October 02, 2007

Health insurance scheme for poor announced

The government today announced another ambitious programme for the common man, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, which aims to provide health insurance worth Rs 30,000 annually to families of unorganised workers falling below the poverty line.

The government is also announcing the Aam Admi Bima Yojana on October 2 and the National Old Age Pension scheme on November 19, the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s birthday. The first scheme would provide death and disability benefits to the rural landless poor.

While the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana is meant exclusively for all BPL families in the unorganised sector, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, which has formulated this scheme, is clueless about the actual number of BPL families falling in the sector, which restricts the benficiary number to six crore families.

“The number of BPL families in unorganised sector is a debatable issue but our programme will cover at least six crore BPL families in the sector and this is expected to benefit 30 crore people,” said a senior official of the ministry.

The scheme to be implemented from April 2008 would stretch over five years and cover 1.2 crore families in 2008-09 with an estimated allocation of Rs 751 crore (2008-09 fiscal).

Another problem the programme faces is the fact that the Centre does not have the complete data on BPL families in the country.

Labour ministry officials admitted that the data were not available. Union Rural Development Ministry which has been compiling the data still has to collect them from several states.

“We are aware of this fact but we may devise an altenative in six months’ time (by April 2008) when the schemes would be formulated by the states. Insurance and health services provider would be identified apart from selection of the beneficiaries in this time,” the official said.

The timeline of the scheme stretches over five years with just 1.2 crore families covered in the first year and culminating in six crore families in the fifth year. The total strength of the unorganised sector in the country is 39.35 crore .

Ministry officials admit that BPL numbers in the sector could be much more. This is taking into account the fact that around 30 crore people in the country are below BPL (assumed to be in the unorganised setor) and the sector constitutes 97 per cent of the total workforce.

“The scheme will be implemented from April 2008 and in the first year it would cover 1.2 crore unorganised BPL families. We would allocate Rs 751 crore for this purpose in 2008-09,” Minister of Finance P Chidambaram, said at the launch of the scheme today.

While government of India would contribute 75 per cent of the estimated annual premium of Rs 750 (subject to a maximum of Rs 565 per family per annum), contribution by the respective State governments would be 25 per cent (as well as any additional premium). The beneficiary has to pay Rs 30 per annum as registration/renewel fee.

Total sum insured for the unorganised sector worker and his family (unit of five) would be Rs 30,000 per annum. The insurance cover will take care of all hospital expenses and cover all pre existing diseases. The smart card provided by the authorities will take care of the cashless attendance for all covered ailments.

Releasing the guidelines for the states based on which proper programmes will be formulated by them, Chidambaram said, “Till now, there is no structured security scheme for the unorganised workers in the country. The Unorganised Sector Workers Social Security Bill provides the foundation on which we are buidling these schemes.”

He further said that the scheme might follow the path of NREGP which was spread to all districts much ahead of schedule.

Technical cells would be set up by the Centre to assist the State governments in preparation of the projects. Officials informed that 18 states have indicated their willingness to implement the programme.

“Now it is for the states to formulate their specific schemes in line with these guidelines. Chief Minister of Maharashtra has already given his consent for the guidelines proposed by the Ministry,” they said.

Chidambaram said the government would launch the Aam Admi Bhima Yojana tomomrrow in Shimla.

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