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IRDA eases deadline for life insurers to bundle life
June, 16th 2010

Life insurance companies are set to be given more time to comply with the insurance regulators norm to bundle life covers with pension plans.

IRDA had originally set July 1 as the deadline for insurers to comply with the new rule for pension plans sold on a unit-linked platform. However, this is set to be deferred to give insurers more time to design pension products that would be both cheap and attractive for policy holders.

A life cover becomes expensive for those who are over 50 years and above because of higher mortality charges. These charges rise as people grow older. An expensive life cover could hamper the marketing of pension plans. A senior IRDA official said the regulator was willing to give insurers more time to design products that can address the problem. The regulator is, however, yet to set a new deadline.

According to SB Mathur, chairman of the Life Insurance Council an umbrella body for life insurers, bundling life covers with pension plans would force pension buyers to buy life cover which could defeat the goal of buying a pension plan.

Compulsory annutisation of pension policies seems a better option compared to others, said GN Agarwal, chief actuary of Future Generali India.

Bundling life cover with a pension plan will also mean that policy holders will have to comply with all norms stipulated for buying life insurance policies.

This includes a medical check-up. It is feared that companies may not be able to sell these plans to prospective pension policy holders with medical problems.

A person suffering from, say, a kidney or heart ailment will not be eligible for the pension policy that she needs the most.

Life cover comes as optional with all pension policies and those who require it for their family can opt for it. But making it compulsory would only mean provoking policyholder to shift to Ulip, said an industry expert.

Life companies want the regulator to relax the norm, making it mandatory for insurers to bundle a life cover with pension products. Earlier, a senior IRDA official said the regulator was willing to give more flexibility to allow companies to offer a health cover or life cover or annuities with pension schemes.

Companies will, however, have to mandatorily offer at least one of them. But they will also have the flexibility to offer all three benefits.

The rules also mandate insurers with pension schemes to convert the accumulated fund value into an annuity at maturity. The policyholder will have the option to commute up to a maximum of one-third of the accumulated value as lumpsum at the time of maturity.

IRDA tightened the norms for unit-linked insurance and pension plans to raise the risk cover, after its public spat with Sebi over the regulation of Ulips. Sebi wants to regulate Ulips as it reckons that they are pure investment schemes. The issue is pending with the Supreme Court now.

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