Is RSBY India's platform to implementing universal hospital insurance?

David M Dror, Sukumar Vellakkal
Indian Journal of Medical Research 2012, 135: 56-63

BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVES: In 2008, India's Labour Ministry launched a hospital insurance scheme called Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) covering 'Below Poverty Line' (BPL) households. RSBY is implemented through insurance companies; premiums are subsidized by Union and States governments (75 : 25%). We examined RSBY's enrolment of BPL, costs vs. budgets and policy ramifications.

METHODS: Numbers of BPL are obtained by following criteria of two committees appointed for this task. District-specific premiums are weighted to obtain national average premiums. Using the BPL estimates and national premiums, we calculated overall expected costs of full roll-out of the RSBY per annum, and compared it to Union government budget allocations.

RESULTS: By March 31, 2011, RSBY enrolled about 27.8 per cent of the number of BPL households following the Tendulkar Committee estimates (37.6% following the Lakdawala Committee criteria). The average national weighted premium was Rs. 530 per household per year in 2011. The expected cost of premium to the union government of enrolling the entire BPL population in financial year (FY) 2010-11 would be Rs. 33.5 billion using Tendulkar count of BPL (or Rs. 24.6 billion following Lakdawala count), representing about 0.3 per cent (or 0.2%, respectively) of the total union budget. The RSBY budget allocation for FY 2010-11 was only about 0.037 per cent of the total union budget, sufficient to pay premiums of only 34 per cent of the BPL households enrolled by March 31, 2011.

INTERPRETATION & CONCLUSIONS: RSBY could be the platform for universal health insurance when (i) the budget allocation will match the required funds for maintenance and expansion of the scheme; (ii) the scheme would ensure that beneficiaries' rights are legally anchored; and (iii) RSBY would attract large numbers of premium-paying (non-BPL) households.

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