Motherhood is one of the most cherished milestones in a woman’s life. However, it also comes with emotional and financial responsibility. Before taking on this life-changing decision, it is crucial to be financially prepared for the responsibilities that come with motherhood. Moreover, it is equally important to have a plan in place to counter any unexpected exigencies that one may encounter during or after the pregnancy.
A sound financial plan for mothers also has to take cognizance of their evolving needs as they go through different stages of motherhood, right from pregnancy to their old age. Here is how health insurance needs evolve for mothers during different stages of their life:
Moms-to-be: The moment one decides to have a child, the journey to motherhood starts right from there, and so does the financial planning. To ensure a smooth pregnancy, the mother-to-be needs medical care right from the beginning. This is where a health insurance policy with maternity benefit comes into picture. Such an insurance policy covers all expenses related to childbirth up to a certain period — involving both pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy. In fact, now there are plans that even cover IVF costs for those trying to conceive.
However, it is pertinent to understand that generally there is a waiting period of two to four years, depending in the policy, before one can avail maternity benefits. However, now there are policies available that have reduced this waiting period to one year. Hence, it is important to get a health insurance plan with maternity benefits early in life as an existing pregnancy will not be covered under maternity benefit.
Apart from pre and post-pregnancy care, one major financial cost associated with pregnancy is the cost of delivery and childbirth which can run up to a few lakhs, especially in surgical deliveries. Buying an insurance policy that covers this expense ensures that you can avail the best facilities that are available in your city. Not only would this guarantee quality care for the new mother, but also her child. Since the financial liability is covered — or at least reduced — through insurance, the mom can focus on enjoying the major milestone of her life and focus on other important things.
New mothers: The focus during pregnancy is on the health of the mother, and by extension, the unborn child. However, soon as the child is born, the world then revolves around the baby. The newborn child has low immunity at this stage and is susceptible to infections and ailments. He/she also needs to get vaccinated at regular intervals, which also is a major expense. However, as the young mother and her family deals with all this, it is important to remember that the mother also needs time to fully recover from the effects of the childbirth.
Many health insurance policies with maternity coverage also offer cover for the newborn baby, which can come in handy at such times. However, this coverage lasts only till a certain period. So a health insurance plan that offers the flexibility to add the child to the base plan is ideal for mothers at this stage. Moreover, almost all leading insurance companies offer health insurance plans that cover child vaccinations. The young mother can also go for the additional newborn care add-on feature with her health insurance policy if the terms and conditions of the policy allow it.
However, healthcare at this stage is not only restricted to the baby. The mother also needs to be covered against post-natal care. Moreover, as time passes, her insurance needs would evolve beyond maternity and should cover her overall health. Most health insurance plans serve that purpose. However, she should also consider protection against illnesses that are specific to women, like breast cancer, cancer of the reproductive system, and so on.
Single mothers: While not all health insurance policies cover single women in their maternity plans, there are some plans available in the market that provide maternity benefits to single women and single mothers. However, the most important factor here is the waiting period. After the woman has completed the waiting period as specified in the plan terms and conditions, she is eligible to claim maternity benefits of the plan irrespective of her marital status. Such plans are ideal for single women as they can be bought, along with maternity benefits, even before they are married.
Aged mothers: As time passes and the child grows up to become an adult, the mother also ages and her healthcare and insurance needs evolve further. The child, now an adult, would leave the family-floater plan and would go on to buy his/her own. The mother’s medical care needs would now be more specific to her age rather than the maternity benefits. She would need a plan that covers critical illnesses. Women are also prone to conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis at a higher rate in comparison to men as they age. It is wise to consider a critical illness add-on cover at this stage, if it is not already added to the policy earlier.
If at this stage, the aged mother is looking for a new health cover altogether because of her changed circumstances, she would need to look for a plan that covers pre-existing ailments from day one. There are such plans now available in the market. There are also senior-citizen-specific plans that cover medical expenses incurred by people above 60 years old. Since she would need regular medical checkups, such plans are helpful as they provide cover for such expenses. The best part about such plans is that they provide lifetime renewability.
With healthcare costs rising at a fast pace, it is crucial to have coverage against planned and unplanned hospitalisations. Especially for mothers who have to care for their dependents, it is crucial to have sufficient coverage at different stages of life. And just as their medical needs evolve over the course of motherhood, so should their insurance coverage. By making use of different riders, mothers can customise their health insurance plans to suit the stage of life that they are at.
(By Amit Chhabra, Head-Health & Travel Insurance, Policybazaar.com)