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IFC assisting Meghalaya government for implementation of health insurance plan

The Economic Times:  May, 2012

Guwahati: International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of World Bank is assisting Northeastern state of Meghalaya for implementation of universal health insurance plan.

The insurance plan is expected to benefit state's three million populations, including those from low- and middle-income households currently without health coverage.

According to a statement, IFC will work jointly with the World Bank to assist the state in designing and implementing the insurance plan, including promoting private sector participation.

The scheme is expected to broaden coverage for local families, allowing them to obtain quality healthcare and specialized treatment close to home. The project is also supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

Donald Wahlang, Commissioner and Secretary of the state's Department of Health and Family Welfare observed, "Through this first-of-its kind scheme in India, Meghalaya will be able to expand healthcare services to all. In the long term, it will help address the shortage of trained medical and paramedical staff in the northeast region.

Meghalaya had launched India's national insurance scheme Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna in 2009.The project will be implemented in two phases.

In the first, the plan will extend insurance coverage to more than 80 percent of the residents not covered by Meghalaya's current program. The second phase will include coverage for a broader range of diseases and tertiary health care delivery, all under higher financial cover.

Karin Finkelston, IFC Vice President for Asia-Pacific said," By introducing an efficient and independent paying mechanism, the project will promote private sector participation in offering healthcare to the insured. Increasing the paying capacity of the rural poor will encourage the private sector to provide services in smaller and remote towns and villages."

"With steep health expenditures affecting the poor, government-sponsored health insurance schemes offer new possibilities towards attaining universal coverage," said Julie McLaughlin, World Bank Sector Manager for Health, Nutrition and Population for South Asia.

This is the second intervention in healthcare by IFC in Meghalaya. IFC advised the state government in 2010 on providing quality healthcare and training at the Shillong hospital and medical college.