The government's health insurance programme for the poor is losing appeal, with only 15 states offering the scheme at 31 March 2017, the lowest since 2008 when the scheme was launched and rolled out to 25 states.
The number of enrolled families fell from 41.3 million in FY2016 to 36.3 million in FY2017. The number of empanelled private hospitals dropped from 7,865 in FY2009 to 4,926 in FY2017, reported Times of India.
Dr Anup Karan, who works with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said: "Many private hospitals had signed up hoping to benefit from a captive market. However, since the programme was launched in 2008-09, market coverage increased only marginally and there hasn't been any revision in payment rates to providers. There are several reports of delayed payments and deductions in hospital bills. Private hospitals are finding the business less lucrative and are gradually withdrawing from the scheme."
While the central government promotes the scheme among the states, many have opted out for various reasons. While some claim to have their own insurance schemes, others say that they are awaiting the government's proposed National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which was to have replaced the RSBY. The proposed new plan has yet to receive the green light although it was submitted to the Cabinet in October last year. Meanwhile, the RSBY is extended till March 2018.
Under RSBY, cashless health cover up to INR30,000 (US$459) is provided for a maximum of five members of a family. But the scheme has been found to be ineffective in reducing out-of-pocket health spending by poor households. In last year's Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pledged a health cover of INR100,000 per poor family under the NHPS. The proposed plan is aimed to cover 100 million people, including those currently enrolled with RSBY.