Commuters descend a flight of steps outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

World’s Biggest Health-Care Program Must Educate a Half-Billion Beneficiaries

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s largest healthcare program in India is running up against a challenge: many of its 500 million beneficiaries don’t have a clue about it, as they didn’t have to enroll for it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s solution is to tackle the problem at its roots. He is writing letters to 100 million families educating them about the benefits of the program, which automatically registered 40 percent of India’s population that make up the bottom of the population as per the socio-economic caste census data, said Vinod K. Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, the government’s policy think tank.

“It’s a big step toward access of services, it will change the health system by making costs rational,” said Paul, who’s the architect of the program that could influence Modi’s fate in national polls next year. “Many Jobs will be created. It will be a stimulus for growth,” he said in an interview at his New Delhi office on Wednesday.

World’s Biggest Health-Care Program Must Educate a Half-Billion Beneficiaries

A month since it was formally unveiled, the healthcare program, ’Ayushman Bharat,’ Hindi for long live India, has benefited 112,000 people and approved claims totaling 1.4 billion rupees ($20 million). The government expects to spend up to 120 billion rupees annually on premium payments as Modi tries to seek support of the poor before elections.