What is Insurance: Definition, Benefits, and Types

Insurance is a legal agreement between two parties – the insurer and the insured. It is also known as insurance coverage or insurance policy. The insurer provides financial coverage for the losses of the insured that s/he may bear under certain circumstances.

Insurance – Definition and Meaning

Insurance coverage can be defined as a contract in the form of a policy. This policy covers the monetary risks of an individual due to unpredictable contingencies. The insured is the policyholder. The insurer is the insurance-providing company/the insurance carrier/the underwriter. They provide coverage or reimbursement to the policyholder.

The policyholder pays a certain amount called ‘premium’ to the insurance company against which the latter provides insurance cover. The insurer assures that it shall cover the policyholder’s losses subject to certain terms and conditions. Premium payment decides the assured sum for insurance coverage or ‘policy limit’.

What is Deductible? Why Pay Deductible if Premium is Paid?

Sometimes when you make an insurance claim, the premium amount is less than what it should be. So, in that case, you first have to pay the remaining amount and then claim the insurance money. The extra amount to be paid under such circumstances is called ‘deductible’. You can pay lesser premiums and higher deductibles in an agreement with the insurer.

Features of Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage has the below mentioned salient features:

  • It is a kind of risk management plan to use an insurance policy as a hedge against an uncertain loss
  • Insurance coverage does not mitigate the magnitude of loss one may face. It only assures that the loss is shared and distributed among multiple people
  • Various clients of an insurance company pool in their risks. Hence, they pay the premiums together. So when one or a few incur a financial loss, the claimed money is given out of this accumulated fund. This makes each client bear a nominal fee
  • Insurance coverage can be provided for medical expenses, vehicle damage, property loss/damage, etc. depending on the type of insurance
  • Premium, policy limit, and deductible are the main components of an insurance coverage policy. The policy buyer should check them thoroughly while buying an insurance policy

Functions of Insurance Coverage

An insurance policy performs various functions. However, some of these are its fundamental functions, and the rest are additional ones. The basic functions of insurance coverage are:

1. Provides Protection

Insurance coverage does reduce the impact of loss that one bears in perilous situations. It provides monetary reimbursement during financial crises. It not only protects the insured from financial woes but also helps in checking mental stress arising out of it.

2. Provides Certainty

Insurance coverage provides a feeling of assurance to the policyholders. The insured pays a small portion of the income for this certainty that will help in the future. So, there is a certainty of handsome financial aid against the premium. It will protect the policy buyer when met with accidents, hazards, or any vulnerabilities.

3. Risk Sharing

The very manner in which insurance policy functions makes it a cooperative scheme. An insurer would be unable to pay from one’s capital. An insurance company pools in collective risks and premiums because it covers a large number of risk-exposed people. The payout to the one who claims insurance coverage is out of this fund. Thereby, all policyholders share the risk of the one who actually suffered the loss.

4. Value of Risk

Insurance policy assesses the volume of risk and also anticipates the various causes of it. It evaluates the amount for insurance coverage and the premium payment amounts on a risk value basis. It safeguards against unforeseen events and consequential loss.

Above were the primary functions of an insurance coverage policy. Apart from these, it also performs secondary functions that we discuss below:

1. Capital Generation

The fund generated from the various premiums acts as a pooled investment for the insurance company. The insurers invest this lump sum into money market instruments. For instance, in stocks, mutual funds, and other productive channels. This helps in generating income and profit for the business. It guards against the loss of capital for the company.

2. Economic Growth

Insurance policies mobilize domestic savings into providing financial stability. It also directs towards loss mitigation due to damage or destruction for the insured community. It not only equivalently spreads the risks but also promotes trade and commerce by utilizing the fund.

3. Saving Habits

Insurance policies help inculcate saving habits among individuals. They keep a portion of income to pay premiums that will act as a guard for unknown future predicaments. Many insurance plans come as insurance-cum-savings or insurance-cum-investment schemes. This further encourages people to save and invest.

Types of Insurance Coverage

Insurance policies can cover up medical expenses, vehicle damage, loss in business or accidents while traveling, etc. Life Insurance and General Insurance are the two major types of insurance coverage. General Insurance can further be classified into sub-categories that clubs in various types of policies. These are:

1. Life Insurance

One can avail the life insurance in order to protect the family due to premature death or death during the tenure of the policy. It provides the family with a lump sum when the insured person meets with an untimely death. This helps the grieving family to battle with financial struggles that may occur in absence of a breadwinner.

