Health insurance has lowered death rate in Karnataka: Study

At a time when the central government is mulling a universal health insurance policy for the poor, a study shows that a similar programme in Karnataka to provide health insurance to households below the poverty line has lowered both mortality rates and out-of pocket expenses for beneficiaries.

New Delhi: At a time when the central government is mulling a universal health insurance policy for the poor, a study shows that a similar programme in Karnataka to provide health insurance to households below the poverty line has lowered both mortality rates and out-of pocket expenses for beneficiaries.

The Karnataka government's Vajpayee Arogyashree Scheme (VAS), supported by the World Bank, provides health insurance for illnesses like heart disease and cancer to households below the poverty line in Karnataka.

An evaluation of the programme has shown that the risk of dying from conditions covered by the insurance dropped by 64 percent for residents, out-of-pocket expenditure for hospitalisations due to the covered conditions dropped by 60 percent, and utilization of healthcare facilities for the covered conditions increased.

The study was funded by the World Bank and led by Neeraj Sood, professor and director of research at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California.

"This World Bank study clearly shows how this programme benefits the health of the poor in Karnataka. It provides hospital care that the poor would have difficulty in receiving without the help of the scheme," Karnataka Health Minister U.T. Khader said at the launch of the report.

Karnataka Health Secretary N. Sivasailam said that salient points of the insurance scheme would be discussed with the union health minister at a meeting Thursday.

Some of the unique features of the programme include free tertiary care at both private and public hospitals empanelled by the VAS for below-the-poverty-line (BPL) families.

"The results of this study are important to India as it makes choices on how to make progress towards universal health coverage," Onno Ruhl, World Bank Group country director for India, said.

The study included more than 82,000 households.

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