India's poor get health care in a card

Because of a new government initiative, India's 300 million poorest families have access to a smart card that entitles them to 30,000 rupees, about $700 (R5,600), of hospital care, says the Wall Street Journal. That can go a long way at the treatment prices set by the programme. A day in intensive care, for instance, costs as much as $23 (R184).

To qualify for the National Health Insurance Program, families must meet certain criteria and generally earn less than about $100 (R800) a year:

  • The smart card, which contains personal data and fingerprints for an entire family, costs participants less than $1 – what could be a day's pay for a casual labourer.
  • The fee is intended to make sure beneficiaries value the programme and take time to understand it, and it creates an obligation on the part of the government to deliver.
  • The card is good at any hospital, private or public, that has enrolled.

    India has earmarked $1 (R8) billion for the rollout of the programme by insurance companies in states across the country. The programme isn't expected to fund itself – it will be bankrolled by the government because the beneficiaries are so poor.

    For private hospitals, the programme can increase the number of patients and potentially widen the client base. By opening private facilities to more patients it should take some of the weight off overflowing government hospitals.

    Those government hospitals, which already offer free treatment to such patients, can also apply to join the programme. If they do, they are paid the same rates private hospitals would get.

    Since its launch in April, about 1.5 million people have joined the plan. India's government said it would like to add 12 million families before next April -- about 60 million people -- and then continue at that rate for another four years.

    Source: Jackie Range, India's Poor Get Health Care in a Card; Credit Plan Gives Nation's Neediest the Funding for Medical Treatment -- and Tool for Charging It, Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2008.

    For text:

    For more on Health Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 16 September 2008
  • Help FMF promote the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic freedom become an individual member / donor HERE ... become a corporate member / donor HERE