India will offer incentives to private hospitals to take part in the government’s health insurance programme, potentially the biggest of its kind in the world, a senior government official told Reuters.
Launched last year, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) scheme has so far registered about 20% of the targeted eligible 500m people, due to lack of public awareness of the scheme and low private sector participation, said Indu Bhushan, CEO of the National Health Authority (NHA), which runs the programme. Under the programme, more than 6m people have so far received treatment free of charge, he said.
The scheme is vital to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans to reform the country’s health system, where private healthcare is too expensive for most people and public hospitals are overburdened and often dilapidated.
“Modicare” offers families health cover of up to INR500,000 ($7,000) a year for serious ailments but the scheme has struggled to gain traction.
“There is a challenge of creating awareness and building the required infrastructure,” Mr Bhushan said in an interview. “We need to work more on awareness … give us time.”
Currently, 60% of the approximately 20,000 hospitals registered under the programme are in the private sector, Mr Bhushan said, adding that increasing their participation was critical to the scheme’s success.
Private hospitals, however, are concerned about costs. A report by Indian lobby group FICCI and consultants EY said in August that private hospitals complained that treatment rates offered by the NHA covered only 40-80% of their costs.
Bhushan said his agency was in talks with hospitals, industry groups and service providers and was open to revising rates, even though he had last month increased payments offered to hospitals for some treatments.