costs were considerably low in the Indian market. This is because of government control over medicine costs .

b. In early days the kind of diseases and the cures were very much limited. Diseases were less and cures were also less.

c. The false belief that major illness will not happen to oneself.

d. The premium paid in Health Insurance is lost unless there is a claim to it. This is a major negative since premiums paid is lost.

Both these have changed. The cost of health care has risen beyond one's imagination.Government has limited the support on health care and medicines are becoming expensive.

The new lifestyle began creating lifestyle diseases which only have lifestyle cures that has lifestyle expenses attached to it . Now new diseases has arisen and new cures too. And no one has a guarantee of not getting a major illness.

It is in this context that health insurance attain paramount importance to ones life . From my observation, a major illness or a major accident can ruin the finances of a family. With the family size becoming smaller, the avenues of getting financial support is also thinning. Health insurance is a backup against such disasters. I remember a couple of instances where the entire savings of a family wiped out because the guy met with an accident.

Coming to the brand in context, LIC has launched its health insurance plan branded as Health Plus. Health Plus is an unit linked health insurance plan where the money invested will grow investment rather than lost as in the case of conventional health plans. But the premiums are expensive compared to the conventional types.

The new launch is backed by heavy advertising . The ads are scary and will scare your hell out of you. The ad shows a lady reading a magazine on her bed and suddenly the room morphs into a hospital room . The next scene shows a guy watching television sitting on a chair and suddenly the chair morphs into a wheel chair. The voice over says " Anything can happen to you anywhere and anytime " .

The ads and the message are very very disturbing. The message is hard truth but some truths can be really disturbing. A typical human reaction to such truth is denial and not acceptance. And most often the consumer will turn their head against such disturbing visuals rather than embrace the message. I am a person who has taken such insurance policies but for me also the ad was repulsive. You need not scare your consumers to purchase the product.

What Indian consumers need is real education about the need for having health insurance. The issue is not to make him disturbed so that he denies the truth and get on with life. So the message ought to be on a softer side. Since HealthPlus is a unit linked plan, one can add savings on premium as an attraction. Reliance Insurance had launched a campaign health + wealth which is more an attractive proposition.

The print ad for Health Plus also features a visual from hospital. These are displayed in hoardings too. It too is of bad taste. The execution of the message is with out taking the viewer's emotions into context.

The challenge is making the consumer realize the importance of protection against possible loss of financial security rather than worry about hospitalization expenses. The reason why I took health insurance is to protect my family from any financial shocks rather than cover the expenses ( which was secondary). I remember a friend asking me whether I expect any diseases to occur, when I explained to him the details of health insurance. He failed to understand that I took health insurance to safeguard my existing financial security from such shocks.

The consumers for these products are those who are healthy , alive and rocking. They hate to see themselves in wheelchairs or hospital beds. During this phase of life , one expects to live healthily always. To make him aware of a potential shock should be done in a more subtle way.