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Govt plans health cover for all Indians

A committee of experts appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and headed by K Srinath Reddy, chief of the Public Health Foundation of India, is working on a public-funded health insurance scheme that will cover every Indian. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: Jan 17, 2011 02:05 IST
Chetan Chauhan

A health insurance scheme that will cover every Indian is on the cards.

A committee of experts appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and headed by K Srinath Reddy, chief of the Public Health Foundation of India, is working on a public-funded scheme, likely to be introduced in the 12th Five Year Plan, starting in 2012-13.

“We are looking at a scheme where people will pay premium depending on their income,” said Planning Commission member secretary Sudha Pillai.

For instance, the government may pay the entire premium for those below the poverty line. For the better off, the government’s contribution will diminish the higher the individual's income.

This scheme is likely to cover not only hospitalisation expenses, but also treatment undergone at listed hospitals. Most private health insurance schemes cover only hospitalisation. It will also provide cover for conditions private schemes frequently do not — like heart ailments and pregnancy.

The scheme also intends the Centre to pay a higher premium for women — across all sections.

There is already a health insurance scheme under the Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yojana for BPL families. Close to half of 6 crore BPL families are covered under this scheme. In the next step, all those enrolled in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will be covered, followed by women enrolled in over 10 lakh angwanwadi centers around the country.

According to the National Sample Survey Office, an Indian spends 80 % of his health expenses on buying medicine. The high cost of treatment makes health services unaffordable to many.

Presently, over 90 % Indians are not covered by any public or private health insurance.