A microfinance institution in Bangladesh has started piloting a micro-health insurance scheme that seeks to help the poor overcome a cycle of poverty and illness.
For families that live at the bottom of the pyramid, one ill member can push the entire family over the edge. While microfinance schemes have allowed families to take out loans conventionally for entrepreneurial activities yet much needed for medical costs, the inability for families to repay multiple loans hinder at the limitations of conventional microcredit programs. Microinsurance for crop, livestock/cattle, theft, health, disability, and natural disasters are becoming increasingly popular for meeting the needs of those that live in rural areas and are often neglected. This is true in Bangladesh where government health services are unable to deliver healthcare needs.
The new two-year pilot project will cover at least 3,000 households in the district of Mymensingh and will be available in two packages: Sushasthya and Surokkha. For Tk 240 per person per year, Sushasthya includes outpatient services with full maternity and new born care. Surokkha covers the same plus inpatient services for Tk 384 per person per year. Green Delta Insurance Company Limited will carry the risk of the micro-health insurance project.
The main goal of the scheme is to provide a cushion against risk factors and minimize household healthcare costs, which could total around Tk 5,000 a year without insurance. Many organizations with health schemes for the poor offer discounted health services, but not insurance services.
Professor Syed M. Ahsan, who leads the Microinsurance Research Unit of the Institute of Microfinance, said they will be exploring more models for Bangladesh given different access levels and hospital density. Community Based Medical College Bangladesh will be providing the services to insurers of the current model.
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