This opinion piece was first published in the economics and policy portal Ideas for India.
Equity in healthcare is a key goal of health policy in India. Analyzing administrative data from Rajasthan, this article highlights substantial gender gaps in the utilization of subsidized hospital care under the state health insurance program. These disparities persist despite substantial program expansion and seem to be driven by households being less willing to allocate resources to female vis-à-vis male health.
Over the past 15 years, India’s central government and numerous state governments have put in place health insurance programmes that entitle low-income households to free healthcare at public and empanelled private hospitals. Health equity and universal health coverage are explicit goals of these programs. In new research, we study gender equity in the Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana (BSBY)1 health insurance program, which was launched in the state of Rajasthan in 2015, and is similar in design to the national Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
Our starting point is a dataset of insurance claims filed for all 4.2 million hospital visits between 2015 and 2019, including patient age, gender, residence address, hospital visited, dates of admission and discharge, and service(s) received. We geo-coded hospital locations and patient addresses, which allowed us to calculate proximity to hospitals and the distance traveled for every hospital visit. Finally, we linked the insurance data to the 2011 Census and data on three rounds of village-level (gram panchayat) elections. To our knowledge, the dataset we compiled from these various sources is the first dataset of its type in India and allows us to study care-seeking under insurance with unusual granularity.