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3 October 2008
New Delhi, India
By Sharat Pradhan

It envisages smart card–based, cashless health insurance cover up to Rs. 30,000 to all BPL families over the next five years, benefitting 60 million people
A national health insurance programme, under which people below the poverty line (BPL) pay only Rs. 30 and become entitled to treatment of up to Rs. 30,000, has just become operational in 11 states.

“Launched here in April, the scheme started with a Rs. 2,250 crore seed money allocated in the 2008–09 central budget”, Labour Ministry Director General (Labour Welfare) Anil Swarup said.

The–programme Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana–that became operational on Wednesday in 11 other states envisages smart card–based, cashless health insurance cover up to Rs. 30,000 to all BPL families over the next five years, during which as many as about 60 million people will be covered.

Of these, a beginning was made with 120 districts, reports IANS.

The total sum insured will be Rs. 30,000 per family per year on a floater basis. It will cover all medical costs in any of the hospitals with which the scheme has tied up.

Government hospitals are not on the list, essentially because most of the services provided in these hospitals are already free of cost. But Swarup said these state–run medical centres were free to join and would be paid for different services at the same rate as agreed upon with private hospitals.

The beneficiary BPL family is free to select the hospital of its choice out of the listed ones. Beneficiaries are also issued smart cards that enable migrant workers to seek treatment wherever they might be engaged.

ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company, a joint venture of ICICI Bank and Fairfax Financial Holdings of Canada, has bagged the contract to introduce the scheme across the country.

“I am sure this scheme will do wonders. Just imagine a poor Indian labourer, who could not even dream of entering a private hospital even for a simple dressing, can now walk into some of the leading hospitals and demand treatment even for some major ailments on the strength of his smart card”, Swarup said.

Since private hospitals are out of reach of most of these people, they had no option but to traverse long distances even during medical emergencies to reach a government hospital, he added.

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