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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ways to resolve your grievances against insurance companies

Insurance companies not staying on their commitments is not a new thing for policyholders. There are examples galore on the subject. A person underwent 3 surgeries simultaneously with the total cost amounting to Rs 33K. When the claim was lodged the TPA said that though the surgeries were pertaining to 3 different body parts but were conducted at the same time, hence the eligible claim was only Rs 10K. 
Despite the person explaining that the company would have to shell out larger amount of money had the insured decided to undergo all the 3 surgeries at different times, the company still didn’t agree. Ultimately the insured approached the Insurance Ombudsman who held that the eligible claim was Rs 30K.
It’s not that the policyholder is at the mercy of the insurance companies. The IRDA has recently come up with certain regulations that protect the interests of the policyholders and has promised that the Insurance Ombudsman would be empowered further.

While regulations coming into effect may take a while, one must get acquainted with existing grievance redressal infrastructure and the procedure to be followed to make oneself heard.
Level One: For complaints registration, most insurance companies provide various channels like branches, phone call, e-mail as well as snail mail to policyholders. If the customer services department is not helping one can approach the company’s grievance redressal officer. Insurance companies are also required to maintain a well-defined procedure for receiving and resolving grievances at their branches, too.
Companies have to specify a time frame within which different types of grievances must be resolved. While they can decide the time limit, they are required to send a written acknowledgement within 3 working days of the receipt of the complaint. Any failure to do the same would make the companies liable for penalties.
The insurance company will have to inform the individual with the acknowledgement if the complaint is resolved within 3 days or else they will have to resolve it within 2 weeks of the receipt of the complaint & send a final letter of resolution. If the company decides to reject the complaint, it has to give a valid reason with information on further redressal avenues that the insured can pursue. If one does not react within eight weeks from the date of receiving the insurer’s response despite being dissatisfied with it, the company will assume that the complaint has been resolved.
Level Two: If the redressal officer didn’t help one can approach the IRDA’s Grievance Redressal Cell or the Insurance Ombudsman, depending on the nature of the complaint. The Ombudsman’s offices are authorized to mediate and award compensation to policyholders. They can handle cases involving insurance contracts upto INR20 Lakhs.
The Ombudsman makes recommendations within 1 month of the receipt of the complaint. Once one receives a copy of the recommendation, he/she has to send a written communication indicating the acceptance of the settlement within 15 days. The insurance company also has to comply with the order given by the Ombudsman. If still unsatisfied with the verdict, one can approach the civil courts or consumer forums.
The kinds of complaints that can be heard by the Ombudsman are the ones that relate to ejection (whether partial or total) of claims, in addition to disputes about premiums; policy wordings in case the disputes relate to claims; delay in settlement of claims and non-issuance of any insurance document after collecting the premium.
Irda’s Grievance Redressal Cell
Unlike the ombudsman, this redressal cell does not have the authority to pass orders but complaints addressed to the cell are taken up with the insurers which could include delay or lack of response pertaining to policies or claims and complaints about agents’ conduct.
The awareness about Ombudsman is still very low, IRDA’s campaign has been creating awareness about the recourses available to the policyholders. The toll free number widely publicized is 155255. One can approach the cell directly and he/she will be redirected to the Ombudsman under whose jurisdiction the complaint falls. One can get in touch with cell via email or snail mail as well (info is available on IRDA’s website).
One must ensure that the complaint is sent by him/herself because the ones forwarded by third parties including lawyers or agents are not entertained by the cell. The complaints with incomplete information are also not heard. Therefore, it is very important to disclose all the details in the complaints registration form available on the insurance regulator’s website.

One must be alert while dealing with insurers and follow laid down for the proper solution to the problem.

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