Designing and Piloting Micro Health Insurance (MHI) in Bangladesh

InM organised a National Seminar entitled “Designing and Piloting Micro Health Insurance (MHI) in Bangladesh” at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Dhaka on 8 April 2012.

The seminar was aimed at undertaking an experimental health insurance service in Mymensingh for providing better health-care for the rural poor people in Bangladesh lacking access to formal/in-patient health-care services and facing a variety of health-related shocks.

Though some useful public innovations are feasible, the weakest link in the path to universal health coverage (UHC) in Bangladesh appears to be the lack of access to formal/in-patient care providers, both in physical and monetary terms. InM undertook a research project that endeavours to explore various pathways to attain UHC in Bangladesh in the foreseeable future.

At the very onset, Dr. Md. Mosleh Uddin Sadeque, Executive Director, InM welcomed all to the National Seminar and described the significance of MHI for the marginalised rural people of the country.

The keynote presentation on “Micro Health Insurance: The Mymensingh Pilot Project” was made by Professor Syed M. Ahsan, Dept. of Economics, Concordia University, Canada and Team Leader, Microinsurance Research Unit (MRU), InM. He observed that there is an ample opportunity for micro-health insurance to be an alternative health financing mode.

Professor Rounaq Jahan, Columbia University and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) chaired the seminar.

Prior to this event, an MHI Pilot Project named “Niramoy” has been inaugurated at Churkhai, Mymensingh with the initiative by MRU of InM in cooperation with Community Based Medical College Hospital, Bangladesh (CBMCHB) under Community Health Foundation Bangladesh (CHFB), Green Delta Insurance Company Ltd., General Pharmaceuticals Ltd., and some major microfinance institutions (MFIs) active in the location.

Two MHI packages namely, ‘Sushasthya’ (Good Health) and ‘Surokkha’ (Good Protection) have been inaugurated focusing on the provision of quality health-care and a standard formal health-care system for the underprivileged population of Bangladesh. Under the two-year pilot project, at least 3,000 households who hold the micro-credit card of three designated organisations of Churkhai, Mymensingh will be covered under the scheme.

The main goal of enrolling the poor in micro health insurance schemes is to use it as a cushion against risk factors and to minimise their healthcare costs. One unique characteristic of this programme is the involvement of a leading national risk-carrier as part of the overall design. The proper implementation and positive results of this microinsurance scheme is expected to open up a new dimension of healthcare for the poor and also to provide an alternative scope for its financing the sector.

Though being the pioneer country of modern microfinance, feasible and innovative micro health insurance schemes for the poor have only emerged now in the Bangladesh market for the first time. The action research initiatives of MRU are directed at innovations on the finance front whereby resources of the poor are pooled to form an insurance fund which is necessary to pay for the care of those afflicted.

The discussants at the seminar also called for supporting the efforts to encourage the success of the MHI Pilot Project at Mymensingh.