In China, air purifiers and masks seem to offer little consolation to a citizenry often galvanised by periodic outbreaks of air pollution. Now, helping people fight the toxic air is state-owned insurance company Ping An, which promises to pay out claims to policy holders when air pollution index exceeds set levels.
Smog insurance, the first of its kind, is targeting travelers and local residents of seven cities. Some of the designated cities, including Beijing and Shijiazhuang, have been plagued by smog for years.
Under the scheme, policy holders in Beijing can receive up to 1500 yuan (about 240 US dollars) worth of compensation should they be hospitalised due to the smog. In Beijing, when the Air Quality Index (AQI) exceeds 300 for five straight days – a level considered hazardous – insurance buyers can receive 300 yuan (about 48 US dollars). AQI measures pollutants such as fine particles and sulfur dioxide.
Free lung checks or otolaryngological tests are also offered when AQI runs above 300 for seven days in a row. The company also proudly claimed on its website that if the AQI goes off the charts, policyholders can win free trips to Hainan, a tropical island often dubbed as China's Hawaii, to “clean their lungs”.
The announcement of the insurance policy came weeks after Chinese authorities admitted that only three cities in China met national air quality standards.
The magnitude of air pollution was laid bare by Premier Li Keqiang’s maiden report to this year's National People’s Congress, as the Chinese parliament is called, in which he declared war on air pollution.
Most Chinese responded to the insurance with skepticism.
Bingren Kemilu questioned on the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo:
冰人_可米陸 ： 但愿不是什么噱头
I hope this is not some gimmick.
Shen Pinglunyuan wrote:
How can we determine if [certain diseases] are caused by the smog? There must be a lot of controversy, it won't be easy to get the claims.
“70s version Xu Wenqiang” wasn't buying the idea at all:
It's just something to grab attention, [tourists] can find travel routes with good air.
“Nuli Caishi Wangdao 1997″ wrote:
If such insurance indeed exists and doesn't cost much, I will consider it. After all, we can buy insurance for our health.
It's just a gimmick from the insurance company. Can we really be spared troubles if we buy smog insurance? This cures the symptoms but not the root cause. The key is the management of smog itself. It's just a formalism that students get school breaks during smoggy days. Only when the government spends more energy on pollution management can we really make the environment better