ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Are Our Contributory Pension Schemes Failing the Poor?

The issue of old age income security in India assumes significance in view of the expected rise in the incidence of elderly population in the years to come, problems of poverty and vulnerability among them and their limited coverage by the existing old-age pension schemes. Schemes aiming to promote contributions from the poor unorganised workers for their old age security have been promoted by the government since 2010. By comparing and contrasting the design features of India’s two contributory pension schemes, National Pension System Lite and Atal Pension Yojana, and discussing the strengths and limitations of each of these schemes in addressing the needs of low-income workers with the help of available data and studies, we argue that the design features of these schemes are such that they fail to take the specific characteristics of unorganised worker households into account. We also discuss how the current design of contributory social security schemes can be improved to meet the pension requirements of unorganised workers.

Implementing Health Insurance: The Rollout of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana in Karnataka

The National Health Insurance Scheme - Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana - aims to improve poor people's access to quality healthcare. This paper looks at the implementation of the scheme in Karnataka, drawing on a large survey of eligible households and interviews with empanelled hospitals in the state. Six months after initiation in early 2010, an impressive 85% of eligible households in the sample were aware of the scheme, and 68% had been enrolled. However, the scheme was hardly operational and utilisation was virtually zero. A large proportion of beneficiaries were yet to receive their cards, and many did not know how and where to obtain treatment under the scheme. Moreover, hospitals were not ready to treat RSBY patients. Surveyed hospitals complained of a lack of training and delays in the reimbursement of their expenses. Many were refusing to treat patients until the issues were resolved, and others were asking cardholders to pay cash. As is typical for the implementation of a government scheme, many of the problems can be related to a misalignment of incentives.
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