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Some 700 million Indians in the villages and non-urban areas don’t have access to healthcare

With multiple issues blocking access to healthcare in India, more than a million people die every year due to lack of healthcare access, most of them being women and children, according to a white paper by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and India Health Progress.

“Some 700 million Indians in the villages and non-urban areas don’t have access to healthcare facilities because around 80 per cent of the specialists and medical facilities are located in urban areas. Around 350 million Indians live Below the Poverty Line (BPL) and survive on less than Rs.100/- per day, putting nearly all medicines out of their reach. Even when the medicines are available free, the poor lack the meagre resources to travel to the nearest government-supported Primary Health Centre (PHC) located kilometers away from their village. Finally, these PHCs are often under-equipped and under-staffed,” said the white paper, mainly prepared on 'health insurance.'

Health insurance has historically played a pivotal role in improving access to healthcare around the world. Unfortunately, less than 15 per cent of the Indian population is covered under some form of health insurance, including government-supported schemes. Only around 2.2 per cent of the population is covered under private health insurance, of which rural health insurance penetration is less than 10 per cent, said the paper which has recommended insurance as a key pillar to increase access to healthcare.

“India’s diverse population has limited purchasing power. Penetrating this market therefore requires innovative insurance products at multiple price points. But innovation in the current Indian health insurance market needs to evolve considerably, with health insurers stacking their portfolios with multi-level, differentiated long-term products. Public and private sector players have already shown the way by introducing innovative insurance products with premiums as low as Re. 1 per day and Rs.10 per month, catering to community as well as individual insurance needs. Such low-priced products can play a big role in ensuring higher healthcare access and better health for all sections of Indian society,” it said.


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