2 in 5 Indians are forced to sell their belongings or borrow money to finance their hospital stays, according to the Overseas Development Institute. With 37% of the Indian population living below the poverty line, private health insurance is unaffordable for many. Meanwhile, public health centers have little money to provide quality care. Fortunately, India has fought to provide health insurance for the urban poor in recent years.
Micro-insurance schemes cater to the poor by providing limited health services for low costs. The Overseas Development Institute states that these schemes provide coverage to at least 5 million of India's poor, and likely more. The primary benefit of micro-health insurance is its coverage of emergency hospital stays, one of India's biggest concerns as hospital stays are expensive and force in-patients to forfeit their wages while in the hospital. However, most plans fail to cover chronic conditions or health risks, such as AIDS or childbirth.
Universal Health Insurance
While individual states in India run local health centers, India's central government has run the national Universal Health Insurance scheme since 2003. For a small premium, it provides health coverage to everyone in India whose income puts him or her below the poverty line. The head of each family also receives compensation for wages forfeited during hospital stays for up to 15 days, with a maximum limit of Rs. 50 per day. Though pre-existing conditions, pregnancy and childbirth are not covered, this may be ideal for emergency medical situations.
Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana
In 2009, the Indian government launched Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a health insurance scheme for people below the poverty line in the Varanasi district of northern India. The scheme's focus is emergency hospital stays. Up to 5 family members per household can use it. RSBY pays for three quarters of each member's hospital stays, while the state government pitches in the last 25%, up to Rs. 30,000.