What is Waiting Period in Health Insurance?

  • postauthorOnsurity Editorial
  • postdateMarch 25, 2024
  • postreadtime10 min read
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Waiting period in health insurance

If you’ve found your way here, chances are you’ve encountered the term “waiting period” either while buying a health insurance policy or while understanding your existing plan.

Much like countless others navigating the complexities of purchasing their first health insurance policy, you might be feeling a bit lost. Questions linger – what exactly does waiting period mean? How long is it, and what does it encompass? Fear not, as we demystify the concept of waiting periods in health insurance, providing you with the much-needed.

Navigating the intricate landscape of health insurance demands a comprehensive understanding of its various facets. Among these, waiting period stands out as a crucial element that often puzzles policyholders.

In this blog, we will unravel the layers of waiting periods in health insurance, shedding light on their types, durations, and the significant role they play.

Also, Read: How Does The Health Insurance Claim Process Work?

What is waiting period in health insurance?

Just like the name suggests, it’s a bit like tapping your foot before hitting the dance floor – but in the world of insurance.

Waiting period in health insurance is a designated span during which policyholders are ineligible to claim certain benefits or insurance coverage. This acts as a probationary phase, preventing individuals from exploiting the system for immediate medical needs that may have existed prior to obtaining the policy.

Waiting period can vary based on the type of health insurance and the specific terms and conditions associated with it. IRDAI closely monitors these clauses to ensure policyholders are not kept in the dark.

Also, Read: Types of Health Insurance

How does the waiting period clause in medical insurance work?

Imagine you’re purchasing a health insurance policy, and it comes with a waiting period for pre-existing diseases. Let’s say it’s a 24-month waiting period.

Now, during these initial two years, any claims related to pre-existing conditions won’t be covered. It’s like a safety buffer for the insurance provider, preventing immediate, high-risk claims and nudging you towards thoughtful, long-term healthcare planning.

Why do health insurance plans have waiting periods?

Waiting periods aren’t just bureaucratic hurdles – they serve as essential components of health insurance policies, playing a crucial role in maintaining a balanced and sustainable system. Here’s a closer look at the key reasons:

1. Mitigating adverse selection:

Waiting periods act as a shield against the adverse selection problem. Picture this – without waiting periods, individuals might be tempted to purchase health insurance only when they foresee immediate medical expenses on the horizon.

It’s akin to buying car insurance right after an accident; it’s a strategic move that could potentially undermine the entire insurance system.

2. Balancing risk for general insurance companies:

Insurance, at its core, is about managing risk. Waiting periods help insurance companies strike a balance by preventing an influx of high-risk claims right out of the gate. This proactive measure allows insurers to stabilize their risk pool, ensuring they can fulfil their commitment to policyholders without facing financial strain.

3. Encouraging responsible healthcare planning:

Waiting periods nudge individuals towards responsible, long-term healthcare planning. By discouraging last-minute policy purchases for immediate needs, insurance providers encourage people to think ahead.

This not only benefits the insurer but also empowers policyholders to make informed decisions about their healthcare needs over the long run.

4. Maintaining financial stability:

Health insurance is a financial commitment for both individuals and insurers. Waiting periods contribute to the financial stability of insurance companies by preventing a surge of immediate, high-cost claims.

This stability, in turn, ensures that insurers can continue to offer comprehensive insurance cover and fulfil their obligations to policyholders.

5. Preventing fraud and abuse:

Waiting periods act as a deterrent against fraudulent activities and abuse of insurance benefits. They create a reasonable timeframe before individuals can make substantial claims, reducing the likelihood of fraudulent practices that could compromise the integrity of the entire insurance system.

Also, Read: Difference Between Network and Non-network Hospitals

types of waiting periods in health insurance

Types of waiting period in health insurance

Let’s explore the various types of waiting periods in health insurance, delving into the specific health condition associated with each:



Pre-existing diseases (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) 

1 to 4 years 

Psychiatric health conditions, Bariatric surgery, Specific diseases/illnesses 

1 to 2 years 

Maternity coverage 

9 months to 3 years 

Newborn coverage 

9 months to 3 years 

Initial waiting period 

0 to 30 days 

Accidental hospitalisation 

0 days  

COVID-19 coverage  

30 days 

1. Initial waiting period in health insurance

The initial waiting period is a general waiting period applicable to all policyholders, usually ranging from 30 to 90 days. During this time, the policyholder cannot claim any benefits except for those arising from accidental injuries. This period ensures that individuals maintain insurance for an extended duration, promoting responsible and long-term healthcare planning.

There’s also something known as the cooling period. It is a set time limit within which policyholders have the right to cancel an insurance policy without any penalty.

