More than half of Chennai's households have a member covered by a health scheme or health insurance. Thanks in-part to a massive government health insurance scheme that covers nearly 5 crore people, or more than three-fourth of Tamil Nadu's population, Chennai is the city with the most health-insured people among metros. Hyderabad, that comes close to Chennai, also benefits from a government insurance scheme.
Data from the National Family Health Survey -4 released by the Union health ministry shows that almost all metros have more than doubled their insured population in the past ten years, a pace organisations like World Bank say has probably not been witnessed anywhere else in the world.
In Chennai, 56.8% of households are covered by health insurance followed by Hyderabad with 49.8% and Kolkata with 26.1%. Among the metros, Mumbai (city) has the lowest coverage at 12.4%. The data for New Delhi, however, is yet to be released.
Among states, more than three-fifth of the people in TN got health insurance in the last decade, lowering the number of uninsured by 60% from 2005-2006. At the national level, 17% of the population was under the health net until 2014.
Experts link the leap in numbers to the state-sponsored health insurance schemes in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The climb began when a state-sponsored scheme was launched by the DMK government in July 2009, two years after the AP government launched its Arogyashri. In 2012, the AIADMK regime upgraded the scheme and extended its coverage to include some 1.5 crore families.
While state insurance is available to the poor, many in the middle and upper-income group now have a company-sponsored insurance or an individual insurance. "Today, even if a few of the private insurers aren't making huge profits, their losses are down," says Star Health Insurance CMD V Jagannathan.
The TN scheme is offered through the United India Insurance Company Ltd, a public-sector undertaking headquartered in Chennai. The scheme provides free medical and surgical treatment for up to Rs1.5 lakh in government and private hospitals to the members of any family whose annual family income is less than Rs.72,000.
Between January 2012 and March 2016, the scheme has paid Rs 29 billion towards 14 lakh claims. Most people were allowed to be treated in private hospitals that have been empanelled under the state scheme.
"This is beside the free treatment we roll out at government hospitals, some of which earned money through this scheme. It was used for development works such as air-conditioning wards, buying better drugs, equipment and improve housekeeping services at hospitals," said Dr J Mohanasundram, former dean of Government General Hospital.