India’s women account for just twenty percent of consumers who buy individual insurance policies. The majority of policyholders are in the 26-45 age demographic, while women aged 55 and above account for the lowest number of policyholders despite becoming increasingly vulnerable to a range of healthcare issues as they age. Indeed, women aged above 55 account for the largest health insurance claims on average despite being largely unprotected.
The figures – according to research conducted by Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, Co. – come against the backdrop of health insurance covering less than twenty percent of Indians. In rural areas, 86 percent of citizens are uninsured whilst 82 percent of urban dwellers are uncovered. While the number of insured Indians has increased in recent years (and the industry has grown accordingly), it still remains low as a proportion of the total population.
For the fiscal year ending 2018, Statista projects that 359.3 million Indians are covered under government-run insurance schemes including the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY). In addition to this, 89.4 million are insured through non-state-owned group business schemes. 33.3 million Indians are insured through individual business.
It is unsurprising, then, that out-of-pocket spending on health in the country remains high. Spending by the patients themselves accounted for almost two thirds of India’s total healthcare spend in 2017. However, as Health Issues India reported earlier this year, this number could now be closer to eighty percent. This casts doubt on the efficacy of government initiatives to respond to the situation. Research has suggested that initiatives such as the RSBY are not having a significant effect on making healthcare costs more manageable for Indians.
The rising rates of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – illnesses that are often chronic in nature, necessitating lifelong management – pose further complications for the healthcare spending situation in India. Already, 55 million Indians are being driven into poverty every year because of their medical bills.
These figures highlight a country failing the majority of its citizens on health, with women bearing the brunt of the shortfall. With both the BJP and Congress making ambitious pledges to revitalise healthcare during this year’s Lok Sabha elections, and the BJP implementing Ayushman Bharat to increase access to health insurance, it is clear that the backdrop necessitating such steps is a grim reality. Whether politicians possess the resolve and will to make good on their promises, no matter who is voted into government these elections, remains to be seen.