The Insurance Control Commission (ICC), which is part of the Ministry of Economy & Trade, now requires private health insurers in Lebanon to renew medical insurance cover with the same terms and conditions as at the time of the initial subscription to the policy, regardless of age or state of health.
Changes, though, can be made during renewal if requested by policyholders.
The acting president of the ICC, Ms Nadine el-Habbal Assali, said that this measure would double annual health insurance premiums over five years.
On his part, Mr Max Zaccar, the president of the Association of Insurance Companies of Lebanon (ACAL), said, "The measure is positive for insurers to the extent that it will allow them to retain their customers, while policyholders will no longer be anxious to see the terms of their contracts changed each year." He believes that the measure could eventually lead professionals in the sector to be more sensitive to inflation in the cost of health services.
The Minister of Economy and Trade, Mr Raed Khoury, said that the new rule applies to all health insurance policies, individual and collective.The general terms and conditions of the policies as defined at the initial subscription cannot be modified after an observation period of six months following the first subscription, reports L'Orient-Le Jour citing the minister.
Previously, before the Commission's decision, when health insurance policies came up for renewal, insurers could, revise their terms and conditions —the amount of the premium, the coverage cap or the list of exclusions—if the state of health the subscriber was deteriorating, said Mr Zaccar. Insurers could also refuse to renew a policy if the patient reached a certain age or if he had a critical illness. To avoid this scenario, insurers used to charge clients a renewal guarantee fee, which was an additional premium that averaged around $50 a year.
The ICC has also set 720 days as the maximum number of days of hospitalisation in a lifetime, likely to be covered by the same insurer. "In practice, insurers check beforehand whether customers who change companies have been hospitalised before, and adjust the terms of the contract,” said Mr Zaccar.