One more time, we have the Central Government coming up with an idea to help the poor. This time, the Finance Minister has launched a health insurance scheme for the lower income groups. Do you think this scheme will be implemented, or will it turn out to be another false promise by power-hungry politicians?
Heath insurance industry in India
Unlike the West, the health insurance sector in India is a relatively nascent industry. Most corporate organizations insure the health of their employees and their families. Citizens can purchase a health insurance policy by themselves too. However, it is the working middle class and above that benefit from the health insurance schemes available. The poor people, living below the poverty line, are mostly left out from the benefits of insurance. The reason is simple – their employer (if any) does not extend this facility and they are not able to afford the premiums. Besides, the Government’s efforts on this front, in the past, have been dismal.
Health insurance for the poor
Very recently, India’s Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, launched a health insurance scheme for the low-income groups in India. Under this scheme, the Government will provide smart cards to people living below the poverty line. These cards will enable the card owners to avail of medical treatment up to 750 dollars a year from both private and state administered hospitals. The Central Government will bear 75 percent of the cost involved in implementing this scheme.
Implementing the schemes
There is no doubt about the Government’s intentions to provide good health insurance schemes; but it is the implementation of schemes that leaves a lot to be desired. To give you an example, the Government had launched a Universal Health Insurance Scheme in 2003. The expected numbers of beneficiaries of this scheme were 1,000,000 families in the first phase. The reality: the scheme has been extended to only about 100,000 families. This is the case with almost all Government initiatives for the low-income groups in our country. The ration card system, employment scheme, schemes for poor farmers – all looked very well on paper. However, their implementation was far from satisfactory. The deep-rooted corruption and power play in the political system are the chief causes for failure on the Government’s part to successfully implement its welfare schemes.
Do you think the Government will be able to implement them in their true spirit? Will the poor citizens be able to avail of the health insurance benefits? Or is it just another disappointment for the poor?
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