Govt set to unveil farm, health insurance for masses

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Mumbai | Published: August 13, 2015 7:22:56 AM

Centre is planning to come out with a universal health scheme and an exclusive all-in-one insurance product for farmers as part of its ongoing efforts to bring people under the social security net.

insurance for farmers in indiaCentre is planning to come out with a universal health scheme and an exclusive all-in-one insurance product for farmers as part of its ongoing efforts to bring people under the social security net. (Express photo by Lalit Kumar)

Close on the heels of its success in launching banking, insurance and pension schemes, the Centre is gearing up to launch two more mass social security schemes to make healthcare affordable and tackle distress in the farm sector across the country.

The government is planning to come out with a universal health scheme and an exclusive all-in-one insurance product for the farming community as part of its ongoing efforts to bring people under the social security net. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce universal health insurance plan on the Independence Day on Saturday which will ensure insurance cover to all members of a family under a single sum insured. Against the backdrop of rising incidents of farmer suicides in the country, the government’s proposal for an exclusive all-in-one insurance product for the farming community is keenly awaited. The product, which will be called Unified Package Insurance Scheme (Bhartiya Krishi Bima Yojana), would combine nine features with mandatory crop insurance. However, farmers have to choose at least four other features to avail subsidy under crop insurance section, according to a draft paper prepared by the finance ministry.

While the draft report is at the discussion stage with all the key stakeholders, the government has proposed better features this time as earlier schemes did not have the desired results. According to the draft, the proposed policy incorporates various products like crop insurance, health cover, personal accident insurance, live stock/cattle insurance, insurance cover for agriculture implements like tractors and pumpsets, student safety insurance and life insurance. The scheme is basically targeted at providing financial protection to farmers, thereby ensuring food security, crop diversification and enhancing growth and competitiveness of agriculture sector besides protecting farmers from financial risks, the draft says.

“At present, the sum insured under a typical crop insurance scheme is the cost of inputs or the loan taken by the farmer. The claim is calculated by applying the shortfall in yield ratio to the sum insured. The government now seems to be thinking in terms of covering farmer’s income loss,” said former IRDA Member KK Srinivasan. A recent study by the private weather forecasting agency, Skymet, and industry body Assocham showed that less than 20 per cent of the total farming population in the country has crop insurance, thereby exposing a vast majority of the farmers to vagaries of weather.

The draft paper on the universal health insurance scheme says there will be two kind of covers — with sum assured of Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh — for which a customer may have to pay a premium of Rs 700 and Rs 1,300 respectively. The policy covers cashless hospitalisation for diseases contracted or injury sustained by the insured persons. Pre-existing diseases will be included after a waiting period of 24 months, the draft paper says.

The health insurance scheme will be available to all families not exceeding five members, including families headed by senior citizens in the country wherein entire family will be covered under a single sum insured. Four state-owned insurers (New India Assurance, United India Insurance, National Insurance Company, Oriental Insurance) and private players like ICICI Lombard, Bajaj Allianz, Iffco-Tokio Marine and HDFC Ergo are in talks with the government to finalise the fine print of the scheme, the draft paper says.

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