ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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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.

This paper is an output of the research funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development as part of iiG, a research programme to study how to improve institutions for pro-poor growth in Africa and south Asia. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID. The paper forms a part of a larger study of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana undertaken by the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford, UK. The authors thank participants in the workshop on Policies for Inclusion in India and Beyond organised at ISEC on 2-3 September 2010 for their comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper.

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