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Global agencies help promote insurance for poor
International agencies like UNDP, UNIFM, UNICEF, DFIT will provide technical expertise to the government to ensure maximum outreach and impact of the scheme among BPL families and other vulnerable groups.

NEW DELHI: A number of international agencies have stepped in to help the government expand the scope and improve the performance of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana , an insurance scheme that covers 22 million poor families in the country.

Agencies such as UNDP, Unifem, Unicef, GTZ and DFIT will support the government’s plan to extend the scheme meant for families below poverty line to cover other vulnerable groups free of charge and to general public on payment of a premium, a labour ministry official said. The agencies have had a preliminary round of discussions with the labour ministry on the role they intend to play in popularising and improving the scheme.

The RSBY scheme kicked off in 2007 and has resulted in a sharp increase in the poor’s access to hospitals, government data show. “Our latest data show that while access to hospitals for every 100 poor persons is just 1.70, in the case RSBY card holders the number increases to 3.18,” said Anil Swarup, DG, labour and welfare.

Roping in international agencies will help the government spread awareness about the scheme in areas where it cannot reach out on its own.

“The international agencies have their own organisations at the field level. They have offered to leverage these institutions to spread awareness about RSBY,” Mr Swarup said.

Some, like UNDP, World Bank and Germany-based GTZ, have also offered to share their technical expertise in improving the performance of the scheme. The labour ministry has now opened the scheme to the general public provided they register as groups and pay the full premium fixed by insurance companies. In the case of BPL families and vulnerable groups, the government pays the premium while the beneficiaries have to pay only a registration fee of Rs 30.

The Centre pays three-fourths of the costs incurred on the scheme while states pay the remaining amount. “Since the insurance company already has its required infrastructure in place, an increase in number will only serve to bring down the premium,” Mr Swarup said, adding that premium charged by insurance companies this year was actually lower than in the previous year.

Earlier this year, ILO and UNDP had selected the scheme in its list of best performing social sector schemes in the world.

According to GTZ, the main challenge for the scheme was to spread awareness among the beneficiaries about these services and how to access them. “Awareness about these services among the other stakeholders, like Panchayati Raj Institutions, which can guide the beneficiaries, is important,” a GTZ official said at a recent RSBY workshop.

The figures given by the labour ministry on increased access to hospitals by RSBY card holders is supported by an independent survey carried out by the Indian subsidiary of Westat US, the largest statistical services research corporation in the US.

According to the study, as many as 97% of the surveyed RSBY patients receiving care in hospitals reported that they decided to get treatment for their conditions or sickness because they had an RSBY smart card. The survey also highlighted the level of patient satisfaction amongst cardholders was high. 

Source: The Economic Times