October 20, 2014 -
The Indian government plans to use its national Aadhaar biometric database to deploy its newly proposed universal healthcare program.
As part of the new national government’s manifesto, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised radical reforms in healthcare with the introduction of the “National Health Assurance Mission” (NHAM) scheme. The new program’s goal is to provide accessible and affordable healthcare to every Indian citizen.
In order to achieve this goal, the Indian government intends to use Aadhaar as means of identification for healthcare insurance beneficiaries. The new government decided to extend the use of the system to other social programs and to make Aadhaar the primary national identity scheme after extensive review.
A government source recently told the Economics Times newspaper that: “The government has planned to seed Aadhaar numbers with its universal health program. Experts think that this would help in keeping a check on any fraudulent insurance claims or ghost beneficiaries.”
Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric database, is governed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and is currently used to authenticate delivery of social services including school attendance, natural gas subsidies to India’s rural poor, and direct wage payments to bank accounts.
The introduction of universal healthcare to India’s citizens will arguably be the most ambitious use of the biometric database.
To date, India only spends 1.04 percent of GDP on publicly funded health, which is one of the lowest amounts in the world. Higher amounts of public health finance are pivotal to provide a wider range of essential basic health services, along with access to life-saving drugs and expanded healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and health centers.
Because the government plans to make the healthcare plan accessible through Aadhaar, it has committed to accelerate resident registration. In its first budget, the government allocated $340 million to speed the Aadhaar registration process.The government’s objective is now to enroll 100 million more residents with Aadhaar. UIDAI has already enrolled about 700 million people and issued unique identification numbers to 650 million.