Health, Loan Insurance Coming to Burma This Year

By San Yamin Aung 18 March 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s insurance industry will begin providing currently nonexistent health and credit guarantee insurance policies in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to state-run Myanma Insurance.

“We will operate health insurance and loan insurance services in the coming financial year,” said Aye Min Thein, managing director of Myanma Insurance. The fiscal year begins on April 1.

Last year, the government permitted private firms to enter the insurance market for the first time in more than 60 years, allowing for six categories of life and general insurance out of 46 categories recognized by the government. In part as a result of Myanma Insurance’s decades-long monopoly, Burma’s insurance industry is among the least developed in the region.

“The state-owned Myanma Insurance will start offering the new insurances and after that the private firms, which are still in their infancy, will be allowed to offer it,” Aye Min Thein said.

The new offerings will allow for plans that include coverage of medical expenses incurred by a health insurance policyholder, and credit guarantee insurance will be designed to make it easier for small and medium enterprises to obtain loans.

Htay Paing, spokesman for Grand Guardian Insurance Public Company, said that because the government’s stranglehold of the local insurance market was only loosened last year, the number of policyholders in Burma remained low.

“The local insurance industry was far from the minds of the public for a long time. Currently, people are getting to know why it is necessary to be insured, but we still need more time,” he said.

A supervisor at a private insurance firm, who asked not to be identified, said that since many people in Burma still lacked a solid understanding of insurance products and their benefits, her company was working to persuade potential customers to invest in peace of mind.

“People are more interested to buy health insurance than life insurance,” she added.

“If private insurance companies can offer more insurance services like health insurance, for which there is high demand, the number of insured will rise.”

Aye Min Thein of Myanma Insurance said the gradual expansion of insurance categories available for purchase would provide the country’s people with a greater sense of security.

“As a business or individual, insurance products and services can reduce losses. Insurance is very important to help with unexpected losses—for businesses, families, the whole country,” he said.

There are currently 12 private insurance companies, some of which are offshoots of Burma’s largest banks, and the government currently allows them to sell six different types of insurance: fire; motor; life; cash in transit; cash in safe; and fidelity.