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December 8, 2014
Fewer than two of every 100 senior citizens in India are covered under public and private health insurance, even as the population of elderly people is growing significantly and is forecast to hit almost 300 million in around two decades.
The elderly population, aged more than 60 years, is projected to constitute 18.3% of the total population in 2050, up from 7.7% in 2010, according to the United Nations. Their population will grow to 112 million by 2015 from 72 million in 2000, reported the Times of India.
However, health insurance penetration among this population remains significantly low in India. A recent study by Deloitte shows merely 1.6% of elderly population is covered under public and private insurance schemes. “This low insurance penetration amongst the elderly is further exacerbated by inadequate coverage provided to the insured, in terms of both amount and type of services covered,” the report states.
According to World Bank estimates, India’s healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest in emerging markets. During 2012, India spent a total of around 4% of GDP on healthcare, whereas Brazil and China spent 9.3% and 5.4%, respectively.
Currently, there is a lack of emphasis on insurance cover for the elderly. Most private players do not want to cover the elderly in their plans because the expenditures are high as compared to premiums earned, experts say. Restrictive conditions further reduce the attractiveness of existing options. For instance, several policies do not cover care for common age-related ailments such as cataract or asthma. Insurance schemes often also have pre-existing conditions as eligibility restrictions or require an additional premium to cover such people.