Is Term Insurance the same as Life Insurance?

Term Insurance is the most common form of life insurance where you pay the premium for the pre-decided term. If you pass away within the term period, the money you are insured of is given to the family. But it remains with the insurance company if you survive through the term policy’s tenure. Unlike term plans, whole life insurance or endowment plans pay upon maturity as well if you outlive the term. Some Pension Plans, or post-retirement plans also carry insurance coverage. One is to pay the premium up to a certain time. You receive the promised amount upon maturity. The family gets the money upon the untimely death of the insured.

Hence, Term Insurance is one among many types of Life Insurance plans.

What is Unit Linked Insurance Plan?

Unit Linked Insurance Plan is an investment-cum-insurance plan. The premiums provide coverage as well as they are for the purchase of units of market-linked equity, debt, and other instruments. This has the potential to provide an opportunity for wealth creation apart from the life cover provision.

Life Insurance Coverage Plans also come with tax benefits under Section 80C.

2. General Insurance

Non-life insurance policies count as general insurance policies that include insurance coverages for home, auto, education, etc. as mentioned below:

1. Health Insurance

You can buy health insurance for yourself or for your family that may include your spouse, parents, siblings, and children. Some insurance companies have tie-ups with hospitals. So here you can use your policy number to avail of cashless services in-network hospitals. In other cases, you can claim reimbursement for hospitalization and treatments. Do check the coverage of the type of disease/illness/health issue. Also, verify what type of costs are covered.

2. Education Insurance

Education insurance can also serve as an investment scheme. You pay premiums by the time your child is 18 years of age or attains a certain age as decided by the insurance policy. You can have a lump sum with imposed regulations that you can use for a child’s educational purposes and not any other. Use an education calculator to estimate the amount you may need when the child grows up. Such calculators are often provided by insurance companies or insurance offering sites. The parent/ foster parent/legal guardian is the owner of the policy.

3. Home/Property Insurance

If man-made or natural calamities damage your valuable property then this policy can cover the financial loss and provide monetary aid. Losses due to theft, floods, or any other mishaps can be alleviated.

4. Motor/Auto/Vehicle Insurance

This is one of the mandatory policies in current times. First of all, it protects your valuable asset against road accidents or any other damage and covers the losses. Secondly, the traffic rules suggest you carry insurance papers while driving.

5. Travel Insurance

You may have seen that you get an option to buy insurance for minimal costs when booking a rail or air ticket. Alternatively, you can buy travel insurance if you are a frequent flyer and especially if you travel internationally. You can claim for baggage loss, trip cancellation, or delay in flight.

Apart from the types of insurances discussed above, there are miscellaneous insurance coverage policies for furniture, goods, machines, etc. There are other types of insurance such as Fire Insurance (damage due to fire), Marine Insurance (for cargo ships), Tenant Insurance, Landlord’s Insurance, and so on. Group Medical Insurance Policies often cover the employees of an organization if the latter has any.

Wrapping it up:

The benefit of having insurance is that it prevents burning a hole into your pocket in unprecedented times. It gives you financial assistance for your losses and damage. The basic function of all types of insurance coverages is to provide damage control to the insured by bringing in a lot of people who pay to cover their risks. The fund is further used for capital formation through investment in the markets. This helps the insurance companies to keep running and settle/adjust the claims of the insured people. It also boosts the economy.

FAQs
What are the tax benefits of insurance coverage plans?
The tax benefits of insurance coverage plans depend on the type of insurance as well as the policy. However, mostly the life insurance policies offer exemption from tax under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act up to Rs. 1.5 lakh. In certain cases, the health insurance policy for self and parents is also tax exempted under Section 80C.
Which type of insurance coverage is most important?
All types of insurance coverages are important but it depends on the individuals and their circumstances as to what shall be their priority. Having health insurance is important and getting insured for all your motor vehicles.
What is the difference between General Insurance and Life Insurance?
General insurance is usually short-term that can be renewed after a year or more. Life insurance plans are a long time for which you pay the premium almost all your life. Life insurance claims are settled after maturity or death of the insured, whereas general insurance coverage claims are settled when a particular event occurs like an accident for vehicle insurance, property damage for home insurance.
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