New Delhi: Only about 10% of the poorest one-fifth of Indians in rural (10.2%) and urban India (9.8%) had any form of private or government health insurance, show data from India’s largest national survey on social consumption, conducted between July 2017 and June 2018.

The poor are routinely forced to dip into their savings, borrow, delay treatment or receive poor quality care, experts said.

Overall, few Indians–14.1% in rural areas and 19.1% in urban areas–had any form of health coverage, found the report by the National Survey Office (NSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. This leaves the vast majority of Indians exposed to health-related financial shocks.

The survey included the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY, National Health Insurance Scheme), which was the precursor of the PMJAY, the Central Government Health Scheme for government employees, the Employee State Insurance Scheme for formal sector employees and state governments’ health protection programmes.

Health costs keep people poor, and push those just above the poverty line back into poverty. In 2011-12, out-of-pocket health expenses drove 55 million Indians into poverty–more than the population of South Korea (51.1 million)–as IndiaSpend reported in July 2018. Some 38 million Indians were impoverished by expenditure on medicines alone.

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