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Shortcomings in India’s first national attempt at universal healthcare through publicly funded health insurance
  1. Sagarika Kamath1,
  2. Rajesh Kamath2
  1. 1 School of Management, Manipal University, Manipal, India
  2. 2 Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal University, Manipal, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rajesh Kamath, Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal University, Manipal 576104, India; rajeshkamath82{at}gmail.com

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Until Ayushman Bharat, India’s biggest experiment with public health insurance was the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), literally translated from Hindi as ‘National Health Insurance Program’. Until its launch in 2008, nothing of this magnitude had been attempted. Ayushman Bharat is widely considered a large-scale upgrade of RSBY. The Government of India, on its official website, india.gov.in, the National Portal of India, has had the humility to publicly admit to the failure of past efforts at public health insurance. It goes on to position the RSBY as an attempt at succour. The target beneficiaries of RSBY were families below poverty line (BPL). Depending on which estimate one looks at, the proportion of the population that is BPL varies from 20% to 30%. Even taking into account the lower end of the estimate, that is, 20%, the approximate population in 2017 that would fall in the BPL category, out of a total population of approximately 1340 million, would be 270 million. The number of families, assuming 4.9 persons per family, would be 55.1 million. Contrast this with the 35.8 million families enrolled under RSBY until 30 September 2017, the last date for which official government data are available, which is more than 9 years after its launch, there is a shortfall of 35%. If we took the higher end of the estimate, that is, 30%, the approximate population in 2017 that would fall in the BPL category, out of a total population of approximately 1340 million, would be 400 million. The number of families, assuming 4.9 persons per family, would be 81.6 million. The shortfall would then be as high as 56%. One reason for this is that as of 30 September 2017, nine states/union territories of India (Chandigarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) were not part of the RSBY, as they …

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Footnotes

  • Contributors SK and RK were involved in the conceptualisation, writing and editing of this review.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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