All FSI News News July 5, 2021

Why Insurance Alone May Not Improve Women's Access To Healthcare

A new study of the Rajasthan government's Bhamashah health insurance program for poor households has found that just providing health insurance cover doesn't reduce gender inequality in access to even subsidized health care.
Two women standing in a street in Rajasthan, India
UN Women/ Anindit Roy-Chowdhury/ Ashutosh Negi via Flickr

This article was first published by the social and political economy portal IndiaSpend.

Women from poor households made about 235,000 fewer hospital visits compared to men for seven gender-neutral disease categories between January 2017 and October 2019, a new study analyzing a Rajasthan state health insurance scheme has estimated. The Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana aims to provide health insurance to about 46 million persons living below the poverty line, as a step towards universal and equitable access to healthcare in the state, per the study.

Pascaline Dupas and Radhika Jain of Stanford University studied data of insurance claims from 4.2 million hospital visits under the Bhamashah scheme from its launch in December 2015 till October 2019, and the study was published as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. The study was conducted in partnership with the Rajasthan state government.

Women made up 45% of hospital visits under the Bhamashah scheme between January 2017 and October 2019, though their share in the population is 48%, per the study. The gender gap is starker for girls and older women. The share of girls in children aged under 10 years who visited the hospital under this insurance program was 33%, though their share of this age group's population is 47%; among those aged above 50 years, women are 51%, yet their share of hospital visits under this insurance program was 43%.

"We were struck by this discrepancy in the data. We were not expecting such a large [gender] difference," Dupas, an economist and professor at Stanford University, told IndiaSpend. In most other developed countries for which such data have been analyzed, subsidized healthcare usually caters to those who otherwise don't have access to it, added Jain, a postdoctoral fellow in Asia Health Policy at Stanford University, US.

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