India's Finance Minister P Chidambaram has announced reduction in the cost of health insurance premiium under the Universal Health Insurance Scheme(UHIS), meant for the poor.
Addressing a function Friday at Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, from where he hails, Chidambaram said "for an individual, the premium cost under UHIS was Rs 365 per annum and from today it would cost Rs 300."
He said for a family of five members, the premium which was costing Rs 548 per annmum has been reduced to Rs 450 per annum and for a family of seven members, it has been reduced from Rs 730 per annum to Rs 600 per annum.
He said the age limit under the UHIS would also be increased from today to 70 years from 68 years. Pre-existing diseases which were not included earlier have also been included under UHIS and the maternity benefit also extended from today.
"There is no substitute for comprehensive health system. We must bring together public medical system and private health care as only this would provide modern finance, modern technology and modern information systems", he observed.
Chidambaram lauded the Apollo Hospital group for their endeavour to reach world class health care to all sections of the society in the last 25 years.
He was taking part in a function at which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched inaugurated the Apollo Reach Hospitals scheme.
Group's Executive Chairman Dr. Prathap C Reddy said under the scheme hospitals would come up in small towns and cities and complement the healthcare services offered by hospitals in the region with modern super-specialty services.
Apollo Reach, as the name suggests, will now reach out to those people in semi-urban and rural areas instead having them come to it, Dr Reddy said.
He said that 25 hospitals each equipped with 100-150 beds would come up in the first phase within two years at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore. "We are planning to set up a chain of 250 super-specialty hospitals in small towns and cities that would provide patients multiple services such as cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, orthopaedics, neurosurgery and emergency and trauma care," Dr. Reddy said.
The federal government's health insurance scheme inaugurated last year is aimed at covering unorganised sector workers who are below the poverty line. The Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana is expected to provide health and disability cover to an estimated 400 million workers in the informal sector who hitherto had no insurance.
Under the scheme life and disability cover would be provided to all rural landless households in the country. Any worker in the unorganised sector (that employs 92% of India's workforce) who is below the official poverty line (that is, earns less than Rs 12 per day) is eligible for health cover under the scheme. "The health insurance cover will benefit workers and families living below the poverty line (BPL) in the unorganised sector, and government has already asked to formulate this project," a labour ministry official in New Delhi said.
The Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana will cover the head of the household or one earning member of a rural landless household who is between 18-59 years old.
First, smart cards with a social security number will be issued to all those eligible for the scheme, as a means of identifying them and preventing misuse.
Under the scheme, Rs 75,000 will be provided to a beneficiary's family in cases of death or permanent disability due to a workplace accident.
In cases of partial disability due to an accident, the insurance cover will be Rs 37,500; in the event of death, prior to the termination date, Rs 30,000 will be given as assurance money to the nearest relative.
The Finance Minister committed Rs 1,000 crore in the Union budget to meet the Centre's funding burden for the scheme; the rest will be provided by the states.
The scheme will also provide a Rs 100 per month scholarship amount each to two children from every rural landless household who are studying in the 9-12th standards.
Launching the revised scheme Sunday at his hometown of Karaikudi, Finance Minister Chidambaram called upon officials to utilise the opportunity to create awareness among the people of the benefits of the scheme and make them take up health insurance in a big way.
K. R. Periakaruppan, the state Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment, said the revised scheme would receive overwhelming response from people, as the premium was very low. The benefits of the scheme were also very attractive.
G. Srinivasan, Chairman and Managing Director, United India Insurance Company, said the scheme would facilitate reimbursement of bills towards room, boarding expenses, constancy and other expenses.
Sivaganga district Collector Pankaj Kumar Bansal said by paying a very little amount towards health insurance annually, the poor could get excellent treatment from good hospitals, as the insurance company would reimburse the treatment bills.