Compulsory health insurance coverage for Catholic priests and nuns in India is essential after more than 170 Catholic priests and 120 nuns died of Covid-19 in just a month and a half, church officials say.
Hundreds of priests and nuns have been infected with the virus and many have had to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
“It is true that we have lost many priests and nuns to Covid-19, a situation that no one anticipated,” Divine Father Babu Joseph told UCA News on May 20th.
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“There are also hundreds of other priests and nuns taking medicines, many of them in hospital, after the pandemic hit them all over India.
“The pandemic has caused a huge loss of money in poor dioceses and in the religious communities of men and women just for their medical care.”
Father Joseph, director of Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra, a Catholic communications center based in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, said the situation could have been a little better if the Church had taken out medical insurance for every priest and nun.
It is true that we could have avoided paying huge medical bills if our priests were covered by a health insurance policy during this pandemic.
“Now is the time for dioceses and religious congregations to compulsorily insure their members to avoid the shock of huge medical bills amounting to several hundred thousand rupees per individual,” he added.
Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur, based in the state capital of Chhattisgarh, said the archdiocese is thinking of providing collective health insurance for diocesan priests.
The archdiocese had to admit seven of the eight priests who hired Covid-19 to private hospitals.
In general, a private hospital charges from Rs 100,000 (US $ 1,370) to Rs 500,000 for this admission and the amount increases in critical cases requiring oxygen and other emergency care.
“It is true that we could have avoided paying huge medical bills if our priests were covered by a health insurance policy during this pandemic,” Archbishop Thakur told UCA News on May 20th.
About a dozen priests from the diocese of Rajkot in the western Indian state of Gujarat hired Covid-19 and most were admitted to a diocesan hospital for treatment.
The diocese did not have to pay any money for his treatment, as all its priests are covered by a health insurance policy.
“Our priests have three years of medical insurance. We will claim all your medical expenses from the insurance company, ”Bishop Jose Chittooparambil told UCA News on May 21.
“It is good to have medical insurance for priests and nuns. One of my priests who died of cancer in January had medical coverage of up to 120,000 rupees. We took him to good private hospitals and provided him with the best medical care. “
Bishop Peter Sebastian Goveas of Bettiah in the state of Bihar and Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi in the state of Jharkhand, are some of those who feel the need for medical insurance for priests and nuns.
“It is true that the Church has many hospitals, but remote places like Bettiah do not have the advantage of these hospitals and we have to depend on private hospitals,” Bishop Goveas said.
“A situation like the second wave of Covid-19 has given us the feeling that we need to cover our priests and nuns with medical insurance to get better treatment in private hospitals, as government medical facilities are poor or overcrowded. We are now looking for a good health insurance policy for our diocesan priests.
Medical insurance is essential for everyone, as changes in our lifestyle have also contributed to new diseases.
Bishop Mascarenhas, a former secretary general of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of India, said priests in the Ranchi archdiocese have no health coverage.
However, many dioceses and religious societies of men and women have taken out medical insurance for priests and nuns.
“Our individual dioceses have health insurance coverage for priests,” said Father Jacob Palakappilly, deputy secretary general of the Catholic Episcopal Council of Kerala.
“Medical insurance is a must for everyone, as changes in our lifestyle have also contributed to new diseases,” he said. “It’s also a fact that to get a better deal you’ll have to shell out money and the insurance coverage will be useful to you.”