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February 13, 2012

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India – 13 Feb 2012 –

The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana is set for a big expansion, with the Prime Minister’s Office clearing extension of the health insurance scheme meant for the poor to unorganised sector workers. The PMO has also directed the Labour Ministry to set up an autonomous body to oversee smooth implementation of the scheme.

Unorganised workers constitute more than 90 per cent of India’s labour force. RSBY expansion had been on the Congress’s manifesto.

The smart card-based cashless scheme, which was launched in 2007 for below poverty line families, has already been extended to cover construction workers, NREGA beneficiaries, street vendors, beedi workers and domestic workers. It will now cover sanitation workers, ragpickers, mine workers, rickshawpullers and autorickshaw and taxi drivers.

An autonomous institutional structure will be put in place to ensure smooth implementation of the RSBY. Sources said the government is looking at registering a society for the purpose and bringing in professionals and required technology to detect and prevent fraud.

Given the extra cost, the budgetary allocation for the RSBY could be tripled while projection of financial requirement for the 12th Plan will have to be revisited. Last year, the allocation was around Rs 360 crore. Expanding the insurance scheme would also mean increase in enrolment and level of hospitalisation. Consequently, an increase in insurance premiums is possible.

Under the scheme, a beneficiary is required to pay only Rs 30 for registration while the Centre and state pay the premium to the insurer (on a 75:25 per cent basis), selected on competitive bidding basis. Read original article