Health insurance cover for APL families soon: Khader
Karnataka’s health insurance scheme for catastrophic illness reduced mortality among the poor, reduced out-of-pocket expenditure drastically and could have raised the age of death for people covered by the scheme, new evidence shows.
In 2010, the State began to roll out the Vajpayee Arogyasri scheme, an insurance scheme for below the poverty line (BPL) households that focussed on seven “catastrophic illnesses”, including cardiac disease, cancer, neurological disease and paediatric illness. All BPL households were automatically enrolled, and the premium was paid by the State, not the patient. Unlike the national Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, which used private insurance intermediaries, the reimbursements in Karnataka’s scheme are made by a State-run trust.
Economists and health care specialists, led by Neeraj Sood, associate professor at the University of Southern California, evaluated the scheme’s impact on health and economic indicators in a research paper published in the medical journal BMJ last month.
Presenting his findings in Delhi on Wednesday, Dr. Sood said that researchers comparing 300 villages where the scheme had already been rolled out to 272 neighbouring and demographically similar villages which were yet to be eligible in September 2012 found that households eligible for the scheme saw a 64 per cent fall in the risk of dying from the conditions covered by the scheme relative to others. They also saw a 60 per cent reduction in out-of-pocket expenditure. “We also have some indications that the age of death rose among eligible households,” Dr. Sood said.
Impact on equity
The scheme had an important impact on equity, Somil Nagpal, senior health specialist at the World Bank, which will spend $27 million on the scheme between 2010 and 2015, said. In villages covered by the scheme at the time of the study, mortality rates of rich and poor households became similar.
Karnataka has extended the scheme to the entire State, where it covers 4.25 crore families, Health Minister U.T. Khader said. “We will extend the scheme to cover above the poverty line (APL) families too (under Rajiv Arogyasri), because a catastrophic illness can push a family that is just above the poverty line into poverty,” Mr. Khader said. For APL families, the State would bear 70 per cent of the expenses, he said.
Mr. Khader and bureaucrats from the State presented the findings to the Union Health Ministry on Wednesday. “We want our scheme to be taken up by other State governments and the Centre too,” he said.
Speaking to The Hindu over phone, Mr. Khader thanked doctors, paramedical staff and officials for contributing to the success of the scheme.
“We are happy that government’s programmes for helping the poor are giving results,” he said.