India’s Poor Get Health Care in a Card

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “India’s Poor Get Health Care in a Card”, outlines a program being launched in India to provide affordable healthcare to the masses.  The key component of the program, which is targeted at those earning less than $100 per year, is the use of a secure smart card to store the beneficiary’s personal data and fingerprints.

By bringing together insurance companies and hospitals to address this segment, it hopes to providing healthcare to a target population that has seldom been able to afford it. The government is going to underwrite part of the costs while hospitals and insurance companies see it as an opportunity for them to extend their customer base.

More importantly, if successful this lays the groundwork for a wide ranging information network that reaches out to the bottom of the pyramid and could provide a platform for innovative new services.

A few excerpts from the article below, you can read the complete article “India’s Poor Get Health Care in a Card” by clicking the link.

To qualify for the National Health Insurance Program, families must meet certain criteria and generally earn less than about $100 a year.

The smart card, which contains personal data and fingerprints for an entire family, costs participants less than $1 — what could be a day’s pay for a casual laborer. The fee is intended to make sure beneficiaries value the program and take time to understand it, and it creates an obligation on the part of the government to deliver. The card is good at any hospital, private or public, that has enrolled.

India has earmarked $1 billion for the rollout of the program by insurance companies in states across the country. The program isn’t expected to fund itself — it will be bankrolled by the government because the beneficiaries are so poor.

Many health-care programs have been introduced in India by New Delhi, state governments and nongovernmental organizations. But so far, none of those programs has taken root throughout the country.

The National Health Insurance Program is different, according to the Indian government, because of its use of technology; its business model, in which insurance companies and hospitals are given incentives to take part; and because the information on the smart cards is secure.


Since its launch in April, about 1.5 million people have joined the plan. India’s government said it would like to add 12 million families before next April — about 60 million people — and then continue at that rate for another four years.


Supporters say despite the program’s shortcomings it provides a crucial lifeline for India’s poorest who can barely afford food, let alone hospital treatment. For them, hospitalization typically means borrowing money from extended family members or paying extortionate interest rates to a moneylender.

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