A new survey reveals that pitifully few families living in the northeastern Indian state of Assam have health coverage, reports the Times of India
The latest National Family Health Survey, for 2015-16, reveals that just 10.4% of families living in rural Assam have at least one member covered by health insurance or under a health scheme. This makes Assam the third lowest ranking state in India in this regard. Only families in rural areas of the union territory Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Assam’s neighbouring state Manipur fare worse. The problem does not improve much in Assam’s urban area. There, just 12.6% of families are covered to some degree.
The ToI quotes one medical practitioner as stating “there should be a universal health insurance scheme which should be put into place as soon as possible. The government should have accelerated its efforts.”
It is worthy to note that the survey’s findings are an improvement. The last survey, carried out in 2005-06, found that a mere 2.3% of families had coverage.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government, to its credit, has been taking measures to address the lack of coverage. For example, a recently launched scheme aims to insure families with a yearly income below Rs 5 lakh (approx. 7,335 USD). Under the Atal-Amrit Abhiyan initiative, beneficiaries are covered against 437 diseases across six broadly classified disease groups. These are: burns, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease, neonatal illnesses, and neurological disorders. The scheme was rolled out on December 25th, coinciding with the 92nd birthday of former BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Assam has been successful implementing similar nationwide schemes such as the Rashtriya Swasthaya Bima Yojna (RSBY), or National Health Insurance Programme. The RSBY provides cashless cover for below the poverty line (BPL) families. Assam has enrolled 41.3% of its BPL families under the scheme since it was rolled out in 2008.
The problem of health insurance is a national one. The ToI reported last year that as many as 86% of India’s citizens in rural areas and 82% in urban areas are not covered under any health coverage insurance or initiative.