Elderly left out in the cold
Most of India’s 80 million elderly population don’t have health insurance. HelpAge India, an NGO working for the elderly, surveyed a 2,019-strong population across India, only to find that a measly 13 per cent surveyed have health cover.
In the ‘Need Assessment Study Among Urban Elderly’, the 2,019 people surveyed — across the four metros of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai and four non-metros Lucknow, Vijaywada, Bhubaneswar and Ahmedabad — were above 60 years of age; 1,001 were males and 1,018 were females.
The vast majority of 87 per cent had no kind of cover to aid them in case of illness. About 42 per cent suffered from one or more chronic ailments — diabetes, arthritis or hypertension. What was worrying was that about three-fifth — 62 per cent — did not even consult doctors while taking medicines.
More that three-sixth of those surveyed showed high dependency on their children for medical expenses. “It is indeed a worrying phenomenon that with a rapidly aging work force where the older population is expected to increase to 135 million (12 per cent) by 2020 and 324 million by 2050, there is little awareness of health insurance. In fact, most companies don’t provide for health insurance after a particular age,” says Rajeshwar Devarakonda at HelpAge.
Insurance cover was slightly higher in the metros (15 per cent) than in the non-metros (12 per cent). When asked whether the population with health cover thought it was enough, about 56 per cent agreed it was as per their need.
Most people with health cover were those in the 60-69 age band. “It is a fact that health insurance has an inverse relation with age,” says Devarakonda.
Children were rated the highest caregivers, followed by self and spouse. Care provided by children was reported to be more in non-metros (84 per cent) than metros (69 per cent), which surveyors said could be due to the fast pace of metro life. One-fourth of the elderly felt insecure, with the feeling highest among the 80-plus population.