Union Budget 2024: Ayushman Bharat Insurance Coverage May Double to ₹10 Lakh

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Union Budget 2024: Ayushman Bharat Insurance Coverage May Double to ₹10 Lakh
08 Jul 2024
4 min read

News Synopsis

The Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme, a cornerstone program providing financial protection for secondary and tertiary healthcare in India, could witness significant changes in the upcoming Union Budget 2024. These proposed revisions aim to improve healthcare accessibility and bridge the gap for the uninsured population segment, often referred to as the "missing middle."

Expanding Ayushman Bharat Coverage

Expanding the Reach: Doubling Beneficiary Base

A key proposal involves doubling the Ayushman Bharat scheme's beneficiary base over the next three years. This ambitious expansion plan is expected to begin by including all individuals above 70 years old. Currently, the scheme primarily focuses on economically disadvantaged families.

Including senior citizens is a crucial step towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in India. According to a 2021 report by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), India's elderly population (aged 60 and above) is projected to reach 300 million by 2050. This demographic shift necessitates robust healthcare infrastructure to cater to the specific needs of this age group.

By incorporating senior citizens, the potential beneficiary pool could expand significantly. Estimates suggest this could cover over two-thirds of the Indian population, offering much-needed financial security for medical emergencies.

Increased Coverage Limits: Addressing Rising Healthcare Costs

Another proposal on the table involves raising the annual insurance limit per family from the existing ₹5 lakh to ₹10 lakh. This substantial increase would provide beneficiaries with greater financial support for critical illnesses and expensive medical treatments.

Healthcare costs in India have been steadily rising, often outpacing inflation. A 2022 report by the National Health Authority (NHA) revealed that the average cost of hospitalization in India increased by 10% in the previous year. This trend highlights the need for higher coverage limits to ensure adequate financial protection for beneficiaries.

However, this increase is not without its fiscal implications. Estimates suggest the government would need to allocate an additional ₹12,076 crore annually to support the expanded coverage.

Addressing the "Missing Middle": A Focus on the Uninsured

NITI Aayog Report Insights

The NITI Aayog report, "Health Insurance for India's Missing Middle" (October 2021), played a crucial role in shaping these proposed changes. This report identified a significant segment of the population (around 30%) lacking health insurance, often referred to as the "missing middle."

This group primarily consists of self-employed individuals (both agricultural and non-agricultural) in rural areas and various occupations (informal, semi-formal, and formal) in urban areas. These individuals often fall outside the purview of employer-sponsored health insurance plans and government schemes targeted towards the economically disadvantaged.

Including senior citizens and potentially expanding the scheme to cover the "missing middle" in the future could significantly improve health insurance penetration in India. This, in turn, would reduce the financial burden on families during medical emergencies and contribute to a healthier population overall.

The upcoming Union Budget 2024 is being closely watched to see if these proposals for the Ayushman Bharat scheme are implemented. If enacted, these changes could be a significant step towards achieving Universal Health Coverage in India.

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