Satish Sharma, a pioneer in the field of distribution of insurance products in Kuwait and India recently sat down with The Times Kuwait to speak about his latest venture, the ‘Elite Discount Card’.
Mr. S. Sharma is an alumnus of the renowned St. Xavier College in India and has been in the insurance field all his professional life. He began the interview by saying that the idea for ‘Elite Discount Card’ came from an unfortunate reality of life that people often tend to ignore: “Many young people do not buy medical insurance because they think they will never get sick. Similarly, many elderly people do not have medical coverage because, by the time they understand the value of insurance, either it is very expensive, or age and other health impairments disqualify them from applying for it. The truth is both categories of people can fall sick and will then be confronted with heavy medical expenses.”
“I came up with the idea of ‘Elite Discount Card’ with the objective of helping families protect themselves from the big ‘if’ of life. The Elite Card is meant to provide affordable health care options to members of the Indian community in Kuwait and the Middle-East. This is a first-of-its-kind insurance concept in the area, and as part of this initiative we are offering several Preventive Healthcare Plans under the exclusive banner of Elite Discount Cards.
Tell us about the Elite Discount Card
“Looking at the health conditions of people in India, we thought of developing a new product which will help the Indian diaspora here in Kuwait. As we all know, medical expenses can run very high in India, so what this card does is offer discount on medical expenses to people living in India.
“Another benefit to this card is that it covers any family member without considering their age. For example, some insurance companies will not accept people above 65 years of age, but the reality is even these people have medical expenses. Now, with this card, no matter what age you are, be it 65 or 95 years, as long as you have paid the expenses in our recognized hospitals you will be entitled for this discount.
“Whereas most insurance companies will refuse to grant you a policy if you already suffer from any harmful disease, with the Elite Discount Card everybody qualifies; even people with life threatening conditions. Even if a patient is suffering from terminal cancer and needs constant visits to the hospital for medical checkups, with the Elite Discount Card every visit is eligible for discounts.
“Yet another benefit of this card is that it covers out-patient treatment as well. All the insurance companies in India provide only in-patient treatments to their patients. But with our cards, you can even have out-patient treatments at discounts. Moreover, there are cases where patients might forego medical treatment because the heavy expenses involved. This card is a life-saver in such cases. So, as you can see, this is not an insurance product but a medical discount card.
When people go for any checkup or medical test, they will get a discount for it with this card. And it is not only them, but their friends, relatives and acquaintances can benefit from this. The validity of this discount card is for one year and you will have to renew it if you want to continue to use its services.
Also, a discount from 10 to 40 or 50 percent is provided by the card for all medical expenses. The cost of the card is KD10 for a family of four for one year, so that basically works out to KD2.500 per person. If there are only 3 members in a family, then for them to qualify for this card, they can add the name of another of their family members, be it an uncle or an aunt.
Usually people ask us why this discount card is so cheap. Our answer to that question is that we want to spread the message to the masses. We want people to get some benefit out of it and have no restrictions. The best part about it is you can use it numerous times in a year and nominate many people. You will just have to pay KD2.500 for every person you add to your membership.”
Can you tell us the procedure for applying for this card?
“First of all, since we are marketing the card to Indians here in Kuwait, so only an Indian who is a resident here can apply for this card. The primary member should be from Kuwait and he or she can attach as many names as they want to their card. You can buy the card either here or in India and can make a payment through any of the Al Mulla Exchange branches located all over Kuwait. Or you can also apply online by visiting our website: elitediscountcards.com.
Once, people visit our website, it is a very clean-cut procedure for them to apply or even to make an appointment online. The list of all the hospitals and medical centers that are affiliated with us is also available online. Every state has their list of hospitals entitled with the names of the doctors, the addresses of the centers and even with the discount that will be provided by the doctor. They can choose from all the different options provided on the website. There is even a section that provides the different areas of specialization that people can be treated for. One can also make an appointment online by calling any of the toll free numbers available and an SMS will be sent back to the person on their mobile confirming their appointment.
With the cost of the card being only Rs500, and you getting a discount of 30 percent of your billing, that itself is a huge saving. This is a very new concept that we have started because what we want to do is try to help meet the needs of the common man. Recently, one of our cardholders, Mrs. Anita Vyas had fixed an appointment for an MRI and because of Elite Discount Card she received a discount of Rs2,200 on her bill of Rs9,000.”
How does the family in India benefit from this card, if the physical discount card is with the member in Kuwait?
“Since we are giving this card to a family of four, we will distribute separate cards to each of the four individuals covered by the card with their names imprinted on it. The cards will be delivered to them by courier. Once they have been enrolled, within 48hrs an email will be sent to them to secure their membership. And then in 7-10 days the physical card will be couriered to them. Till then they can start using the e-card that they receive in their email.”
Are there hospitals or medical centers affiliated with this card available everywhere in India?
“There are about 17,000 hospitals listed on our website which you can filter by their names. The hospitals and medical centers affiliated with this card are spread across 500 cities in India. There is not a single city that is not covered. For example, suppose a person living in Pondicherry has a family member who needs to have a heart surgery done, but finds that there are no specialized heart facilities in Pondicherry. They can then make an appointment with one of the larger hospitals in Delhi or Mumbai that specialize in heart surgery and do the procedure there availing of the discount provided by our card. I would like to point out that there are around 17,000 medical providers who are legally contracted to work with us in this project.”
In conclusion, Mr. S. Sharma added, “We would like the media to get involved in this venture as we are trying to promote it widely to ordinary people who can benefit from it. As you can see, this card can be extremely valuable especially when you or someone in your family is faced with a serious illness. So, no matter which way you look at it, people will only benefit from it.
I would also like to thank Al Mulla Exchange for providing valuable support in helping us to remit the small amounts of money to India, thereby helping the ordinary Indian citizens. Al Mulla Exchange has this desire always to help their clients whether it be attractive exchange rates or providing insurance cover to all their clients who transfer money through their exchange for their commitment to helping ordinary people in the Indian community in Kuwait.”