A Public Health Foundation of India worker conducts a blood glucose test for a patient during a free door-to-door screening program at a home in the farming village of Thana kalan, Haryana, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

National Health Insurance Plan Challenging But Achievable

India’s insurance regulator said implementing the government’s mega health insurance plan to cover 10 crore families will be a challenge but experience of running similar programmes earlier will help.

“This is quite exciting for anybody who is working with insurance. Implementation will be challenge because 10 crore families have to be enrolled,” TS Vijayan, chairman of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, told BloombergQuint on the sidelines of Fourth International Insurance Conference in Hyderabad. “We have the experience of running the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana at a very smaller level. Some states are having some insurance schemes. Some degree of expertise is there. I think this will be an achievable target.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget for 2018-19 announced the National Health Protection Scheme that will provide Rs 5 lakh cover to 10 crore families or about 50 crore Indians. The scheme, which Jaitley said will be the largest such plan in the world, will cost the government about Rs 12,000 crore, according to a NITI Aayog presentation. The states will bear 40 percent of the costs.

Indians pay about 62 percent of the health expenditure out of their pocket, World Bank data shows. A health cover will protect vulnerable families from falling back below the poverty line in case of hospitalisation. But will Rs 12,000 crore be enough?

Vijayan, who retires on Feb. 20, said it will depend on the number of diseases covered. “Unless we see the whole scheme, it will be unfair to comment on the pricing.”