Star India has extended health insurance cover to the partners of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, among others) employees, effective July 1. The entertainment company said all existing employee benefits around maternity and paternity, in-vitro fertilisation, surrogacy and adoption is applicable to LGBT+ employees.
The company joins firms like Citigroup and Godrej Group in offering such benefits to its employees. At a time when having same-sex partners is still considered a taboo in several parts of the country, an insurance cover is an even novel concept.
Compared to a typical health insurance policy that offers cover to the husband and wife, this product is worded differently.
Mohit Agarwal, Managing Director, Employee Benefits & Benefits, Marsh India Insurance Brokers, said both Indian as well as multinational companies are now taking up these covers.
“With respect to cover, it is a group product and hence differs from one company to the other. Instead of using the word ‘spouse’ the word ‘partner’ is used in the insurance product,” he added.
The word ‘spouse’ cannot be used in an insurance contract yet. This is because same-sex marriages are not recognised in India and a contract like insurance cannot use this term unless it has a legal backing.
So, when a company offers a cover for LGBT+ employees, it is part of the group life or health cover. Agarwal said they are working with a handful of private sector insurers to design products best suited to meet the needs of the community.
Whenever a corporate chooses to cover LGBT+ employees, they first decide whether they want to cover life, health or both. Then external expertise from insurance brokers like Marsh India is sought. Based on the requirement, pricing and features of the product are discussed.
Health insurance products offered to same-sex partners have the same benefits as a regular medical group insurance product. It is merely customised to change wordings based on whether the couple is male or female.
Even if it is a live-in relationship or a bisexual relationship, the product is worded accordingly. However, for a live-in relationship, proof of cohabitation like telephone bill, rent agreement or electricity bill has to be provided, Agarwal added.
However, retail products are not freely available in the Indian market for same-sex couples. With the Supreme Court decriminalising consensual sex between same-sex partners, it is likely that health and life covers in the retail market for this segment will be available in the next 12-18 months.