India Launches World’s Largest Government Healthcare Plan

India on Sunday rolled out what authorities in the country said is the world’s largest, government-run healthcare program—extending coverage to more than a half-billion individuals on the subcontinent.

“Long Life India,” as the program is called, is aimed at residents whose income is in the 40th percentile or below. Qualified families will receive up to $9,500 per year in hospital benefits and authorities plan to open 150,000 local clinics by 2020.
Many other details of the $7.2 billion program have yet to be finalized.

The program, which is also known locally as “Ayushman Bharat,” was created by former pediatrician Vinod K Paul. “It’s a very, very Indian program,” Paul told the Sydney Morning Herald, noting that it’s designed to promote a holistic approach to help and encourages participants to incorporate healthy practices like yoga into their daily routines.

“Organizations across the world will study Ayushman Bharat to study how the government funded this large-scale scheme,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It’s hoped that the injection of funds and the opening of new facilities will alleviate pressure on India’s strained healthcare system, where facilities are routinely understaffed and underequipped. Many Indians are forced, or driven deeper, into poverty due to unexpected healthcare expenses.

86 percent of rural households and 82 percent of urban households in India have no access to health insurance, according to a recent survey.

It’s expected that Modi will make the plan, which has been nicknamed “Modicare”, a cornerstone of his reelection campaign. The Prime Minister called it “a game-changer initiative to serve the poor.” India’s voters head to the polls next year for national elections.

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