Healthcare is a fundamental human right, and access to affordable and quality medical services is crucial for the well-being of any society. In India, the health insurance industry has witnessed significant growth, with various government initiatives aimed at expanding healthcare coverage to vulnerable populations. One such remarkable program is the Awaz Health Insurance Scheme launched by the Kerala state government. This pioneering scheme specifically targets migrant workers, providing them with medical insurance and accidental death coverage. Since its inception in 2017, the Awaz Health Insurance Scheme has made remarkable strides in improving healthcare access and setting new standards for health insurance in India. In this essay, we will delve into the comprehensive features of the scheme, its impact on migrant workers’ healthcare, and the measures taken to ensure its successful implementation.
1. Background and Inception of Awaz Health Insurance Scheme
In November 2017, the Kerala state government unveiled the Awaz Health Insurance Scheme, a visionary initiative aimed at addressing the healthcare needs of migrant workers employed in the state. The state faced unique challenges in healthcare access for these workers, many of whom came from different regions of India. The initial data collection phase was completed in December 2017, and the trial run of the enrollment program began on June 1st, 2018. To ensure the scheme’s success, the district’s labour officers actively supervised the application process and promoted the health insurance plans in Oriya, Bengali, and Hindi languages across the state.
2. Salient Features of Awaz Health Insurance Scheme
The Awaz Health Insurance Scheme stands out as a model for health insurance in India due to its comprehensive features. Some of the key highlights include:
2.1. Extensive Registration Centers:
To reach out to and cover migrant workers, the scheme established registration centers in over 200 locations across Kerala. This extensive network ensured that no eligible worker remained excluded from the benefits of the health insurance plan.
2.2. Smart Card Integration:
Each insured migrant worker received a government-issued smart card containing their nominee’s name, photograph, and local address. This smart card facilitated easy identification and access to medical care at state-run public hospitals and accredited private hospitals.
2.3. Complaint Redressal Mechanism:
To ensure a seamless and efficient operation of the health insurance system, several complaint redressal cells were set up in various locations around the state. This measure aimed to address any grievances faced by beneficiaries promptly.
3. Importance of Health Insurance for Migrant Workers
Migrant workers in Kerala play a significant role in the state’s economy, contributing to various industries such as construction, agriculture, and hospitality. However, they often face numerous challenges, including limited access to healthcare. The Awaz Health Insurance Scheme recognized the importance of addressing their health needs and providing them with financial security against health risks. Diseases like malaria had returned to the state due to the presence of migrant laborers, emphasizing the urgency of healthcare coverage for this vulnerable population.
4. Eligibility and Coverage
To be eligible for the Awaz Health Insurance Scheme, migrant laborers must be between the ages of 18 and 60. During the enrollment process, workers need to provide their fingerprint, iris, and employment-related documents. The insurance card is issued upon submission of these documents, along with valid identification cards accepted by both the Central and Kerala governments, such as the Aadhar Card, voter ID card, or driving license.
The scheme provides medical coverage of up to ₹15,000 for any sickness or injury. Additionally, it offers an accidental death benefit of ₹2 lakhs, with beneficiaries being able to file claims by providing adequate documentation of the insured worker’s death.
5. Procedure and Benefits
The Awaz Health Insurance Scheme streamlines the procedure for availing its benefits. To access cashless care, beneficiaries must seek treatment at one of the network’s private hospitals or a state government hospital and provide their biometric health card. The scheme covers the entire premium, which is fully subsidized by the Government of Kerala, making it accessible to all eligible migrant workers and their families.
6. Impact on Healthcare Access
The Awaz Health Insurance Scheme has made a substantial impact on healthcare access for migrant workers in Kerala. By providing them with free medical care at state-run public hospitals and selected private hospitals, the scheme has significantly improved their access to essential healthcare services. Furthermore, the tie-up with over 200 hospitals across the state has ensured that beneficiaries can seek medical treatment without financial burden.
7. Renewal and Grievance Redressal
The scheme’s coverage is valid for one year from the registration date and can be renewed annually by paying the subsidized premium amount. For the convenience of beneficiaries, the scheme has a grievance redressal mechanism in place. Complaints can be lodged through the toll-free number 1800-425-1076, ensuring that issues are addressed promptly.
The Awaz Health Insurance Scheme is a pioneering initiative by the Kerala state government to ensure the health and well-being of migrant workers. By providing them with comprehensive medical insurance and accidental death coverage, the scheme has set new standards for healthcare access and equity in India. The extensive network of registration centers, smart card integration, and efficient complaint redressal mechanisms are some of the features that make this scheme a model for other states to emulate. As Kerala continues to prioritize the health of its migrant laborers, the Awaz Health Insurance Scheme will undoubtedly remain a vital pillar in enhancing healthcare access and ensuring a healthier and more prosperous society.