2. Waiting period for pre-existing diseases (PED)

A waiting period for pre-existing ailments or diseases is a common feature in health plans. These pre-existing conditions can encompass a wide range of health issues, including but not limited to chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, hernia, hypertension, and arthritis. The waiting period for pre-existing diseases can vary significantly, often falling within the range of 12 to 48 months.

Here’s the deal: during this waiting period, any claims related to these pre-existing conditions will not be covered. Imagine you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes and decide to purchase a health insurance policy.

If the waiting period for pre-existing conditions is, let’s say, 24 months, any diabetes-related claims within the first two years won’t be eligible for coverage. It’s crucial to transparently disclose these pre-existing conditions at the time of policy purchase. This transparency not only abides by ethical practices but also empowers you to make informed decisions about your insurance coverage.

Also, Read: Difference Between Life Insurance and Health Insurance

3. Waiting period for specific medical conditions

When it comes to health insurance, some policies may have waiting periods specific to certain medical procedures and illnesses. Bariatric surgery, which includes weight loss procedures such as gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, is one such example.

Policies may stipulate a waiting period for coverage of bariatric surgery, often ranging from 12 to 24 months. During this waiting period, any claims related to bariatric surgery expenses will not be covered. It’s essential for individuals considering such procedures to be aware of these waiting periods and plan accordingly.

In addition to bariatric surgery, specific illnesses may also have their waiting periods. For instance, certain critical illnesses like cancer or organ transplant surgeries might come with specific waiting periods before coverage kicks in.

These waiting periods can vary depending on the insurance policy, and it’s crucial for policyholders to carefully review the policy wordings and disclaimers to understand the waiting periods associated with specific illnesses.

4. Waiting period for accident-led hospitalisation

When it comes to accidents-led hospitalisation, most policies offer immediate coverage, right from the inception of the policy. Unlike certain scenarios with waiting periods for specific conditions, accidental hospitalisation benefits kick in from day one.

This means that if an unforeseen accident leads to hospitalisation, policyholders don’t have to navigate any waiting period. The coverage is instantaneous, providing a swift safety net during moments of unpredictability.

This approach serves to prioritise immediate protection for accident-led emergencies. By eliminating waiting periods for such hospitalisation, insurers acknowledge the urgency often associated with accidents, ensuring that individuals can access crucial medical support without unnecessary delays.

Quick Read: Group Term Life Insurance

5. Maternity waiting period

Typically spanning from 9 to 36 months, this type of waiting period is designed to ensure that policyholders plan for the significant life event of childbirth well in advance.

During the maternity waiting period, expenses related to maternity benefits such as pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal care are not covered by the insurance policy.

This waiting period serves several purposes. Firstly, it encourages individuals to secure maternity coverage ahead of time, fostering responsible family planning. Secondly, it allows insurers to manage the associated financial risks effectively.

Planning well in advance, preferably before conception, ensures that you have comprehensive health insurance coverage tailored to meet the specific needs of maternity-related expenses when the joyful journey of parenthood begins.

Related Read: Maternity Leave in India

6. Newborn cover waiting period

As new parents eagerly anticipate the arrival of their bundle of joy, it’s crucial to be aware of the waiting period associated with newborn baby cover in health insurance policies. This waiting period typically ranges from 9 months to 3 years.

During the waiting period for newborn baby cover, any medical expenses incurred by the newborn may not be covered by the health policy. This waiting period allows insurers to ensure that the policy is held for a reasonable duration before extending coverage to the newest member of the family.

For parents, understanding the waiting period for newborn coverage is essential for making informed decisions.

Related Read: Maternity Health Insurance

7. Waiting period for Covid-19 coverage

The global pandemic has prompted insurers to incorporate specific waiting periods tailored for Covid-19 coverage. During this initial 30-day period, any medical expenses arising from a Covid-19 diagnosis may not be covered by the policy.

This waiting period isn’t about adding complexity; it’s a strategic measure to address the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. It allows insurance providers to strike a balance between offering swift coverage and preventing potential misuse of the immediate Covid-19 benefits.

8. Waiting period for group health insurance

This waiting period within group health insurance plans, which is typically 30-90 days, is a strategic measure adopted by employers and insurers to strike a balance between providing coverage and managing risk.

It ensures that new employees or members do not immediately avail high-cost medical benefits, safeguarding the stability and sustainability of the group insurance system.

For employees stepping into a new role or opting into a group health insurance plan, being aware of this waiting period is crucial. It’s a window during which certain benefits may not be accessible. However, it’s not a roadblock; rather, it’s a part of the process designed to create a fair and balanced environment for both employers and employees.

Also, Read: What is Group Health Insurance Policy?

How to reduce the waiting period for health insurance plans?

Reducing waiting periods in health insurance plans may not always be possible, but certain strategies can minimise their impact:

1. Choose a plan with shorter waiting periods

Compare different health insurance plans and opt for one with shorter waiting periods for crucial coverage, such as pre-existing diseases.

