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Insurance for HIV-hit

Indian Express
21 January 2011

INDIA is set to have the first, government–run policy to provide health and life insurance covers for People Living with HIV (PLHIV).

Sources in the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) confirmed that a meeting had been finalised between key stakeholders, including insurance companies, economists and international and national healthcare experts, to work out a sustainable model for the policy.

The two–day meeting, scheduled for February 3 and 4, will see delegates of different countries where successful insurance policies have been implemented for PLHIVs. The aim is for experts to study the models of different countries to arrive at a structure suitable for India.

According to a senior NACO official, though providing insurance cover to PLHIVs was outlined as an important agenda in the ongoing National AIDS Control Programme–3, cohesive action was being taken only now.

"Representatives from South Africa, the US, the Philippines and Namibia have confirmed their participation. The conference will also see a strong representation from the insurance sector. Senior officials from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) will also be present," the official said.

The government is seeking the help of NGO Population Services International (PSI), which has implemented a micro–level insurance programme for HIVaffected persons in high–risk states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and some districts of Maharashtra.

According to Ravi Subbaiah, PSI project in–charge, "Our existing programme only provides for a cover up to Rs 30,000 for patients with CD 4 count up to 300 (CD4 cells or T–helper cells are a type of white blood cells that fight infection and their count indicates the stage of HIV or AIDS in a patient). We are now looking at a pan–Indian project for a much greater premium, with importance on accessibility of services to patients."

He added that where the PSI programme only provides health insurance, brainstorming sessions with NACO had focused on a complete life insurance cover.

The PSI's existing initiative `Connect' is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and provides patients cashless facilities at select hospitals that are enlisted in the network.

For a premium of Rs 1,511, the patient has to pay Rs 750, and the rest is subsidised by the PSI. Patients can avail of Rs 15,000 on hospitalisation at the onset of AIDS, and the other half for treatment of co–infections associated with AIDS.

"Now that the IRDA is partnering us, the horizons widen exponentially, both in terms of number of hospitals and insurance companies," said Subbiah.

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