Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Recommendations of Rangarajan Committee on Micro Insurance

The Committee on Financial Inclusion (Chairman: Dr. C. Rangarajan), which submitted its report in January 2008, observed in its report that micro insurance should provide greater economic and psychological security to the poor as it reduces exposure to multiple risks and cushions the impact of a disaster. Micro insurance in conjunction with micro savings and micro credit could go a long way in keeping this segment away from the poverty trap and would truly be an integral component of financial inclusion.

The Committee suggested that in order to economise on costs and to increase the outreach of micro insurance to the poor, the insurers need to utilise existing Government organisations and NGOs, having greater acceptability among the financially excluded. In the opinion of the Committee, there is a need to emphasise linking of micro credit with micro insurance. Further, as it helps in bringing down the inherent risk cost of lending, NABARD should be regularly involved in issues relating to rural and micro insurance to leverage on its experience of being a catalyst in the field of micro credit. The Committee suggested that the technology platforms being envisaged to facilitate financial inclusion should enable micro insurance transactions also.
Towards this end, according to the Committee, there is a need to integrate the various modules - savings, credit, insurance, etc. - into the technology framework so that holistic inclusive efforts are possible in the rural areas.

The Committee observed that there are a large number of group life and health insurance schemes which are run by various central ministries and State Governments. The level of actual coverage in terms of claims preferred and settled in such schemes is disturbingly low. These schemes should be reviewed by an expert group set up by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA).

Making specific recommendations about various insurance schemes available, the Committee observed that a wide range of products are available in life insurance category but penetration is really limited in rural areas. The procedural requirements at the time of entry and in case of claims settlement are cumbersome. The commission structure for agents is also heavily weighed in favour of getting new policies with very little incentive to service existing policies. In this regard, Micro Insurance
Guidelines (MIG) 2005 issued by IRDA has provided for equal commission throughout the life of a policy and this will now remove the disincentive in servicing existing policy holders.

As far as health insurance is concerned, the Committee observed that its penetration level was even much lower than life insurance. The two categories viz., critical illness and hospitalisation are the main product segments. Some State Governments have developed health insurance schemes which are still in very early stages. The Committee has recommended mutual health insurance models as a better alternative to the take care of existing situation. As regards crop insurance, the committee recommended that policies be evolved to make crop insurance universal, viz., applicable to all crops/regions and pricing actuarial. About asset insurance the Committee again recommended that involving local NGOs, MFIs and SHGs, among others, as distribution channels as well as facilitators of claims settlements would be quite useful.

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