2. Disclose pre-existing conditions accurately

Provide accurate and transparent information about pre-existing conditions at the time of purchasing the policy. This ensures no disputes or claim rejections later due to non-disclosure.

3. Explore waiting period waivers

Some policies may offer waiting period waivers under certain conditions. Inquire about such possibilities with the insurance provider.

Also, Read: Maternity Hospital Bag Checklist

Important things you should know about waiting period in health insurance

1. Waiting periods are policy-specific

Each health insurance policy may have different waiting periods for various coverages. It’s crucial to read the policy documents carefully to understand waiting periods associated with specific benefits.

2. Pre-existing conditions require attention

If you have pre-existing conditions, be diligent about understanding and planning for the waiting periods associated with them. Some policies may have longer waiting periods for specific pre-existing conditions.

3. Waiting periods can vary across insurers

Different insurance companies may have varying waiting periods for similar coverage. Comparing policies from different insurers helps in finding the one that aligns best with your needs.

4. Policy renewal does not reset waiting periods

Renewing your health insurance policy does not reset waiting periods. Waiting periods typically apply only during the initial purchase of the policy.

Quick Read: 10 Most Common Health Insurance Exclusions


Waiting periods in health insurance are a crucial aspect of policy understanding and planning. They ensure the stability and sustainability of the insurance system while encouraging responsible and long-term healthcare planning.

As a policyholder, being aware of the waiting periods associated with your health cover is essential for making informed decisions and avoiding surprises during claim submissions, be it cashless claims or reimbursement claims.

By understanding the nuances of waiting periods, individuals can navigate the world of health insurance with confidence, securing comprehensive coverage for their healthcare needs. Remember, informed decisions today pave the way for a healthier tomorrow.

FAQs: Health insurance waiting period

1. What is the meaning of waiting period?

Waiting period in the context of insurance refers to a specified period during which certain benefits or coverages are not applicable or claimable after the policy becomes effective. It serves as a probationary phase to prevent immediate claims, ensuring responsible use of the insurance system.

2. What is waiting period in term insurance?

Term insurance typically does not have waiting periods for death benefits. These policies usually offer immediate coverage upon policy activation. Waiting periods are more commonly associated with health insurance policies rather than term insurance.

3. Why is the need for a waiting period in a health insurance policy?

The waiting period in health insurance serves several purposes. It mitigates the adverse selection problem, balances risk for insurers, encourages responsible healthcare planning, and maintains financial stability. It ensures individuals do not exploit the insurance system for immediate needs.

4. How to choose health insurance policy in India?

Choosing the right health insurance policy involves considering factors like coverage, waiting periods, health insurance premiums, and network hospitals. It’s crucial to assess your healthcare needs, compare policies, and understand the waiting periods associated with specific benefits.

5. What are the different types of waiting periods?

Waiting periods can vary. There’s the initial waiting period applicable to all benefits, waiting periods for pre-existing conditions, specific illnesses, maternity, accidental hospitalisation, and critical illnesses. Each serves a unique purpose within the insurance framework.

6. How do pre-existing condition waiting periods vary between health insurance plans?

The waiting period for pre-existing conditions varies across plans, typically ranging from 12 to 48 months. It’s essential to review policy terms or the sales brochure to understand these waiting periods and plan accordingly, as disclosure of pre-existing conditions is crucial. Also look at the list of exclusions in the policy document while you are at it.

7. How does the waiting period for pre-existing conditions work in health insurance policies?

During the waiting period for pre-existing conditions, any health insurance claim related to those conditions won’t be covered. It incentivises individuals to disclose pre-existing conditions honestly and promotes long-term healthcare planning.

8. How can I avoid or reduce the waiting period in health insurance?

Avoiding waiting periods entirely is challenging, but you can reduce them. Choose a plan with shorter waiting periods, disclose pre-existing conditions accurately, and explore policies that offer waiting period waivers under certain conditions.

9. Can I claim health insurance after 1 month?

The ability to claim health insurance after 1 month depends on the specific waiting periods outlined in your policy. While some coverages might be accessible, certain benefits, especially those related to pre-existing conditions such as fluctuating blood pressure or diabetes, may have longer waiting periods.

10. How can I reduce my waiting period for health insurance?

Reducing waiting periods involves choosing policies with shorter waiting periods, maintaining transparency about pre-existing conditions, and exploring policies that offer waiting period waivers under specific conditions.

11. Is there any insurance without a waiting period?

While many insurance policies have waiting periods, certain short-term or specific insurance plans may offer coverage without waiting periods. However, these might have limitations in terms of sum insured and may not provide comprehensive coverage.

12. What is the longest waiting period for health insurance?

The waiting period for health insurance varies, and the longest waiting period often relates to pre-existing conditions, ranging from 24 to 48 months. Policies with extended waiting periods may impact coverage for specific conditions.

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