Modi govt rushes to insure 50 crore Indians before 2019 Lok Sabha polls

Highlights:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to provide health insurance to half a billion Indians.
  • India’s  mass of people larger than the entire population of South America .
  • The government is still working to lock in hospitals and insurance companies in time for its planned August launch.
  • It aims to cover the poorest 40 % in a country where a 2017 World Health Organisation (WHO)report found spending on health pushed more than 52 million people below the poverty line.
  • Although beneficiaries have been identified and the IT infrastructure has been put in place, the involvement of hospitals - public and private - and insurance companies was still to be finalized.
  • The programme would be ready by India's Independence Day on August 15.
  • It's the government's second major welfare push this year - in March it presented a draft bill on a social security programme + designed to cover the country's 500 million poorest workers, including those in informal employment.
'Substantial investment':
  • The total cost of the programme hasn't yet been calculated, but the promise is to provide poor families up to 500,000 rupees ($7,250) in annual cover.
  • An earlier federal health insurance scheme had managed to cover just 61 % of those eligible after 10 years of operation, government data show.
  • India has long under invested in health and spending as percentage of GDP is lower than most low income countries, including neighbors Nepal and Maldives.
  • The Modi government has decided to launch the ambitious Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme + with an eye on the 2019 polls.
  • The programme's reach will also be limited by India's poor health facilities, dated equipment and shortage of staff in rural areas, where the majority of people eligible for benefits live.
  • India has 0.8 hospital beds per 1000 people, compared to an average of 3.3 among Asian countries.
  • The ratio is often taken as a measure of in-patient health infrastructure.